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Columnist
Why Census survey is doubly important for Naperville, Illinois
By Stephanie Penick | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 3/1/2010 12:01 AM

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Many times over the last 11 years, I've used this space to pitch upcoming fundraisers, events to benefit good causes in need of private dollars. This time, I'll not ask you to dig into your pockets. I simply urge you to pay attention.

In March, your household will be asked to participate in the 2010 Census to comply with the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section II), which requires an enumeration every 10 years to apportion the seats in the House of Representatives among the states. Census information also is used by federal, state and local governments to assess needs and allocate public funding.

Anticipate receiving your 2010 Census postcard by mail in March. After every resident is tallied, state legislative and Congressional districts will be reconfigured to reflect any changes in population in time for the 2012 Election. Note that state legislative districts are different from Congressional districts.

Keep that info in mind as you consider what's coming. During the February meeting of the legislative committee of Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, members heard presentations about two nonpartisan initiatives.

First, Jan Czarnik, executive director of the Illinois League of Women Voters, presented an overview of a statewide initiative titled "Illinois Fair Map Amendment: A citizens movement to take back Illinois."

The petition campaign asks the state of Illinois to amend Article IV of the Illinois Constitution by placing a vote before Illinois voters at large.

The question asks to change the structure of General Assembly member districts and the procedure by which the General Assembly redistricts the legislative and representative districts.

According to Czarnik, who identified herself as a Democrat leading a nonpartisan organization, reform groups in both parties as well as editorial boards from the Daily Herald and the Chicago Tribune agree that map drawing is the first step to rid the state of misrepresentation in many districts.

The goal is to have petitions signed and ready by mid-April to place the amendment on the ballot for the general election in November.

For complete details, visit ILFairMap.com. Talk it up among family and friends who vote.

Closer to home

Attorney Gerry Cassioppi enlightened legislative committee members about the Naperville Voter Education League, a nonpartisan group under the leadership of resident Bill Eagan, organized about seven months ago to study local issues that might interest voters.

The group's first initiative has been to address the pros and cons of term limits and district representation for the Naperville City Council. A public workshop is at 7:30 p.m. March 23 at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center.

I attended a meeting last June called by Councilman Jim Boyajian. During his campaign, he promised to host a meeting to give interested parties an opportunity to learn how to make changes in the way the mayor and city council members are elected.

Leading that informational forum as a private citizen, Boyajian's meeting attracted approximately 35 residents.

During his introduction that evening, Boyajian told the group that the council could authorize a referendum to change the city to districts and/or impose term limits on councilmen and the mayor. Afterward, a small group organized and developed the Naperville Voter Education League.

In December, the group had a healthy discussion and it became apparent that they agree to disagree on various aspects of term limits and districts.

The group has not and will not take a position on any issues it presents, Cassioppi said.

"It's all about education," he said.

Because questions of term limits and district representation come before local candidates during every election cycle, the nonpartisan group continues to meet to determine interest either by the city council or by collecting signatures for petitions in order to place the question on the ballot for voters to decide.

The group also wants to place its question on the ballot for the November election. Interested residents are urged to attend the meeting on March 23.

Obviously, if the city council were to advance the question for placement on the ballot for voters to approve or deny by referendum, the all-volunteer group could avoid a petition drive to collect signatures.

For information, contact Bill Eagan at billeagan@aol.com or (847) 708-1885.

Thanks for paying attention.

• Stephanie Penick writes about Naperville. E-mail her at spennydh@aol.com.