New ward map leaves a lot in limbo
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org February 1, 2012 12:54AM
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Updated: March 2, 2012 8:17AM
Chicago aldermen have signed off on a new ward map, but confusion reigns about when those dramatically different boundaries take effect.
Some aldermen are racing to curry favor with their new voters in hopes of boosting their prospects in the 2015 election. Others are ignoring the new boundaries and servicing the voters who brought them to the dance.
At issue are such pivotal neighborhood decisions as zoning changes, liquor license moratoriums and the $66 million-a-year program that allows aldermen to choose from a menu of neighborhood improvements.
Also in political limbo are city service requests, complaints about garbage collection and snow removal and even what boundaries apply for the March 20 election for ward committeeman.
Without a date certain about when the new ward lines take effect, there’s the possibility that some Chicagoans may get twice as much attention while other residents get none.
“We want to make sure portions of communities don’t get left out of consideration for infrastructure improvements based on incumbency and new wards vs. old wards,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader.
O’Connor noted that the remap ordinance approved last month states that the new ward boundaries take effect in a few weeks.
That’s obviously “not realistic,” given the “lag time” needed for city departments to adjust to the new boundaries and for the Election Board to redraw precincts and establish polling places, he said.
“People are looking for a timetable. ... My understanding is, we’re gonna all sit down and figure out how to phase it in or figure out whether it will be phased in. If it’s prolonged, the Council will have an opportunity to weigh in on that,” O’Connor said.
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.
“We weren’t elected in the new wards. We were elected in the old wards,” he said. “To say all the sudden there’s a complete change in six months is disingenuous and deceiving to voters. Absolutely it needs to be clarified. An ordinance can’t disenfranchise people.”
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.
“We need clarity out of the Rules Committee. Right now, we’re just up in the air,” Beale said.
“The city is sending data over to the Board of Elections so they can do a [precinct] map. Then, we have to re-calculate Streets and San. Manpower has to change. Then, you have CDOT. It’s not just flipping a switch and saying, `This is my new area.’”
Ald. Danny Solis (25), chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, said aldermen made a “mistake” by not delaying the effective date.
“We need to re-do it,” he said.
In the meantime, Solis, who also serves as Zoning Committee chairman, said he’s sending letters to his 49 colleagues informing them that zoning decisions need input from the new and old aldermen, with the new alderman “taking precedence.”