Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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New wards could change your alderman

by Lisa Seiser

July 14, 2011

Longtime Lake Geneva Third District Alderwoman Arleen Krohn wasn't happy at all Monday night.

She had good reason. It is likely Krohn no longer will be in Aldermanic District 3 once the decennial redistricting in the city is complete.

On Monday night, the City Council established new ward boundaries to reflect population changes according to the 2010 census. City Clerk Jeremy Reale said the city's number of wards went from 27 down to 10 to follow state statutes, which require wards to be no smaller than 300 and no larger than 1,000 in population.

Reale said the new ward boundaries will be used to formulate the aldermanic districts.

The new ward map for the city (shown above) likely will lead to new proposed aldermanic districts. It appears as though wards C-1 and C-2 will be in the First District; C-7, C-8 and C-9 in the Second District; C-5, C-6 and C-10 in the Third District; and C-3 and C-4 would be in the Fourth.

"Every 10 years, we are required to redraw the boundaries of the wards," Reale said. "Those wards are the building blocks of the aldermanic districts."

The problem has been Aldermanic District 3 has grown in population at a higher rate than the other areas resulting in higher population in the third than in the other three districts.

According to the Lake Geneva census, which totaled 7,651, each district must have about 1,900 people. The Third District had more than 2,700, meaning about 800 needed to be shifted to balance out the other districts.

City Attorney Dan Draper said he and Reale looked at the issue for the past few weeks and believe they have come up with the best plan. If approved as proposed, no district will have a population fewer than 1,908 or more than 1,920.

When Reale explained what he envisioned for the districts, there was a groan from Krohn, when he said some of Sage Street would be lost from the Third and move into the Fourth District.

"That is what I tentatively envisioned," Reale said. "We needed to move votes from the third."

There were other changes that will affect some voters, including those along Broad Street who are now in the Fourth and will be moved to the First based on the proposed aldermanic districts.

Reale said there are a lot of requirements, including that wards be contiguous and compact. He said neighborhoods cannot be split up. Reale also said he tried to make as little impact as possible to current council members.

"I approached this in an apolitical way," Reale said. "If there was a way to draw it that it wouldn't affect Alderman Krohn, I would have tried."

But he said additional work on the map to include broken up areas to ensure Krohn remained in the same aldermanic district could have been considered gerrymandering.

Reale was quick to point out that Krohn will serve out the remainder of her term as a Third District alderwoman, which expires in 2013. That seat will become open because Krohn's residence will be in the Fourth District. Currently, Frank Marsala and Terry O'Neill represent the Fourth District.

During the council meeting, O'Neill asked if there was any way to look at the redistricting to ensure Krohn was not removed from her district.

Draper said state statutes dictate what can be done and he said census blocks cannot be split up and population dictates how that is done. He said the process was like "putting a puzzle together backward."

Reale said a computer program provided by the state was used to help come up with the plan.

"We poured over this for weeks," Reale said. "We tried to configure it differently, but this was the best plan we could come up with. This is the best I have to offer."

No other alderman was affected as much as Krohn by the redistricting plan.

Krohn was the lone vote against the new wards at both the council and the Finance, License and Regulation Committee meeting. The city still will have to make a final determination on the district lines at a future council meeting.

Reale said any alderman could come in and see how the wards were created using the computer program. He said it hasn't been easy.