Aurora is looking at new neighborhood maps for the city

Aurora is ready to hear from the public on possible new neighborhood maps for the city.

Aldermen will hold two public broadcasts this week of two maps under consideration for redistricted wards, mandated after the 2020 decennial census. But officials stressed that according to what the public is saying, neither map is etched into the Pierre.

“We have two iterations right now,” Ald said. Edward Bugg, 9th Ward, Chairman of the City Council Rules, Administration and Procedures Committee. “There is no one who is correct, or stronger, or approved, or recommended over the other. We will take a look at both.

“Maybe the public will get a fantastic idea that none of us thought of,” he said. “We are 95% there. If either is passed, it’s legal, generally good for Aurora, and generally good for most neighborhoods.

Bugg’s remarks came during a July 19 meeting of the committee, which is currently handling the redistricting. The committee will hold two more meetings on the topic this week, both designed to elicit more public comment on the proposed maps.

The first is at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place. The second is at 6 p.m. Thursday, also in the council chambers.

Both maps were developed by Frank Calabrese, a political consultant working on the new city map, with input from city council members. Calabrese told aldermen that the fundamental change in the map from 10 years ago was that “central wards are going to have to absorb population and eastern wards are going to have to shrink”.

This was based on the fact that census figures showed that the 2nd district lost 29.9% of its population over the past 10 years, the 3rd district lost 23.3%, the 7th district lost 18%, the 1st 16.3% and the 4th Ward lost 13.3%.

Meanwhile, the biggest increase came in the 10th arrondissement, which gained 14.3%, and the 9th arrondissement gained around 1.6%. The 8th, 6th and 5th quarters were more stable, with small losses.

Redistricting is always a difficult process, but it’s complicated this year in that it has to be based on census numbers that Aurora disputes. The US Census Bureau presented figures showing the city had a population of about 180,000, up from about 197,000 people 10 years ago and the bureau’s estimate of 199,000 for the city in 2019.

Aurora officials dispute these findings. If the count is found to be significantly off, it could lead to another redistricting in two or three years. But in the meantime, the city must redraw with the manpower at its disposal.

Calabrese said he developed maps trying to set boundaries “that normal people understand”. This means using major roads, commonly agreed upon by ward boundaries, rivers and other recognizable features such as boundaries.

He said he also tried to respect other boundaries, such as precincts and county lines. Aurora is in four different counties. He also tried to maintain minority representation.

The two maps – known as 1A and 1B – are very similar, Calabrese said. The predominantly West Side neighborhoods the 5th, 6th, and 4th (the 4th Ward crosses the river to the East Side) are very similar to what they have been.

But on the east side, the 2nd Ward has expanded west, south, and east to accommodate more people. The 3rd arrondissement moved further to the southeast.

The 8th arrondissement has part of its traditional area, but includes more along Route 59.

One of the main differences between the two maps concerns the 10th district and the 1st district. In Plan 1B, part of Stonebridge runs from the 10th Ward to the 1st Ward; in Plan 1A, the 1st Ward extends further north.

“I think those are pretty good plans to start with, in terms of cleanliness,” Calabrese said. “They respect county boundaries, respect precinct boundaries, respect the kind of boundaries that ordinary people understand … and, moreover, it’s not a radical departure from the current boundaries.”

But with the public still to weigh in, some city council members said they didn’t like some of what happened with the development of the two maps.

Aldus. Patty Smith, 8th Ward, said she was unhappy that changes had been suggested in the 8th Ward without her input.

On a map, the Georgetown subdivision was split into the 8th, 9th, and 7th wards, where it previously was almost entirely in the 8th, with a splinter in the 9th. Smith said that while she didn’t like it, she understood that some changes needed to be made.

In addition, the 8th Ward took over a commercial area along Route 59, which former 8th Ward aldermen, the mayor, and economic development officials all said was a good idea.

But Smith said in the second card that changes were made to the 8th Ward by Bugg, as chairman of the committee, without speaking to him.

“I feel very disrespected, I’m very disappointed that my fellow councilor didn’t take the time to sit down with me and talk it over with me,” she said. “I’m the one who asked for these two items to be presented because plan (1B) is the only one we’ve all seen and it’s the plan we should be discussing.”

Bugg stressed that the two documents are only starting points and that nothing has been decided. He said technical difficulties were the only reason the aldermen did not see both cards at the same time. He also said that Calabrese came up with the two cards based on the sum total of all aldermen’s comments.

Aldus. Shweta Baid, 10th Ward, also asked if Stonebridge should be split between two wards.

“Stonebridge is a community, all the locals work together, they like having one alderman rather than two,” she said.

Each time the committee recommends a map, it would then be submitted to the full council committee for further discussion by the full council before going to the full council for a vote.

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