A new Lake County Board District map was approved by a 16-7 vote at the Tuesday meeting. The new map will decrease the number of districts from 23 to 21 and likely decrease the number of Democrats on the County Board.
“My guess is that there will be seven Democrats left on the board,” said Melinda Bush, representative for Grayslake District 6. Bush charged that the County Board’s Republican majority drew the map with the intention of decreasing representation by Democrats. There are 10 Democrats on the County Board.
The new map puts Waukegan Democrats Angelo Kyle and Audrey Nixon in the new 14th District in 2012 and Grayslake Democrats Pat Carey and Melinda Bush will both be in the new 6th District.
The new map also splits up the Deerfield area, a move which opponents say will make it difficult for Democrat Michelle Feldman to win re-election.
Republican County Board members did not defend the map at the County Board meeting. County Board Chairman by most County Board members, including some Democrats.
Anne Flanigan Bassi, who represents District 23 in Highland Park, said that while she realizes redistricting is a political process, she felt that the interests of the communities were not best represented.
“It’s the peoples’ districts; I think that got lost in the conversation,” Bassi said.
Stolman said, previously, the goals of remapping were to divide the county into 21 districts of equal population size, to avoid fractured districts by keeping municipalities and townships in one district and to comply with the Voting Rights Act, which requires the creation of districts that create opportunities for minority candidates to be elected.
The new map will take effect in December 2012.
County board members voting against the redistricting were Pat Carey, Michelle Feldman, Terry Wilke, Melinda Bush, Audrey Nixon, Angelo Kyle and Anne Flanigan Bassi.
While some Lake County Board members see the reapportionment of their districts as fair, at least two—(D-Deerfield) and (D-Grayslake) — believe they were singled out for defeat.
When the board decided to shrink itself from 23 to 21 members, the likelihood arose that some incumbents would face each other in the next election. Board Presidentalso knew the board would be limited to 18 participants once the county reached a population of 800,000.
“We were told two members would not be running for reelection and this seemed like a good time to get smaller. Besides, we are saving the taxpayers money,” Stolman said. “We’re going to have to do it eventually.”
The full County Board will vote Tuesday on the proposal at its regularly scheduled meeting.
Under Illinois law, districts are supposed to be continuous and compact, according to state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who chaired the House Redistricting Committee and held a hearing on boundaries in Waukegan last month.
Feldman, who currently represents all of Deerfield, is now placed in the newly drawn 12th District with a part of Deerfield and all of Lake Forest. Bush, who lives a few blocks from colleague Pat Carey (D-Grayslake), currently represents a part of her hometown. The new Grayslake constituency is the 6th district.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Bush said. “I’ve been a very vocal Democrat. I was easy pickings to draw me with Pat Carey. This is a process that lacked transparency.”
Carey indicated she and Bush would decide which one would seek reelection.
“We won’t run against each other in a primary,” Carey said.
A lack of transparency
Others are complaining about the new map as well. Mary Mathews, co-President of the League of Women Voters of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff and an official of the Lake County league as well, was critical of the process.
“There was a total lack of transparency. We saw nothing until it was done. These districts are not compact and contiguous,” Mathews said.
Mathews said she would like to see Lake Forest and Lake Bluff remain together. “Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are natural partners,” she added.
Lake Bluff is now in the 13th District with North Chicago, Waukegan and Gurnee. Lake Forest is now in Feldman’s 12th District along with the eastern part of Deerfield.
Some in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff are happy with the new map. Former Shields Township Highway Commissioner Dan Rogers lives in unincorporated Lake Bluff, which is in the 12th, and his abutting business is in the 13th.
“I’m very pleased,” Rogers said. “I’m right on the edges. Since I don’t actually live in Lake Bluff it doesn’t affect me,” he said of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff split.
Linda Hinde, Lake Bluff’s former planning commissioner, was less than thrilled. She believes Lake Forest and Lake Bluff belong in the same configuration.
“Political games are being played,” Hinde said. “The Republicans on the County Board are doing what the Democrats did in Springfield,” she added, referring to the drawn by the Illinois General Assembly.
'This is retribution'
Feldman said the effort to draw her into a district with Lake Forest is more than politics. When she was first elected to the board in 2008, she complained Forest Preserve Board Member Rand Whitmore was improperly allowed to have a septic tank on Forest Preserve property. She complained to no avail until he was no longer serving.
“This is retribution,” Feldman said. “Splitting Deerfield into three districts makes no sense. There’s no doubt they’re doing what the Democrats did in Springfield.”
McCarthy backs up some of Feldman’s criticism. She contends Deerfield, Riverwoods and Bannockburn should remain in one district as they are.
“They share the same zip code and go to the same high school,” she said.
She suggested adding Lincolnshire to that mix would make a compact, continuous district of cohesive communities.
Former Board Member Carol Spielman (D-Highland Park), Feldman’s predecessor on the board, also questions the logic of the Redistricting Committee.
“It’s pretty clear this was not an accident,” Spielman said. “Splitting the district into three says something.”
Even West Deerfield Township Trustee Marc Brown (R-Deerfield), who may run in the adjoining 21st district, doesn’t understand the logic of the 12th.
“I don’t understand why they did that to [Feldman]. She’s been good for business,” Brown said. “She can’t possibly carry [the 12th].”
A diverse map
Stolman defends the entire map as a challenging exercise in putting the necessary 33,000 plus people in each zone. He is proud the county now has four majority minority districts rather than the three it previously had even though the number of board members shrunk.
“The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund) liked the map,” Stolman said. “We have diversity.”
After the last round of redistricting 10 years ago, MALDEF filed suit against the county because of a lack of representation in the Latino community. Stolman was proud of the board’s accomplishment of diversity this time.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t please everybody but it was a good map,” Stolman said. “Everything was done by the numbers.”
Redistricting Committee Chairman Diana O’Kelly (R-Mundelein) was unavailable to talk to Patch because of family matters.
District 11, which contains most of Highland Park and all of Highwood, remains mostly unchanged. It is represented by Ann Bassi (D-Highland Park). Libertyville is primarily in the 15th district. Buffalo Grove is mostly in the 20th.