JOLIET – Concerned Citizens of Joliet on Monday delivered more than 5,000 petition signatures to the Joliet City Clerk in hopes of placing a referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot to form eight Joliet City Council districts.
The group wants to eliminate three at-large council positions while expanding the number of council districts from five to eight. Group Chairwoman Maria Aracelia Rosas-Urbano said the group would like each of the proposed eight districts to represent about 18,000 residents.
The group, composed of 10 to 15 people who have been raising awareness and acquiring signatures throughout the city, has seen what it believes to be imbalanced representation because of the city’s councilmanic districting policy. Rosas-Urbano said there are areas of the city that lack lights, safe sidewalks and nice parks. Some school zones are without crossing guards, she said.
Rosas-Urbano pointed out that four of the nine council members – including Mayor Bob O’Dekirk – represent the downtown area or nearby, while other districts have one representative each. The group wants the council to be more representative of the city’s diversity, Rosas-Urbano said. They believe an eight-district system will create a more balanced, economically vibrant community.
“We want to make it so every corner of the city is heard,” Rosas-Urbano said. “We’ve asked residents. People barely know who the councilmen-at-large are. They speak for themselves.”
Monday was the deadline for filing a petition for a referendum for the November ballot, Joliet City Clerk Christa Desiderio said last week.
The next step for the group, Rosas-Urbano said, is to continue promoting the cause ahead of the November election – if the petition passes the Aug. 15 objection deadline.
Concerned Citizens of Joliet tried to get the measure on the ballot in November 2014, but the City Electoral Board ruled that the group had not submitted enough valid signatures for the referendum.
The ruling in 2014 was that the group fell short of a requirement of 2,178 signatures based on the number of Joliet residents who voted in the 2010 election. The group submitted Monday the 5,000-plus signatures at a recommended rate of four per page.
Along with making people aware of the districting issue, the group wants to boost voter turnout.
“The most exciting part is getting people to the polls,” Rosas-Urbano said.
Voter turnout in the city is far too low, she said. In April 2015, 13,983 voters out of about 148,000 Joliet residents turned out to vote in the mayoral election.
By getting more people to vote, the organization believes it will see more residents’ concerns adequately spoken for.