County board takes no action on redistricting

By Derrick Knutson

Some say inaction is a type of action. If that’s the case, there was a whole lot of action at the Chisago County Board meeting April 18 when it came time to make a decision about redistricting the county.

Following the U.S. Census every 10 years, new legislative lines need to be drawn – on both the state and county levels – in order to ensure legislators and county commissioners are representing roughly the same amount of constituents in each district.

Other factors such as contiguity, compactness, affected communities and court-cited minimalism come into play when drawing boundaries, but the main factor to consider is population.

The board could have approved a final redistricting map at the meeting following a public comment period, but decided the push that decision to a later date.

“I don’t want to rush this type of decision,” District 1 Commissioner Lora Walker said.

A meeting for 6:30 p.m., April 26 was scheduled weeks ago as the last meeting at which the board could approve a final redistricting plan, but board chair George McMahon told his fellow county commissioners he had a business commitment and could not make the meeting.

After a roundabout discussion about which time would work best for the meeting, the board settled on April 27 at 8 p.m.

The board could have also voted on term limits at the meeting, but that decision will also be made at the April 27 meeting.

District 5 Commissioner Mike Robinson advocated the board vote on a final map and term limits at the April 18 meeting, but those motions died for lack of a second.

In relation to term limits, Robinson maintained the board should stay with the status quo, which alternates two and four-year terms between the odd and even-numbered districts every 10 years, which ensures all five county commissioner seats are not up for election during the same cycle.

That suggestion didn’t resonate with the rest of the board.

A lottery was suggested instead.

Because this is so important and because we’re talking about the next 10 years, I really feel that the only fair way to do this for our constituents would be to have a lottery or a drawing of the terms,” McMahon said.

How the proposed lottery will be designed and executed, like the other decisions surrounding redistricting, will have to be decided at the April 27 meeting.

Council member pushes for three representatives

North Branch City Council member Ron Lindquist made a case for a redistricting option at the meeting that would lead to the municipality having three county commissioners representing portions of the city.

“We want three representatives,” Lindquist said. “(For decisions made on the county level) if it comes down to something, we want three, not two, not one.”

He noted North Branch is 36 square miles and having three county commissioners representing parts of the city could make sense because of its size and population.

Rush City resident Daniel Hoffman addressed the board with a stance contrary to Lindquist’s.

He said of the six maps presented to the board by county staff, options two and four need more consideration.

Two other residents also approached the board and advocated for option two.

All six maps are posted on Chisago County’s website.

Liquor license reinstated

Also during the meeting, the board unanimously voted to reinstate the liquor license for Wild River Bar and Grill in Almelund.

The board had revoked the business’s liquor license at its April 4 meeting because its owner, Barbara Hagberg, owed more than $10,000 in state unemployment taxes.

County Administrator Bruce Messelt told the board Hagberg paid that amount, and advised the board to lift the ban at the bar.


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