Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Commissioners revise County Council districts to comply with judge's ruling

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A new County Council district map was approved by the Porter County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday afternoon, correcting an oversight in the ordinance approved late last year reconfiguring the four districts.

The Commissioners approved a new ordinance amending County Ordinance 13-17 that left part of Westchester Twp. precinct 17 completely surrounded by Council District 1 while another section was attached to District 2.

A legal challenge filed by County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, and four other voters in District 1 and District 2 shortly after the Commissioners’ adoption of the ordinance argued that the state law requires all precincts within a district be contiguous and that Ordinance 13-17 should be tossed out.

LaPorte County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos last Thursday upheld the new Council districts, but also ordered the Commissioners change the ordinance to correct a “bubble area” of Westchester Twp. Precinct 17, making it part of District 1.

County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, read aloud the new ordinance during Wednesday’s special meeting, drawing attention to the fact that only two residents live within the bubble area. The split in the precinct occurred when a new precinct map was approved in December 2011, Evans said.

Under the revision, District 1 now contains all precincts located in Jackson, Liberty, Pine and Westchester Twps. except for the part of Westchester 17 that was not in the bubble area. District 1 also contains Portage Twp. precincts 4 and 6 and Center Twp. precincts 11 and 25.

District 2 contains the non-bubble census blocks of Westchester 17 and all Portage Twp. precincts with the exception of precincts 4, 6, 15, 28 and 33.

District 3 contains all precincts in Center Twp. except for precincts 11 and 25.

District 4 contains all precincts located in Boone, Morgan, Pleasant, Porter, Washington and Union Twps. as well as precincts 15, 28, and 33 in Portage Twp.

“That is that,” Evans said after he and fellow Commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, voted unanimously to approve the ordinance on second reading, after suspending the rules.

No public hearing was held and no one spoke out despite the contention surrounding the Commissioners’ redistricting process. The Commissioners had faced criticism from Rivas and other Democrats in December saying the board should not have waited so long to redistrict with just a few days left before the start of candidate filing.

Even with the changes made, Rivas has been removed from the district he represents on the Council as a result of redistricting. He intends to move his residency to District 2 and run to keep his seat.

The new ordinance is now in effect for the remainder of the candidate filing period which ends at noon on Friday, Feb. 7.

No conflicts resulted regarding filings since no one had yet declared candidacy in any of the four County Council District races.

Evans said after the meeting that the Board of Commissioners intend to incorporate the “bubble area” into Portage Twp. precinct 6 when it has the chance to do so in 2015 (redistricting can only be done in an odd-numbered year according to state law), but the split will remain in Westchester Twp. precinct 17 for the duration of this year.

“We’re following the court order,” Evans said.

 

 

Posted 1/30/2014