By Philip Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia
Peoria has a new city council boundary map that will be ready for the next council election in August 2018.
By a vote of 5-2, the council chose the selection identified as Map 31, one of five finalists.
Councilmembers Michael Finn and Carlo Leone dissented.
Mayor Cathy Carlat said in a statement Peoria is quickly growing and the redistricting process helps voters ensure their councilmember is elected fairly.
“As we approached this redistricting effort, our energy was focused on ensuring an open and transparent process,” she said. “With multiple ways for our residents to participate, we received valuable feedback from our citizens and we are pleased to support a map that came through this process.”
The council based their decision on three federally required criteria: each district must be contiguous, must have substantially equal population and each district must not be drawn in a way that imposes any practice or procedure denying or abridging citizens’ right to vote on account of minority status.
There were a number of additional criteria the council adopted, including that boundaries preserve communities of interest or established neighborhoods, which was the main point of contention in choosing the final map.
Willow District resident Joan Evans took issue with maps 31 and 35. She said the boundaries between the Willow and Ironwood districts would split a neighborhood south of Bell Road near Arrowhead Towne Center. She asked the Council not to split-up the neighborhood.
“Those two maps go against the criteria. Tierra Buena is a street that divides a neighborhood. On the Fourth of July, children have a parade on Tierra Buena,” Ms. Evans said. “It is a community that goes across this street.”
Most council members agreed that all map candidates had split neighborhoods.
But Councilwoman Vicki Hunt said Map 31 is the best option. Addressing Ms. Evans concern, Ms. Hunt said the border at Tierra Buena Lane will not breakup relationships.
“I don’t think it will be destructive to the quality of the neighborhood,” Ms. Hunt said.
Cities are required to redraw their council boundaries after census counts, and a mid-decade census conducted in 2015 showed Peoria’s population grew almost 5 percent from 2010 to 2015 to about 162,000. The Census Bureau now estimates Peoria to have a population of more than 171,000.
The city charter calls for six council districts, with district boundaries to provide for equal population in each district.
At a previous presentation, City Clerk Rhonda Geriminsky said the population goal for each district in this process is about 26,927 people.
Councilman Finn said a lot of people put a lot of effort into the redistricting process.
“I can honestly say there are three maps that make sense, and when you look at the criteria of keeping the boundaries in place and not unnecessarily splitting up neighborhoods, that was a very tall task,” he said.
A staff Redistricting Committee coordinated a two-phase public engagement process. The first phase included an active website, open houses, community meetings and leveraged traditional and social media to share information and solicit input on communities of interest. The second phase was designed to seek feedback on the five finalist redistricting maps and again included the website, open houses and utilized traditional and social media.
New to the process, the city implemented an online mapping application that allowed residents to create their own maps for consideration.
Deputy City Manager Julie Arendall said the city received 39 maps through the online portal. Three were either current maps or duplicates, 19 did not meet adopted criteria and 17 did meet adopted criteria. Ms. Arendall said the five final maps met the federal criteria and the criteria set forth by the City Council.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Stein said the online mapping application was a success with residents and staff.
“We will continue to use this format in the future,” Ms. Stein said.