Champaign City Council redistricting not approved by all

By Eric Heisig

A split Champaign City Council voted on a new district map March 18. The 5-3 approval came with its share of controversy.

The Council approved the new map in order to even out the number of people in each district following a special city census that showed an increased population.

The map was drawn by Dist. 3 Council member Vic McIntosh and will be in effect for the next Council election in 2009.

Council members Gina Jackson, Dist. 1; Marci Dodds, Dist. 4; and Ken Pirok, Dist. 5, all voted against the plan. At-Large Council member Thomas Bruno was not present for a vote.

“I voted against it because I didn’t think we needed to be making wholesale changes to people’s districts,” said Pirok, who has the largest district with more than 19,000 residents.

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“Instead of taking off a part of my district, (McIntosh) took off a lot, and added a lot that wasn’t there before.”

Dodds had thought some of the other maps presented to the Council made more sense.

“I thought (the new map) was illogical,” Dodds said. “I didn’t think it was the best map presented to us. It changed two of the districts more than they needed to be.”

Dodds also said she felt some partisanship played a part in creating this map.

“I feel very strongly that we need to have a strong centered district in order to have a strong local government,” she said. “Now, Dist. 4 has been pushed to be more Democratic. They used to be able to vote both Democrats and Republicans into office.”

Dodds said that with the new map, McIntosh gave up some Democratic districts, which worries her.

McIntosh said that it was not his intention to make it more partisan.

“Partisanship had nothing to do with it,” McIntosh said.

Instead, McIntosh said his intentions were to reduce the amount of split precincts between districts, and to make room for possible growth, when the Council will most likely redistrict in 2011, following the census.

Dist. 2 Council member Michael La Due said he did not have a problem with a map and that all the state criteria were met with it.

“I don’t think any of the districts were affected all that much,” La Due said. “I think the only person’s district who was affected was Vic’s, oddly enough.”

La Due said the map succeeded in minimizing any problems with voting in the future, which was one of its goals.

While Pirok did not vote for the new map, he said it could possibly benefit him if he decided to move sometime in the near future.

“I have the option of running in Dist. 5 if I move within my district,” Pirok said.

“Or I could run in Dist. 3, which now contains a lot of my area.”

If Pirok moves into Dist. 3, he would be running against McIntosh.

“I do believe he drew it as a district he thought he could win,” Pirok said.

“However, it would not be a bad district for me either.”