Sept. 7 deadline looms: Bloomington redistricting advisory commission set for Monday meeting

The third meeting of Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission is set for Monday (Aug. 22) at 7:30 p.m. in the McCloskey Conference Room at city hall.

The city council districts are supposed to be redrawn every 10 years, in the second year following the decennial census, in order to achieve as good a population balance as possible across the six districts.

The commission has met just twice so far—on July 11 and July 25. The first meeting addressed mostly organizational matters. Not much in the way of deliberations took place at the second meeting.

So it’s not clear what, if any, consensus might exist among the five commissioners on key issues. One of those issues is how much weight to give various “communities of interest” when they evaluate the merits of a proposed map, compared against another proposal.

The commission is now working under somewhat of a time crunch. Under the late 2020 local ordinance that established the commission, the advisory group is supposed to give the city council a recommended map by Sept. 7, which is just a little more than two weeks away.

After Sept. 7, the council could adopt the proposed map, or kick it back to the commission for reconsideration. The council has until the end of the year to adopt a new map.

The timeframe for the work of the redistricting commissioners has been compressed, because they were not seated by the city council until mid-June, almost 18 months after they were supposed to be appointed.

At Monday’s meeting, the commission could settle on a recommended map—there are no additional meetings scheduled before Sept. 7.

But it seems more likely that another meeting will be added to the calendar. That’s because the commission’s meeting scheduled for Aug. 9 was canceled. Not enough commissioners were able to attend.

At the commission’s July 27 meeting, the working assumption seemed to be that the Aug. 9 meeting would be used for deliberating on priorities for criteria, and winnowing down proposed maps to just a few for consideration. At that point, the hoped-for timing seemed to be that the commissioners would vote on a recommended map at their Aug. 22 meeting—but that an additional meeting could be scheduled before Sept. 7, if necessary.

With the cancellation of the Aug. 9 meeting, it looks like at least one additional meeting could be scheduled before the deadline. But that’s not certain.

Based on their first two meetings, the attitude of commissioners towards the priorities for weighting different “communities of interest” is somewhat of an enigma. The concept of “communities of interest” is important, because the ordinance establishing the redistricting advisory commission says that: “Whenever possible, the commission should avoid recommending districts that split communities of interest into multiple districts.”

What is a “community of interest”? The ordinance defines them like this: “These communities include, but are not limited to, political subdivisions, neighborhoods, school districts, historic districts and other areas where residents share common traits and concerns.”

Since the commission last met, the city’s GIS staff have imported some proposed maps into the online tool that the city is using to support the redistricting advisory commission’s work. It’s possible that deliberations on Monday could rely on shared-screen views of that tool. The tool allows various communities of interest to be layered on top of a proposed district.

Here’s a link: City GIS Staff Redistricting Map Tool

The annotated screenshots below provide an introduction to viewing proposed new city council district maps that have been loaded into the city’s online tool.

2 thoughts on “Sept. 7 deadline looms: Bloomington redistricting advisory commission set for Monday meeting

  1. Communities of interest is the least important criteria. I would hate to see a council district reflect no differences.

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