Tuesday, May 10, the Republicans on the Henry County Board demonstrated that we listen to the will of the people and are supporters of smaller government and a redistricting process that is fair, transparent, and free of politically crooked lines and boundaries.
As chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Reapportionment, I promised, at the very first meeting, that the factors that should be considered are contiguous districts and compact boundaries, and that communities of interest would be kept together. The map that passed out of the Ad Hoc Committee on a 3-2 Republican-Democrat vote accomplished all of these things.
It has 12 townships and 25,100 people in the north and 12 townships and 25,386 people to the south.
One simple east-west line divides the county into two politically competitive districts. This line was determined not by politicians, but rather by a GIS computer program that did not factor any political calculations into the program.
The Republican map puts Geneseo and Atkinson together rather than Atkinson with Kewanee. This fair map keeps the Geneseo School District all in one county board district rather than dividing it over 3 districts. The map unites Cambridge, Alpha and Woodhull together, as they co-op in sports, rather than divide those three communities of interest into two districts.
The current map is a Democrat creation to make Democrat-leaning Colona the leading political force in District 1 and Democrat-leaning Kewanee the dominant factor in District 3, and to pack as many Republicans as possible in District 2.
The new map has created two districts in which either party can easily elect representatives from any part of the county as the influence of the bigger cities are spread over a larger territory.
I made a pledge when I ran for office that I would work to cut the 24-member Henry County Board in half. Unfortunately, just two other Republicans (Jason DeSplinter and Dan Swanson) joined me in voting to cut the board to 12.
Seven Republicans and I voted for a reduction to 18, and 11 Republicans and I voted for a reduction to 20. Sadly, we fell one vote short in getting the 13 necessary votes to make county government leaner and less expensive. A county of our size does not need 24 politicians to manage a population of 50,000.
When you go to the ballot box next year, remember that not a single Democrat voted to reduce the size of the county board to 20 or fewer members and not a single Democrat voted to reduce the number of districts from three to two to create a fair and balanced computer-generated map to set the political boundaries for the next 10 years in Henry County.
I am pleased with the open and transparent process we followed that included three open and publicly-advertised ad hoc committee meetings and four open and public county board meetings where this subject was discussed.
Page 2 of 2 - Public comments were open at each of these meetings, and quite a few public comments were made and considered. At the end of the process I believe an excellent product was passed.
If you agree or disagree, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Jon A. Zahm on Facebook.
Jon A. Zahm, Osco, Henry County Board Member