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New aldermanic wards for one-third of Chicagoans

Updated: February 21, 2012 8:33AM

As early as Thursday or next week probably at the latest, an estimated one-third or more of Chicago residents will be living in a new ward.

They’ll be in two wards, actually, one old and one new, thanks to a ward redistricting plan that an alliance of aldermen will try to push through the City Council today.

The new boundaries don’t really go into effect until after the city election in 2015, but the practical effect is more complicated.

As in the past, some aldermen will want to start serving new constituents right away to build goodwill for the next election. Others may prefer to dance with the voters who brought them. The result is some residents may find themselves with two aldermen vying for their affection while others will have trouble finding anyone to pay attention to their concerns.

You say you’d like to know which ward will now be claiming you as a resident?

Good question. Hard to answer.

Even Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) says he hasn’t been told for sure which ward his West Loop home will be located in, though most likely he’ll be in the 27th or 28th Ward, which have been and are expected to remain predominately African-American wards.

All Fioretti knows for certain is that he won’t be in the 2nd, which his fellow aldermanic mapmakers have uprooted in its entirety from its current Near South and Near West location and plopped on the North Side with an epicenter of Belmont and Ashland — Fioretti’s punishment for going his own way too often and antagonizing downtown development interests.

The final ward boundaries were still in play as of late Wednesday, which might cause one to question why aldermen are in such a hurry to vote on them.

“Where is the transparency?” questioned Fioretti with good cause.

But supporters of the expected final “compromise” map say it will be substantially the same as the one proposed in late December by a coalition of 32 African-American and white aldermen and available for public review since then.

And anyway, there comes a point in this once-a-decade process where the aldermen don’t really want the public interfering, considering they see themselves as the ones most directly affected. They’ve reached that point.

Fioretti said he will ask the City Council to “defer and publish” the remap ordinance, a tactic allowed under the Council rules that customarily would delay a vote on any matter until the next meeting. But there is talk of the majority using some extraordinary parliamentary maneuver to force a vote.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why they would go to that extreme. There’s really no hurry at this point, and they’re going to get their way in the end anyhow, pending court challenges. Those challenges will come, despite assurances you may hear to the contrary that the compromise map will save taxpayers millions. They wish.

Now that Latino aldermen who proposed their own map have declared themselves on board with the compromise, all that was left to finish Wednesday were minor border skirmishes.

“Tweaking” is what they call these last-minute changes, switching a block here or there to allow an alderman to keep a particularly loyal group of supporters or an economic development project in which he or she has invested time and effort — or to shed a potential political opponent.

There were also last-minute efforts to make the map more palatable to Ald. James Balcer (11th) and Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), who were treated so poorly under the expected winning map that they had joined the Latino faction.

The Bridgeport-based 11th, cradle of Chicago mayors and the Daley family, was stuck with a strange new appendage under the proposed map — connecting the old ward to Little Italy via the Eisenhower Expy. and a narrow strip along the river. As proposed, the 11th Ward’s new northernmost outpost would be at Madison and Paulina instead of 25th Street.

Nobody would have done that if Rich Daley was still mayor, which doesn’t make it wrong, but wow.

By the way, that estimate that one-third or more of Chicago residents will be living in new wards under the remap is mine, but knowledgeable aldermen concurred.

Hope you like your new alderman.

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