On Monday, Bloomington’s five-member redistricting commission met for the first time, about 18 months after it was supposed to be established.
Key takeaways from Monday’s gathering included the setting of the next two meeting dates: July 25 (7:30 p.m.) and Aug. 9 (9:30 a.m.).
Later, a news release issued a call to the public to submit proposals for a new map of the six city council districts.
Resources to aid the public in drawing of maps have been set up on the redistricting commission’s web page.
Under state statute, the new map, which has to be population balanced, based on the 2020 census, needs to be approved by the city council before year’s end. It’s the map that will define the council districts for the 2023 municipal elections.
But under the new local law establishing the redistricting commission, a recommendation to the commission has to be submitted to the city council by Sept. 7.
The relatively late start to the commission’s work was not something the commissioners were able to control—they were not appointed until mid-June.
The ordinance establishing the commission, which was first approved in late 2020, underwent two subsequent amendments—in February and May this year. The amendments redefined the group’s membership, by chopping it from nine members to five, and relaxed eligibility requirements—in an effort to find enough applicants who could serve.
The five-member group has to include two Democrats, two Republicans, and one member unaffiliated with those parties
A vestige of an earlier version of the ordinance surfaced at the commission’s first meeting. City council attorney Stephen Lucas told the group at the start of the meeting, “Alex Semchuck, as our appointed independent member, serves as chair of the commission and will run the meetings.”
The same idea—that the member who is unaffiliated with a major political party, is required to serve as chair—was echoed in the commission’s meeting information packet: “Note that Commissioner Alex Semchuck will serve as Chair of the Commission and will lead each meeting.”
In fact, as part of the May ordinance amendment, the council struck the following requirement: “The commission shall select as its chair the member not affiliated with either of the two major political parties.”
On Monday, The B Square tuned in late to the live meeting, but asked during public comment time how Semchuck came to be named chair. Lucas cited the ordinance: “He’s serving as chair under the ordinance that set up the commission.”
When The B Square pointed out that the May amendment had struck the sentence about who would chair the group, Lucus conceded the point. “I apologize—that is a decision that the commission should have made,” Lucas said.
Lucas asked the group if anyone had an objection to Semchuck serving as chair. No one voiced an objection. A motion was made and unanimously approved, to confirm Semchuck as chair.