DuPage forest preserve approves its own district map

The DuPage County Forest Preserve Commission this week narrowly approved its own electoral boundaries for the next decade. But the forest preserve needs state law changed for the new map to take effect.

County board members recently completed the once-in-a-decade process to remap boundaries for the six legislative districts that they represent. But unlike previous redistricting, forest preserve commissioners decided to establish electoral boundaries separate from the county board.

On Tuesday, the forest preserve commissioners voted 4-3 to approve their new map.

Forest Preserve President Daniel Hebreard was joined by fellow Democrats - commissioners Jeff Gahris, Tina Tyson-Dunne and Barbara O'Meara - in the majority. Three Republicans - commissioners Al Murphy, Marsha Murphy and Linda Painter - voted against the new boundaries. Hebreard says the forest preserve wants its own map 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.

However, the forest preserve can't have its own map without a state law change.

"We worked hard to gain the support of legislators in Springfield, who did see the logic in giving the forest preserve the right to do their own map, as we are a separate agency," Hebreard said Tuesday.

Legislation that will give the forest preserve permission to draw its own boundaries has passed both the Illinois House and Senate and is awaiting the governor's signature.

Some DuPage County Board members, meanwhile, say they learned only recently that the forest preserve was pushing for state legislation to validate its own map.

Board member Jim Zay, a Republican, said last month that the forest preserve had been invited to be part of the county's redistricting process.

"I think they kind of left us a little bit in the dark on that," said Zay, chairman of the county's redistricting committee. "If they just would have been upfront with us from the beginning and said listen, 'We want the ability to draw our own map, we're gonna go to Springfield and do it,' it would have saved us time."

The county board approved its new map last month.

"Although the maps are 90% to 95% similar, our changes do a better job of keeping communities together, fairly representing DuPage residents and utilizing natural barriers like I-88 whenever possible," Hebreard said.

However, Painter says it was unnecessary for the forest preserve to draft its own map.

"Doing a redistricting map is a wasteful use of taxpayer dollars and it's redundant almost to duplicate what the county board is already doing," Painter said. "It's going to be very confusing to voters."

Tyson-Dunne said some voters will have to adjust.

"It's literally 10 precincts that are different," Tyson-Dunne said. "It's down to us to educate the voters and introduce ourselves to new parts of our districts."

On Wednesday, Hebreard estimated the redistricting process cost the forest preserve between $20,000 to $25,000.

"Those additional upfront costs will be pretty minimal in the scope of 10 years," Hebreard said. "We're very proud of this map, and it keeps more communities together - Warrenville stayed together, Winfield stayed together and more of Glendale Heights."

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