Jack Franks brought colleagues to his home town of Marengo Saturday to the hard-to-find new Marengo High School for a reapportionment hearing whose process will be completely controlled by Democrats in the General Assembly and Governor’s Mansion.
To reach the high school, one had to take Franks Road, observed State Rep. Mike Tryon. (He wondered if that “is s a sign that this will be the center of the 63rd (Franks’) District.”)
Not mentioned was that when one enters the auditorium, one walks past a placard saying the performing and fine arts programs are supported by financial contributions of the Franks family.
State Rep. Lou Lang chaired the meeting, which was attended not only by McHenry County residents but people from as far away as Plainfield and Sycamore.
Tryon took the microphone to point out that McHenry County was “fortunate to have two House districts that (were entirely within McHenry County).”
The Republican Party Chairman said he was “hoping that we will have three House seats that will substantially, if not wholly, in McHenry County.”
He asked that county and city boundaries be considered.
He also asked for an ability to see the map, as well as what it is based upon, for a two to three week period prior to passage.
Judy Szilak, President of the McHenry County League of Women Voters testified first, calling for openness and echoing Tryon’s wish for several weeks to contemplate the maps before passage.
Former State Rep. Rosemary Kurtz (R-Crystal Lake) took the microphone in support of a less partisan approach to reapportionment.
McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler was second to speak. He asked a series of questions about whether the public would have two weeks to analyze and comment on the suggested maps, how they will be shown to the public and whether the transcripts would be posted on the internet.
He pointed out that the county had not grown as much as had been expected, but how it was now the sixth largest county in Illinois.
“I would hope that 103,000 (McHenry County residents) would be represented in each of these (three) districts,” Koehler said.
Tryon asked if Lang would answer Koehler’s questions.
“I have no intention of doing that today,” Lang replied.
Just after Janet Silosky, a Republican Precinct Committeeman from Plainfield introduced herself, the lights went out in the auditorium, indeed, in the whole school.
“If this doesn’t tell us something about the process, I don’t know what would,” State Rep. Tim Schmitz (R-St.Charles) observed. [I wonder if that will make it on the transcript.]
The Will County precinct committeeman expressed distrust in the reapportionment process.
“How are we going to get this done in an equitable process?” she asked. “Gerrymandering that goes on will not create a map that is contiguous and compact.
“What difference does it make?”
“It’s already decided,” she continued, mentioning House Speaker Mike Madigan.
“I’ve lived in this state for 50 years and the Democrats have been in control since I was knee high to a grasshopper.”
She commented on the unfairness of Democrats who are going to be running for office knowing what their districts will be already, while challengers are left in the dark.
“I’d like to hear some input from you gentlemen.”
There was none.
McHenry County Board member Mary Donner came next. She read a statement from an indisposed colleague, Tina Hill.
Donner said that the new 2030 County Land Use Plan had growth occurring next to areas that were already populated.
A DeKalb County band teacher from Sycamore, Ken Goodman, asked that his community be put in one congressional district. His area now has two congressmen, Randy Hutlgren and Don Manzullo.
Stephen Polep, a retired teacher who lives in Cary, asked that Cary and Crystal Lake be kept in the same district [as they were until 2002, which this plus parts of eastern McHenry County further norther were included in a Lake County House district].
Algonquin’s Jim Carlin, a Republican Precinct Committeeman who said he was in the leadership of the Huntley Tea Party, pointed to the huge growth west of Randall Road, said that Tryon had represented it well and asked that it continue to be in his district. Carlin is a former Huntley School District Board member.
Noting the “communities of interest” mentioned in the meeting’s introduction, he asked that both the Kane and McHenry County portions of Sun City be included in the same legislative district.
He was effusive of his praise of Tryon.
“I like this,” the represented interjected.
“You’re kicking me out of Huntley,” Schmitz asked.
“Once we get a state government and federal government that encourages jobs, we’re going to take off.”
He said he was talking about taxes.
That was the end of those who signed up to speak. Then Lang asked if there was anyone else who wanted to talk.
Yours truly couldn’t resist criticizing the district boundaries included in “Currie II.”
I called it “Currie 2.”
I argued that McHenry County had little in common with the tract subdivision east of the Fox River in Carpentersville. It’s mainly Meadowdale, one of the first post-World War II housing developments.
Following me was MaryMargaret Maule, who ran a hard campaign for McHenry Count Board in District 4. She suggested that legislative districts try to have as much as McHenry County College in them as possible, rather than crossing the Lake County line. She complained about part of the eastern part of McHenry County being used to complete State Rep. Mark Beaubien’s Lake County district. She manages MCC’s Shah Center in McHenry, which is an area split between two legislative districts.
Kathy Bergan Schmitt, another Democrat, one who got elected to the County Board from District 3
and who used to be Chair of the McHenry County Democratic Party, also complained about being the tag end of a Lake County district.
“I often feel in the orphan part of the county,” she said. “There is an overabundance of the disease known as ‘incumbent protection.'”
She agreed that it would always be a factor, but “it doesn’t have to be (the main) factor.”
Without it, she said, “Civil life would be ever so much better.”
Bill Jordan of Woodstock also spoke up.
He talked about having “a certain amount of skepticism about the process. Iowa has a (computerized) system of drawing districts.”
Jordan pointed out that we were “moving toward a government that can be audited.”
He suggested that the process used by both the Greek and Venetians–random selection of public officials–might be better than what we have in Illinois.
Not speaking from the microphone was Cary resident Raymond Scheff (at least that’s what my notes say).
He had suggested reapportionment maps that he had prepared for Tryon.
Lang asked if he wished to share them with the committee.
The reply was that was up to Rep. Tryon.