Joliet council extends redistricting schedule
By Frank Vaisvilas Correspondent September 3, 2013 10:40PM
Updated: October 5, 2013 6:32AM
JOLIET — The city council on Tuesday night unanimously agreed to extend the public review process for the new council redistricting plan until the Nov. 5 council meeting.
City Manager Tom Thanas said the redistricting is needed because the city’s population, currently about 148,000, has increased since the last redistricting in 2004 — leaving council districts not as equal in population as required by federal law.
He said officials are looking to make minor adjustments so the five council districts are rebalanced so each has about 29,500 residents.
Councilman Terry Morris said some residents and Mayor Tom Giarrante had asked at last week’s meeting of the council’s legislative committee for more time to review the proposed map, which is posted on Joliet’s website.
“I know it’s going to be tough whatever they decide to do,” Giarrante said.
He said he would also like an update on the redistricting process at the Oct. 15 council meeting.
Thanas said another suggestion by some residents was to look at increasing the number of council districts to seven or eight. Joliet’s council has had five districts since the 1950s.
“Any change like that will be viewed as a change in our form of government,” he said, and would require a referendum.
The earliest a referendum could be held is March, and Thanas said he believed that if voters approved adding council districts, the process and a new map could not be done in time for the april 2015 council election.
Alderman Larry Hug said changing the number of districts would probably require a series of public meetings in addition to the referendum.
In other action Tuesday night, the council voted to establish a special business district to allow the city to impose a 1 percent sales tax for a new truck stop that will offset revenue lost from a lower gasoline tax at the property.
The Route 66 Food N Fuel Center is ready to open at Illinois 53 and Laraway Road for the NASCAR races Sept. 13-15 at Chicagoland Speedway.
In May, council members agreed to abate the city gas tax for the business so it could be more competitive with nearby gas stations in unincorporated Will County.
To offset that lost revenue, the council in May also approved an extra 1 percent sales tax on other merchandise sold at the travel center. The 5,700 square-foot development includes retail stores, restaurants and fueling facilities.