In 2007, Bob Fioretti achieved a Chicago first.
By winning election as 2nd Ward alderman, he was the first white politician to take over a ward from a black politician. The 2nd Ward had a special place in African-American political history. The city’s first black alderman, Oscar DePriest, won the seat in 1915. But beginning in the 1990s, white condo owners began to displace blacks in the South Loop. The result was a white alderman. Fioretti ousted Madeleine Haithcock. A year later, he took over the committeeman’s post, when Rep. Bobby Rush stepped down.
On Thursday, Fioretti got his reward for ousting a pair of black politicians: his ward was mapped out of existence. There will still be a 2nd Ward, obviously, but it won’t be in the South Loop. It won’t be the historic 2nd Ward of Oscar DePriest. Instead, the 2nd Ward has become the most abominable monster in the history of Chicago mapmaking. It looks like a digital character in the old video game Tempest. Beginning on the Gold Coast, it wanders west into Lincoln Park, then across the Kennedy Expressway into Wicker Park, uniting neighborhoods that have nothing in common but white voters.
The South Loop will be divided among the 3rd and 4th wards, which are represented by a pair of black aldermen, Pat Dowell and Will Burns.
Fioretti railed against the new map, trying unsuccessfully to delay its passage by insisting the public be allowed to review it. He blamed its creation on the “silver-haired caucus” -- old white aldermen such as Richard Mell and Edward Burke, who themselves survive in minority-majority districts.
Fioretti and the residents of the new 2nd Ward were sacrificed to maintain the racial balance on the City Council. If the 2nd Ward still had a black alderman, it would not have been dismantled. The North Side got screwed in this re-map. The Map For A Better Chicago took the unconstitutional measure of creating white wards with up to 8 percent more voters than black wards. Why? So the Black Caucus would lose only one ward, even though Chicago’s black population declined by 180,000 -- enough to empty out three wards.
Fioretti told Chicago Journal that he will be “listening very carefully to the residents of the new 2nd Ward,” even though they live on the other side of the Loop. That wasn’t a declaration of his candidacy for 2015, but he might as well run there. Those neighborhoods will never be able to figure out who their alderman is.
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