DuPage forest preserve looking to draw its own electoral boundaries
DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners and county board members are at odds over an effort to redraw the county's electoral boundaries.
Members of the DuPage County Board's redistricting committee have been working on the once-in-a-decade process to remap boundaries for the six legislative districts that county board members and forest preserve commissioners represent.
But on Tuesday, forest preserve commissioners voted 4-3 to have the district establish its own electoral boundaries.
Forest Preserve President Daniel Hebreard was joined by commissioners Tina Tyson-Dunne, Jeff Gahris and Barbara O'Meara in the majority. Commissioners Al Murphy, Marsha Murphy and Linda Painter voted against the resolution.
"I know the importance of everyone feeling represented, and I know the passion of our residents for these open spaces," Hebreard said. "By ensuring our voters have fair representation in an open, legal process, we are ensuring that the environment cannot be put last, but instead be at the forefront."
Hebreard said the forest preserve had two forest preserve commissioners and its attorney represented with the county's redistricting committee a decade ago. But Hebreard said the forest preserve does not have representation in the current redistricting process.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," said county board member Jim Zay, who serves as chairman of the county's redistricting committee.
Zay disputes Hebreard's account of forest preserve representation during the redistricting a decade ago. He said the forest preserve contingent attended only one meeting to express their concern about a nine-district proposal that did not go through.
"I had several conversations with the president of the forest preserve and offered for him to have a commissioner or himself part of the process," Zay said about the current redistricting. "They can't vote because it's a county committee, but we said we want you to be a part of the process."
According to the June 17 redistricting committee meeting minutes, Chairman Zay welcomed a forest preserve representative at meetings to represent their interests "but declined their request to have their staff attorney be that representative."
The forest preserve commission in DuPage is unique because it operates separately from the county board.
State legislators approved the separation in 1996 because of an inherent conflict between the county's development interests and the forest preserve's environmental mission. The commission's split from the county board took effect in 2002.
While Commissioner Linda Painter agrees the forest preserve should function separately, she expressed reservations about the district establishing its own electoral boundaries.
"I think it would be very, very confusing for voters to have the county board lines different from the forest preserve lines," Painter said. "The county board is already spending the money to do this. I don't see why we need to spend more taxpayer dollars on this."
Commissioner Al Murphy echoed Painter's concerns and expressed his wish for DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin to issue a legal ruling.
But Commissioner Tina Tyson-Dunne countered that it was Berlin who "stopped us from having a seat at the table."
"If we weren't shut out of it, I don't think this discussion would even be happening at this point. We'd be a part of the process," Tyson-Dunn said about the county's redistricting committee.
According to the forest preserve resolution, the estimated cost for the remapping process will be approximately $15,000 to $35,000.
The next meeting date for the county board's redistricting committee has not been scheduled, but Zay said he expects it to be sometime in September.