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posted: 8/17/2012 5:31 PM

Naperville group wants to put brakes on voting districts

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A group of influential Naperville residents is hoping to spark a conversation about how city council members are elected that they say should have taken place in 2010.

The group, led by former Naperville Unit District 203 school board President Dean Reschke and attorney Rebecca Obarski, is leading a charge to reverse the results of a 2010 referendum question that led to the pending 2015 implementation of a voting district system in the city.

Obarski said Friday the "Yes! At Large" group believes Naperville residents should have "had more conversation about what it will mean to divide our city" before the issue was put to a vote in 2010.

To that end, the group wants to collect the required 2,000 signatures to place a referendum question on the April 9, 2013, ballot that would "allow voters to reconsider the decision to divide the city into districts and instead direct that all of the city council should be elected at large."

"We want to put the question out there again and have the public discussion about it," she said. "Getting the petition ready opens the door to the conversation and will allow us all to be sure we realize what dividing our city into fifths means."

Beginning in 2015, five city councilmen will be elected from districts and three councilmen and the mayor will be elected at large. All members of the council currently are elected at large.

Since the November 2010 election, a committee of city staff members has used that year's census results and a geography software program to construct a map of five proposed "compact and contiguous" districts that voters asked for. The city council could approve those maps as soon as Tuesday.

Reschke was surprised when he opened his newspaper the morning after the 2010 vote and said the decision hasn't sat right with him since. But his group, he said, has picked up steam in the past several weeks. He believes every citizen should have the right and ability to vote for every member of the city's governing body, not just single members representing about 30,000 people each.

"We're trying to spark a bit more of a robust debate and conversation about this drastic change to our government," Reschke said. "Everyone needs to know the pros and cons either way and we hope having some debate will turn up those answers."

Group member Brand Bobosky, president and CEO of Naperville's Century Walk public art project, said he voted against the 2010 measure and was shocked when others approved the move to districts. He, too, doesn't believe residents were fully informed of what the change in government elections will mean.

"We've seen the maps now, and they're OK, but the maps aren't everything," he said. "I'm afraid a district system will lead to a 'me' attitude and everyone working for themselves instead of the 'we' system that allowed everyone to work for the benefit of the whole city for the past 40-something years."

The group has scheduled two organizing meetings at 7 p.m. on Aug. 27 and 28 to discuss the logistics of getting their petitions signed and moving the process forward. The Aug. 27 meeting will be at Naper Settlement and the Aug. 28 meeting will be at the 95th Street Library.

Representatives from the Naperville Voter Education League, the group that spearheaded the 2010 campaign in favor of creating districts, could not be reached Friday for comment.

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