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Alderman pushes ahead on new ward boundaries

Mayor Rahm Emanuel  Ald. Danny Solis. File Photo. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Danny Solis. File Photo. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 24, 2013 6:23AM

A powerful Chicago alderman has decided to start recognizing the city’s new ward boundaries when it comes to making pivotal decisions on zoning and sign orders, infuriating incumbents endangered by the new map.

Nearly one year to the day after the City Council approved the new map without a vote to spare, Zoning Committee Danny Solis (25th) sent a letter to his colleagues last week informing them of his decision to implement the new boundaries.

Solis said he would continue to honor the long-standing tradition of “deferring to the aldermen of the ward in which a zoning change or sign order” is located. But, that political deference will now go to the new alderman — not the old one.

“It’s really a courtesy, a protocol. It’s not a legal thing,” the chairman said Tuesday.

Solis said he made the decision to end a year of political limbo in response to complaints from developers who “wanted to start doing business” in Chicago, but were “confused about who to talk to.”

He added, “Aldermen have two years left before the next election. They have to start serving their new constituents — not just on issues of business development. I just decided after talking to aldermen with similar experiences that it would be in the best interests of the city to start dealing with the new map.”

Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) is livid. He’s one of a handful of incumbent aldermen endangered by a map that cut the heart out of his Northwest Side ward and nearly doubled its Hispanic population — from 32 percent to 61.2 percent.

“I was elected for a four-year term — not a year-and-a-half term. ... To say I can no longer represent the people who elected me after a year-and-a-half is unconscionable. People are furious in my ward,” Sposato said Tuesday.

“You can’t assign people to wards. People elect people to wards. I’m gonna keep representing the people to the best of my ability. If they’re not gonna allow me to do that — if [Solis] is gonna deny stuff that I approve for people — then I’ll have to look at other avenues.”

To bolster his case, Sposato released a Feb. 2, 2012, memorandum written by Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton.

In it, Patton cited legal precedent and wrote, “These cases establish that the 2011 aldermanic elections were for full four-year terms notwithstanding the intervening redistricting and that these aldermen represent the constituencies which elected them.”

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) couldn’t agree more. Fioretti 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.

“Aldermen have a constitutional responsibility to represent the citizens [who] elected them until 2015. That’s clear from the corporation counsel’s decision,” Fioretti said in a statement released by his office.

“As such, the person [who will be] appointed to Sandi Jackson’s seat represents the citizens of the 7th Ward within the boundaries that elected her in 2011. Therefore, aldermen who abrogate their responsibilities are violating those responsibilities under the Constitution.”

Last year, the Chicago Sun-Times reported there was widespread confusion among aldermen about when the new boundaries take effect. At the time, some aldermen were racing to curry favor with their new voters in hopes of boosting their prospects in the 2015 election. Others were ignoring the new boundaries and servicing the voters who brought them to the dance.

At issue were such pivotal neighborhood decisions as zoning changes, liquor license moratoriums, city service requests and the $66 million-a-year program that allows aldermen to choose from a menu of neighborhood improvements.

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