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Proposed Urbana City Council ward maps are available for review

Front entrance to the Urbana City Building, meeting place for the Urbana City Council

The Urbana City Council is expected to review three proposed ward boundary maps at its June 3rd Committee of the Whole meeting. Meanwhile, the proposed maps are posted on the city’s website for public review and comment. A link on the website’s front page takes users to information on ward redistricting. 

The map that wins council approval will replace Urbana’s current ward map.

Starting with the spring 2025 municipal elections, the new map will set boundaries for the next decade for the seven wards represented by the seven aldermen and alderwomen on the Urbana City Council.

Mayor Diane Marlin says all three proposed maps are well designed. But she says they are based on flawed 2020 Census data, which city officials say undercounts the city population.

The Census lowered Urbana’s population count from 41,250 in 2010 to 38,336 in the new Census, a population drop of about seven percent. Marlin says the decrease in population translates into a roughly $750,000 decrease in state and federal tax revenues coming to the city every year.

Marlin says the lower census count is not due to an actual decrease in Urbana’s population, but to a pandemic undercount of University of Illinois students. She argues that this is evident in the census data, which shows the greatest population losses in and around the University of Illinois campus. Students dominate the population in that area, and many of them went off campus during the time the census was taken, because it was also the peak period of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

“It’s an artificial drop in population numbers, but nonetheless, it’s our official 2020 Census,” said Marlin. “And that is what our political boundaries have to be based on.”

Marlin says despite any problems with the underlying census data, the future of city government in Urbana will also depend on just who decides to run for the Urbana City Council in 2025, and what qualities they possess.

“So I’m hoping that no matter what these wards end up looking like, it’s the people who choose to run and represent the city,” said Marlin.

The three finalist maps were chosen from a field of nine — seven were submitted by the public, while two were submitted by Urbana City Council members.

Marlin says the development of free redistricting software makes it easier today, compared to a decade ago, for almost anyone to propose a credible redistricting proposal. Proposed ward maps for Urbana were drawn using software from the Dave’s Redistricting website.

Marlin says, while some proposals make substantial changes in ward boundaries, none of them would draw incumbent city council members out of the wards they currently represent.

“That was one of the other parameters that we worked under,” said Marlin. “You’re not going to draw somebody out of their district. It doesn’t happen always on the state level. But we didn’t want to do that on the local level.”

Comments on the proposed Urbana City Council ward maps are being taken through Friday, May 24 at wardmaps@urbanaillinois.us.

Picture of Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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Severe storms possible Thursday evening and overnight

From the National Weather Service in Central Illinois: A line of t’storms will affect the area late Thursday afternoon into the overnight hours. Some severe storms are in the forecast, with damaging wind gusts and large hail. Stay weather aware and be ready to take shelter when storms approach.