Councilman will move to fight for seat
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent December 17, 2013 6:56PM
Updated: January 19, 2014 12:01PM
VALPARAISO — Porter County commissioners approved new district lines Tuesday that bumped councilman Jeremy Rivas, a Democrat, out of his 2nd District — but he said he will move so he can retain his spot on the council.
“I’m going to have to move. I’m running,” Rivas said after a Board of Commissioners meeting on redistricting the four district seats on the council, all of which are up for reelection next year.
The changes move Rivas’ precinct into District 4, which is now represented by Republican Jim Polarek. Rivas, who held a campaign fund-raiser earlier this fall shortly after announcing he would seek a second term for the District 2 seat, said he would not run against Polarek.
“It’s our job under the law to redistrict,” said Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, the lone Democrat on the board, adding that as the party in the minority, she wanted to see state law followed.
Rivas said a flip-flopping of two precincts in Portage Township would have kept him in his district without throwing off the district’s population balance, which commissioners said was the reason for the redistricting.
He has said the redistricting, just weeks before candidates can start filing for 2014 elections on Jan. 8, wasn’t fair. Tuesday, he said he was being singled out.
“Apparently, because I stand up on a regular basis and question things, I’m being punished for it,” he said, adding he grew up in the area he represents. “This isn’t how government is supposed to work.”
Redistricting of council seats is supposed to be done by commissioners, as per state statute, in an odd-numbered year after a census.
The last time that was done in Porter County was in 2001. Commission President John Evans, R-North, said he voted for the last redistricting, even though Republicans lost a seat on the county council.
Commissioners started the process at the end of 2011, the year after the last census, but ran out of time.
The matter came up again in mid-October, after a letter from the Association of Indiana Counties warned of a potential lawsuit if the county did not redistrict, Evans said.
State law says district populations must be as close as possible, though there was a variance of 10.4 percent between the largest and the smallest districts, Evans said. That has been reduced to just more than 3 percent.
During a brief public hearing on the changes, Portage Township Trustee Brendan Clancy, one of several officials from the city and township who came out to support Rivas, said he was disappointed commissioners held the hearing without releasing the redistricting first.
“It’s very hard to speak for or against something you really have no information on,” he said, adding he understands commissioners have the right to redistrict, but “to do it at this time looks unethical and unprofessional, and I know you guys better than that.”