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updated: 4/14/2011 5:49 PM

Naperville must elect council members by district in 2015

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Naperville planners will begin their work this summer on implementing a system to elect city council members by district, starting in 2015.

DuPage Circuit Judge Bonnie Wheaton this week reaffirmed state election statutes require the new system to be done in conjunction with the next mayoral election.

During the Nov. 2 election, roughly 66 percent of voters approved dividing the city into five compact and contiguous districts, each with its own representative to the council. Wheaton ruled, at that time, that the turnaround time would be too quick to implant before last week's consolidated election.

Under the new system, three council members and the mayor would continue to be elected at-large. New district lines would be drawn by the city manager once every decade when census numbers are released. Four council members whose seats will expire in 2013 will also only serve two-year terms if re-elected.

The Naperville Voter Education League, which put the question on the ballot, challenged Wheaton's November ruling and argued that the city should implement the system in 2013, the next municipal election.

League member Bill Eagan was he was disappointed in the decision and said the group will meet in the coming days to decide whether to appeal. Eagan, however, said he's not wanting to continue the fight.

"My feeling is that we need to put it behind us and move forward, We know were the people stand and we know what the (city) staff stands for," Eagan said. "That being said, a couple hundred years ago some monarchs told us we couldn't break free, too. Can you imagine if we listened to them? We'd all be talking with funny accents."

City Attorney Margo Ely said the city has always planned to follow the law.

"We have not yet started the district process. Based on the order yesterday, ruling 2015 for implementation, we will have districts in place by the summer of 2014," Ely said Thursday. "I expect to bring an agenda memo to the council this summer to establish a process for drawing districts."

Eagan said he is asking for the league and other concerned residents to "have a seat at the table" for those meetings.