New Bloomington city council districts: Vote put off at least until Oct. 6

After more than two hours of deliberation on Wednesday, the Bloomington city council postponed until Oct. 6 further consideration of new boundaries for city council districts.

The council’s special meeting, now set for Oct. 6, coincides with the Democratic Party’s Vi Taliaferro Dinner—an annual fundraiser that is scheduled to start at the council’s usual meeting time of 6:30 p.m.

That’s why the all-Democrat council voted 9–0 to convene its special meeting for Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. The council set a time limit of one hour.

The council’s annual calendar had already called for a committee meeting on Oct. 6—which is a Thursday, instead of the usual Wednesday. The one-day shift avoids a conflict with Yom Kippur, which falls on Wednesday. The council canceled that committee meeting in favor of the one-hour special meeting.

On Oct. 6, the council could vote to adopt the new map that has been recommended by Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission.

Another option would be to reject the map, and send the matter back to the five-member redistricting commission with the reasons for the council’s rejection.

Or the council could again postpone any decision. Continue reading “New Bloomington city council districts: Vote put off at least until Oct. 6”

New Bloomington council district lines proposed, advisory commission report set for Sept. 7 adoption

On a 4–0 vote taken on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission settled on new boundary lines for the six city council districts, which will be recommended by the group to the city council.

The commission is set to meet next Wednesday (Sept. 7) to finalize its report on the recommended map.

The city council has until Nov. 1 to either adopt or reject the recommended map. If it’s rejected, the redistricting advisory commission has until Dec. 1 to respond to the council. Under state law, the city council has to adopt a new population-balanced map by the end of the year.

The work for city council redistricting takes place in the second year following the decennial census. The point of redistricting work is to restore population balance to the districts that might have shifted in the last 10 years.

Highlights of the new map include the prominence of 3rd Street as an east-west running boundary that is generally respected by every district—with one exception.

The 3rd Street boundary corresponds to the line between Bloomington Township and Perry Township. Political subdivisions like townships are among the “communities of interest” described in local code, which proposed new districts are supposed to avoid splitting. Continue reading “New Bloomington council district lines proposed, advisory commission report set for Sept. 7 adoption”

2 possible city council maps mulled by Bloomington redistricting commission, but one might not be legal

At Monday night’s meeting of Bloomington’s redistricting commission, just one of the proposed maps drew the initial attention of the five members. By the end of the night, based on a public comment, they’d added a second one to the mix for further consideration.

But the second map might not be legal, because it looks like it leaves one of the districts unconnected to some of its parts. The B Square has inquired with the Indiana state election division’s legal counsel about the legality of the second map.

On Monday, commissioners scheduled two additional meetings to complete their work, which has a deadline of Sept. 7. Under the city’s 2020 ordinance that established the commission, it’s by that date when they have to recommend a new district map to the city council.

The next meeting is set for Wednesday, Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. The fifth, and possibly final, meeting of the commission is set for Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 8:15 a.m. It’s possible that the vote on a recommended map could come at the Aug. 31 meeting. Continue reading “2 possible city council maps mulled by Bloomington redistricting commission, but one might not be legal”

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. Continue reading “Sept. 7 deadline looms: Bloomington redistricting advisory commission set for Monday meeting”

Bloomington city council redistricting notebook: What might have been 10 years ago?

Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission will meet for a second time on Monday (July 25), in the McCloskey Room at city hall, starting at 7:30 p.m.

To preview the commission’s meeting, The B Square took a look back to the council’s work a decade ago, which is the last time the city council districts were redrawn.

The boundaries have to be reconsidered every 10 years in the context of the decennial census. If the census shows that the populations of the districts are out of kilter, the boundaries are supposed to be redrawn to balance things out.

Ten years ago, it was the at-large councilmembers who formed a committee to review potential new maps. That means it was Andy Ruff, Timothy Mayer and Susan Sandberg who confronted the redistricting task.

The map that was adopted in 2012 served to define the council districts for the 2015 and 2019 municipal elections. Whatever map the council adopts this year, sometime before Dec. 31, will serve as the district map for the 2023 elections.

The B Square was able to locate online some records of those meetings.  Those records show that the committee considered several possible maps, other than the one that was eventually adopted by the council that year. Continue reading “Bloomington city council redistricting notebook: What might have been 10 years ago?”

Column: Independent of politics, drawing new city council districts for Bloomington is not easy as pie

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

That’s a famous quote from the late Carl Sagan, an astronomer who popularized scientific thought on topics like the place of the human species in the universe.

It is somewhat surprising that of Sagan’s 600 published scientific papers, none include a mention of Bloomington, Indiana, as the exact center of the known universe.

Compensating for Sagan’s error of omission are two key notions from that famous quote—“pie” and “from scratch.” Those two ideas have some current relevance in Bloomington’s civic life.

Both ideas are relevant to the work of the city’s redistricting advisory commission, which met for the first time this past week.

The commission was supposed to be seated 18 months ago, at the start of 2021, but was not appointed until mid-June of this year.
Continue reading “Column: Independent of politics, drawing new city council districts for Bloomington is not easy as pie”

Mapping tools released: Anyone can draw new Bloomington city council districts

Screenshot of the mapping tool created by the MGGG Lab at Tufts University loaded with Bloomington data. The image links to the mapping tool: Pick “Cities” then “Bloomington”

Late last week, the MGGG Lab at Tufts University released a mapping tool that makes it easy for anyone to draw new boundaries for Bloomington’s city council districts.

The release is part of a web-based redistricting resource the lab has developed, called Districtr. The Bloomington module of Districtr was created at The B Square’s request.

The acronym MGGG stands for Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group. Continue reading “Mapping tools released: Anyone can draw new Bloomington city council districts”