Is Peoria’s influence in state politics at risk with new legislative map? Some are concerned – Peoria Journal Star

https://ift.tt/3y22Icr

Lawmakers prepare for an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives on Saturday, May 23, at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield. The Illinois House of Representatives held the last four days of the spring session at the Bank of Springfield Center instead of the Illinois State Capitol because it allowed for safe social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate met at the Capitol.

To see the influence Peoria’s delegation of lawmakers has in state politics, you need look no further than the progress happening in youth intervention at Glen Oak Community Learning Center and Lincoln Middle School. 

It’s at those places, according to Carl Cannon, director of ELITE Youth Outreach in Peoria, where you can see how Peoria’s lawmakers are impacting things on the ground in the city. 

Cannon points directly to working with Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, to secure funds for youth intervention programs, like the $1.5 million Gordon-Booth allocated to ELITE and the Peoria Park District’s violence prevention program, as an example of what legislators have done for Peoria.  

Violence has been on the rise in Peoria this summer, particularly among youth. Cannon said Gordon-Booth recognized this and called ELITE to take action. Cannon says she is a “perfect definition of servant leadership.”

“If it weren’t for leader Gordon-Booth, we’d be in trouble,” Cannon said. “Just like a lot of urban America is right now.”

More:Why would Gov. Pritzker honor Peoria in Springfield? Penicillium rubens deserves better

Peoria’s delegation of state lawmakers is not the largest, by any stretch, especially when compared with Chicago’s. But it nonetheless holds substantial sway in Springfield.

Members of Peoria’s delegation pride themselves on an ability to work across the aisle with one another for the good of the region.

But Republican legislators are raising concerns that Peoria’s influence could wane under the new legislative district map. Democrats think the concerns are unfounded.

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth shares her thoughts on the Murray Baker Bridge project during a news conference Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, in the Gateway Building on the Peoria riverfront. In the background is Gov. JB Pritzker.

Where does Peoria’s power come from?

Gordon-Booth is the second-highest ranking member in the Illinois House, behind only Speaker Chris Welch, D-Hillside. Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, is an assistant leader in the minority party and has garnered respect on both sides of the aisle. 

In the Senate, Peoria Democrat Dave Koehler is an assistant majority leader who has been in the Legislature for 15 years. Win Stoller, R-Germantown Hills, is a freshman legislator, but established a rapport with other politicians and even got the attention of Gov. JB Pritzker. 

More:Peoria restarts effort to land passenger rail service with state-funded study

“The fact that we have three of our area legislators in leadership is significant and … also they work very closely together for the good of the region,” said Brad McMillan, executive director of the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University. 

Concerns about how new map will affect Peoria

Spain argues that Peoria has been unique statewide for years because it is one of few areas that have four legislators across both caucuses — a House Republican, a House Democrat, a Senate Republican and a Senate Democrat.

He worries, however, that the new district lines could force the legislators in the new districts to turn their focus farther from Peoria. 

For instance, the district Spain represents today runs north nearly to Interstate 80, but goes no farther west than just across the Peoria County line. The revised district would go about 10 miles north of I-80 and west nearly to the Quad Cities. Koehler’s Senate district today stretches southwest into Cuba in rural Fulton County, but with the new map it’d go east into another downstate metropolitan area, in Bloomington.

Illinois state Rep. Ryan Spain thanks everyone involved in the Murray Baker Bridge upgrade project during a news conference Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, at the Gateway Building on the Peoria riverfront.

Stoller agreed, saying the new district lines would “dilute” Peoria’s influence, and that he didn’t understand the logic behind the boundary changes. 

“Historically, for many years and decades, we have had two state senators living in the Peoria area, one typically a Democrat and one a Republican,” Stoller said. “But under the new map, in the same area, instead of two senators, we will be split into five districts.”

More:Peoria’s wish list included road repair money. Some projects will be funded, some won’t

Stoller said this “dilutes” Peoria’s influence because outside of himself and Koehler, the other senators will come from Bloomington, the Quad Cities and Springfield. Senators Sally Turner (R-Lincoln), Jill Tracy (R-Quincy) and Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) all reside in districts that now touch the Peoria area in the new map. 

“I just see a situation under this map where not only will it not be four legislators that live in Peoria, there will likely be only one, and that will be the one seat that was drawn entirely in the city of Peoria,” Spain said. 

Local Democrats disagree, and feel the new district lines will increase Peoria’s clout statewide.

Democrats say that Koehler’s Senate district will be propped up by having two large metropolitan areas within its boundaries. 

“I don’t think the remap really has any effect on that; Peoria for the most part stays about the same,” Koehler said. “The 46th District goes to Bloomington-Normal this time, so that’ll change, but that doesn’t take anything away from Peoria.”

State Sen. Dave Koehler shares his thoughts about the new police reform law during a news conference Feb. 24, 2021, at Proctor Recreation Center in Peoria.

Koehler said he didn’t see adding Bloomington-Normal to the district as competition for Peoria and said the cities will benefit each other because of their similarities. 

“I don’t see any downside, I see a lot of upside,” he said. 

Conrad Stinnett, head of Peoria’s West Bluff Council, said he does not like Peoria and Bloomington being in the same district because the cities have different needs and problems. 

Will love for Peoria trump more territory?

Gordon-Booth argued that Peoria fared well in both the House and Senate.

Her district, the 92nd, moved “a few blocks” north, whereas Spain’s was pushed out of the northeast of Peoria. 

“The entirety of my district is still encompassed entirely within Peoria County, which is the way it’s been for probably the last 20-plus years,” Gordon-Booth said. “Because of population loss, we had to move probably a quarter of a mile up, but that’s about it.”

She did say the Senate district, Koehler’s 46th, made a “significant shift.”

She argued the most important part of the new map and how it impacts Peoria was not the boundaries themselves, but who served within those boundaries. Given that she, Spain and Koehler are all from Peoria and “love Peoria,” the city will not be impacted by the changes, she said. 

Republicans are challenging the new map in court, making a case that the map should not have been drawn before census data was released, and that the release of census data last week shows unequal population in several districts.

“The maps that Democrats released were highly gerrymandered and written behind closed doors and without the appropriate data,” Stoller said. “They’re being challenged because of that.”

Peoria’s bipartisan relationship

While the new legislative map serves as a point of contention between the two sides of Peoria’s delegation, in general Peoria’s lawmakers are known for working well together. 

All four legislators said they enjoy a strong working relationship that goes beyond party differences, rooted in a mutual care for Peoria. 

More:Will $10 million for MacArthur Highway area be ‘catalyst’ for South Peoria redevelopment?

Gordon-Booth and Spain work particularly closely for members of different parties. 

“Although we all have our partisan leanings, that’s just the nature of life, we all operate in a very bipartisan way,” Gordon-Booth said. “We have great relationships inside and outside of the dome; we consider each other to be friends.”

Despite political differences, Spain says, Peoria has a “strong delegation” and says it has ”historically been aligned on how to effect positive change for Peoria.”

“We work well together because we have a shared love for this community that is the hometown to both of us,” Spain said. “It helps that we are about the same age and have been in public service for about the same time. I was elected to (Peoria) City Council in 2007, she was elected to the Legislature in 2008. We’ve got a lot of history in working together.”

Stoller said it was a “pleasant surprise” as a freshman legislator to see how well Peoria’s delegation can work together. 

Feeds,News,State,Politics

via “Illinois Politics” – Google News https://ift.tt/2TO8iP3

August 19, 2021 at 06:40AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s