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.
At the Aug. 31 meeting, it looks like the commission might be considering just one proposed map of new common council (aka city council) districts. And given the relevant deadlines, it looks like the commission could settle on that map as its recommendation to the city council.
It would be a shame if that’s the only map that the commissioners investigate in any detail, before recommending it.
Bloomington’s city council passed an ordinance in mid-December 2020 to establish a redistricting advisory commission that is supposed to make recommendations on the drawing of new city council districts, based on results of the 2020 census.
The nine-member group was supposed to be seated at the start of 2021, which is the year following the decennial census.
Now some 15 months later, no members of the commission have been seated—because there are not enough applicants who meet the eligibility requirements.
Under state law, it is this year—the second year following the decennial census—when the city council districts are supposed to be redrawn. That’s only if their populations have become unbalanced based on the census numbers.
But there’s no question that Bloomington’s current city council districts are unbalanced after the 2022 census count, because they have a 35 percent variance. An acceptable variance is considered 10 percent.
Even though nine months of the year remain, the timeline for the redistricting commission’s work is already getting tight.
And after amending the 2020 ordinance in early February of this year, to reduce the redistricting commission to five members, the planned commission is still short of eligible applicants.
On Thursday at noon, the city council committee that is responsible for selecting the redistricting commission members met in the McCloskey Room at city hall to review how to proceed. Making up the committee, under Bloomington’s new ordinance, are the three at-large members, who are elected by voters citywide: Susan Sandberg, Jim Sims and Matt Flaherty.