Thursday, May 24, 2012
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City discusses reducing wards from 5 to 4

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[May 24, 2012]  At the Monday night voting session of the Lincoln City Council, Mayor Keith Snyder brought up the topic of redrawing the wards within the city.

It is not something the city is looking forward to, and for a time the city thought the state might provide a way around the task, but Monday night Snyder said it was looking like something the city was going to have to deal with before the end of this year.

The problem with the city having five wards is that according to Illinois law, Lincoln doesn't have enough people to merit that many.

This situation came to light last fall when the 2010 census information started coming out and it was revealed that according to the census, the population of the city had dropped a few hundred souls below 15,000.

According to state law, that meant the city would have to redraw its ward map and reduce the number of wards from five to four and its number of aldermen from 10 to eight.

However, at the first of the year, legislation was introduced that would provide all municipalities a way out of the daunting and expensive task.

Monday night Snyder said that to date, that legislation has not passed, and even if it does, it would be too late for the city to comply with state deadlines as the bill is worded now.

Snyder said the bill had been written so that municipalities could pass an ordinance keeping their current ward structure, but the ordinance had to be passed within 12 months of the next election.

Snyder said he had looked at the 2013 election and the candidate filing dates and came to the conclusion that the city would have had to have the new ordinance in place in March of 2012 in order to keep the current five wards. But, with no new state law in place, the city couldn't write the ordinance.

As the aldermen discussed this, one of the principal questions came from Alderwoman Melody Anderson, who wondered how it would be decided as to which aldermen stayed on the council and which ones had to leave, once the new wards were established.

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Snyder said all the aldermen wishing to remain on the council would have to run for election. Eight would be elected, and then the city would have a lottery to see which four would take on two-year terms and which four would take on four-year terms.

Snyder said this was something the council was going to have to deal with in the future.

In the meantime, he said that in relation to the number of committees within the city, he had created a list of possibilities that would reduce the total number of committees from 10 to eight so that each alderman would have to chair only one committee.

There is not going to be any restructuring of committees now, but it is something Snyder said would have to be done eventually.

Generally the mayor assigns new committees in the first month of the new fiscal year. Snyder said he'd reviewed the committees as they are and saw no need to make any changes now.

If the state bill passes, then the city can pass the ordinance to protect its wards after the next census if the population should fall again.


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