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updated: 8/19/2011 4:06 PM

Civic groups want more input in Naperville districting maps

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Naperville planners are toiling away on the first draft of what eventually will be a map to divide the community into city council election districts for the first time.

They won't be alone, though, because a few civic groups say they likely will be working on a map or two of their own.

Council members decided earlier this week to scrap a plan that included forming a committee of members of the Naperville Voter Education League, League of Women Voters of Naperville and the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation and other residents to draw the proposed map. Instead, City Manager Doug Krieger directed an internal staff committee to produce a draft map by Dec. 31 using software and 2010 census data.

That map would be used as a starting point for possible revisions and future drafts working toward a 2012 deadline for the 2013 city election.

Some of the groups, pleased to have been included in the original plan, are now disappointed in the process and believe there needs to be more than one draft.

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.

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

Bill Eagan, spokesman for the Naperville Voter Education League, which put the question on the ballot, said the city needs to consider more than one map option.

"We haven't gotten together as a group to discuss this yet. But I understand where they're coming from and that they feel they need to use a computer to add legitimacy to process. But at the end of the day we need to involve the people," Eagan said. "I certainly welcome two separate processes. Let the people also do the work and see how close (the maps) are."

Jane Barnes of the League of Women Voters said her organization also has reservations about being spoon-fed a map from the city staff.

"I'm not entirely convinced we won't see the appointment and use of a committee before all is said and done," Barnes said. "I'm not at all convinced a single map is the way to go."

Several council members said they feared the "pollution" or "infiltration" of partisan groups when they decided to not form the subcommittee.

Krieger said if a city-produced map is drawn by the end of the year, it will leave six months for the public to weigh in before the self-imposed June 2012 deadline for a plan to be in place.

Eagan said he hopes the city can produce something sooner than the end of the year.

"It'd be great if they could get it out by Thanksgiving but end of year is fine," he said. "That still allows for people to begin talking about it and kicking it around in January and February."

If the map is complete by June 2012, candidates can better plan for both the 2013 and 2015 elections.