Chicago's Dumbest Wards - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Chicago's Dumbest Wards



    Chicago’s wards are supposed to be contiguous entities, drawn to represent specific neighborhoods. So why do we have ward shaped like a t-squares, stomachs, and fishhooks?

    1st Ward: Appropriately, the 1st Ward used to cover downtown, but generations of mob-connected aldermen inspired mapmakers to move it someplace where there were fewer big businesses to shake down. Now, it’s a tribute to balancing gentrification with minority representation. Starting at Belmont and the Chicago River, this fishhook-shaped ward curls through Roscoe Village, Wicker Park and Bucktown, picking up just enough Latino voters to have elected Manny Flores and Proco “Joe” Moreno.

    2nd Ward: Shaped roughly like a t-square, this ward travels halfway across town, from Bronzeville to East Garfield Park, to find enough black voters to offset the gentrification in its historic South Loop home. It couldn’t. The 2nd Ward elected Oscar De Priest, Chicago’s first black alderman, in 1915. In 2007, it elected Bob Fioretti, Chicago’s first white alderman to succeed a black alderman. Fioretti was just re-elected, so expect a more compact ward, drawn to secure his seat.

    5th Ward: This used to be Chicago’s most independent ward, electing such anti-Daley pests as Leon Despres and Lawrence Bloom. Wealthy Hyde Parkers didn’t need city jobs, so they could afford to demand good government. The solution: split Hyde Park into two wards. The boundary between the 4th and 5th wards runs along 55th Street, dividing the sister communities of Hyde Park and Kenwood. Nonetheless, the wards still elect fairly independent aldermen. Toni Preckwinkle voted with Mayor Daley only 60 percent of the time, while Leslie Hairston voted with him 73 percent of the time.

    11th Ward: When the ward map was redrawn a decade ago, someone pointed out that the bungalow at 3536 S. Lowe Ave. was in the 3rd Ward. This meant that Eleanor “Sis” Daley, the mayor’s mother, would be represented by Dorothy Tillman, the black nationalist. For historic reasons, the ancestral home of the Daleys has to be in the 11th Ward, birthplace of mayors. So the map was redrawn. Now Mrs. Daley is dead, and Ald. Tillman has been voted out of office, but as long as John Daley is 11th Ward Committeeman, he’ll represent his boyhood home.

    30th Ward: This was the last Polish ward on the Northwest Side, but in 2003, Mayor Daley decided it was time to replace Ald. Michael Wojcik with a Latino. Wojcik got a job with a CTA, and his former constituents got a new ward that basically wraps itself around the neighboring 30th Ward like a C-clamp, curving from Wicker Park to Roscoe Village to Humboldt Park. The ward elects Ald. Ariel Reboyras, so it must have been drawn right.

    40th Ward: They say dead people vote in Chicago, so maybe it’s appropriate that the focal point of this ward is Rosehill Cemetery. The 40th Ward runs from Rogers Park to Lincoln Square, beginning at the corner of Devon and Greenview and ending at Lawrence and the Chicago River. What do people in those two parts of town have in common? Nothing. And Ald. Patrick O’Connor likes it that way, because his far-flung constituents having nothing to organize around.

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!