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Changing wards, changing clout: How does your alderman rate?

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) | Sun-Times files

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) | Sun-Times files

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Updated: May 8, 2014 10:12AM



It was when Rossy Cuevas and her husband went to get a permit parking sticker for their van a few months ago that they discovered they were no longer in the 14th Ward, home to the city’s most powerful alderman, Edward M. Burke.

They now live in the 15th Ward, and their alderman, Toni Foulkes, is one of Chicago’s least powerful legislators, according to our Clout Meter.

While about one-third of city residents found themselves in a new ward after a 2012 remap, the Cuevas’ area showed the biggest drop in aldermanic clout — from Burke in first place to Foulkes in 48th place.

And though the Early & Often Clout Meter — based on tenure, vote totals, fundraising and committee appointments — does not measure all aspects of an alderman’s performance, Cuevas said she is worried.

“We’re very disappointed in the change,” she said. “Now we have to deal with somebody else completely new, and they seem to be having too much on their hands lately because obvioulsy they’re not takeing care of the issues.”

Cuevas asked for trash cans and rat bait behind her business two months ago and has had no response. For similar requests fielded by Burke’s office, “By the next week we’d have what we needed,” said Cuevas, who owns a tax and computer repair service as well as a home in the affected area.

But Bernadine Baglarz, who has lived in the neighborhood for four decades, had a different opinion. She said “Burke was good at getting stuff done,” like helping her obtain disabled parking in front of her home, but that the new alderman’s people are “very nice and approachable.”

The new ward map, based on the 2010 census, was approved in 2012 and created confusion for residents and city officials. The city law department ruled that alderman should continue to represent people in the old boundaries until the election in 2015. But city council committee chairmen have told other alderman and city departments that city services should be doled out under the new boundaries, and most aldermen are going along with that in order to jump-start relationships with new constituents.

To add to the uncertainty, the League of Women Voters is challenging the map in Federal Court.

But meanwhile, Ald. Foulkes in the 15th Ward said she is trying to serve not only the people mapped into her ward, but the people who have been mapped out as well as current residents. She said delays such as those experienced by Cuevas could happen in any ward.

“If you look at the city map it has the current ward and future ward, and that’s who I help, everybody. I believe it’s disenfranchising to say to a person who elected you a year and a half out, ‘I’m not your alderman anymore.’”

Foulkes noted that on Wednesday she just got new signage approved for a school that was mapped into her ward. And as for her ranking on the clout list, Foulkes said that’s not why she got into politics. “I came here to help people in my community. My people love me.”



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