As state Sen. Kwame Raoul begins his hearings on redistricting, let me offer another example of why legislators shouldn’t be allowed into that little room in the Stratton Building where the maps are drawn.
In 2002, state Rep. Julie Hamos was living on Sherwin Avenue in Chicago while she waited for the completion of a condo in Evanston’s Church Street Station. To allow Hamos to run in her North Shore district, the boundary was extended south to Touhy Avenue. That put the northeastern corner of Rogers Park -- where Your Ward Blogger happens to live -- in the same district as Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe and Kenilworth.
Hamos moved to Evanston, but Rogers Park remained in her district, as an appendage of the suburbs. Our state senator, Jeffrey Schoenberg, is a fine public servant, but he begins his constituent letters, “Dear North Shore neighbor,” which doesn’t have much resonance to the low-income residents of Juneway Terrace.
Last year, when Hamos ran for Congress, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore considered running for her seat in the legislature. He gave up the idea because it was obvious that no Chicagoan could win: the city makes up only 9 percent of the district.
State legislators complain about their anonymity in Chicago, but they draw themselves nonsensical districts that pay no respect to neighborhood or community boundaries. Rogers Park is so gerrymandered that if you walk a mile west on Howard Street, beginning at the lake, you pass through three state senate districts. I’ve written state Sen. Ira Silverstein, begging to be drawn into his district this year.
Sen. Raoul, let’s have an independent commission draw legislative districts that make sense for the voters. If the politicians don’t like their new districts, they’ll still have more than 100 others to choose from.
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