When I first read about the idea to switch Rantoul village government from at-large representation to aldermanic representation, my response was neutral.
Then I thought back to the years I covered the village board as a Rantoul Press reporter. From time to time trustees raised concerns about difficulties connecting with the people they represented.
It is an important question. Under the at-large form of government, each trustee represents the entire community. How does an individual trustee learn about the concerns and needs of 13,000 people?
A past effort involved organizing a public event held at Rantoul Township High School. Trustees were seated two by two at separate stations where they held private conversations with one resident or family at a time.
It was a creative and good-faith effort, but limited by time, by residents’ awareness of the event and willingness to participate. I do not remember how many residents were served, but it was a very small percentage of the population. The effectiveness of the format is probably best judged by the fact that it has not been continued.
Aldermanic government offers a direct connection to residents. Under the aldermanic system, the community is divided into districts. Each district is represented by aldermen elected directly from the district by the residents of the district.
Because aldermen represent a smaller slice of the population, they are more likely to know residents in their district.
Because aldermen live within the district they represent, they are also more likely to be familiar with neighborhood issues. It is neighborhood issues that are tied into a vision for steering the community as a whole.
Because aldermen are elected from a district, they are directly accountable to district residents. Residents can signal their feelings about the representation they have received by the way they vote in the next election.
I have become convinced that aldermanic government would be a more accessible, approachable and accountable government. I believe that an alderman elected from my neighborhood, familiar with and focused on my neighborhood, would be more likely to have my best interests at heart.
Debra Rawlings is a Rantoul resident.