Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why We Can't Figure Out Which Ward We're In

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    NEWSLETTERS

    We had a lot of fun with the new ward map last week. Now, it’s time to forget about it until 2015.

    The Sun-Times is reporting that aldermen can’t figure out which ward they’re supposed to represent: the ward in which they were elected last year, or the ward in which they’ll be running for re-election in four years.

    Mayor Comments on New Ward Maps

    [CHI] Mayor Comments on New Ward Maps
    During a special meeting called earlier this week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the City Council voted Thursday 41-8 to approve a new Chicago ward map. That's good enough to avoid an election asking voters to choose between opposing maps. (Published Thursday, Jan 19, 2012)

    Since approximately a third of Chicagoans were shifted into new wards, this is an important issue. It seems only fair that the voters should be elected by the aldermen they put into office. Since the new City Council was sworn in last May, re-districted Chicagoans may spend three years and three months represented by an alderman for whom they were unable to vote. That seems undemocratic. If you’re an alderman, though, you’ll want to spend your menu money on the people who’ll have a say in whether you keep your job.

    Personally, Your Ward Room Blogger doesn't care. I live north of Howard Street, in the little chimney sticking out of the top of Chicago. With Evanston to my north and west, and Lake Michigan to my east, there was no way to draw me out of the 49th Ward.)

    City Council Approves New Ward Map

    [CHI] City Council Approves New Ward Map
    During a special meeting, the City Council voted 41-8 Thursday to approve a new Chicago ward map. (Published Thursday, Jan 19, 2012)

    Aldermen -- who have no problem agreeing that everything the mayor proposes should be passed without review -- cannot agree on whether to serve the new wards or the old wards.

    Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) finds himself living in the newly-redrawn 28th Ward because his old ward was shifted to the North Side in one of the most bizarre configurations the city has ever seen.

    Fioretti said he plans to service his new and old wards simultaneously “by rolling up my sleeves and working twice as hard.” But, his $1.32 million in annual menu money will be spent on the voters who put him in office.

    Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), whose new ward is 61.2 percent Hispanic, said he’s servicing his old boundaries and his colleagues should do the same.
    “I talked to the Law Department about it, and they said the new map doesn’t take effect until 2015,” Sposato said.

    Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said there are “a lot stories about when” the new boundaries take effect, but no definitive word. He’s decided to service the old ward until the confusion is eliminated.

    The problem here is that Chicago’s election calendar is poorly synchronized with the United States Census. The census took place in the spring of 2010, but the Census Bureau did not start delivering neighborhood-level files to the states until late that year.

    Unlike most cities, Chicago holds its elections in February, not November. (This date was decreed by the Cook County Democratic Party to make it difficult for independents to campaign throughout the winter.) Therefore, the campaigns for the 2011 municipal elections began in the fall of 2010 -- too late for the City Council to draw new wards. If we had November elections, we could have already sworn in aldermen in updated wards.

    It won’t be so bad next time around. The first aldermanic election after the 2020 census will be in 2023 -- a lag of only three years. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the confusion caused by a Machine-dictated quirk in our election laws. 

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