Local Opinion

The Remap Process Was A Joke On Voters

By Mike Fourcher | Friday, January 20, 2012

The new, egregious 2nd Ward boundaries. From WBEZ's interactive map.

Do you feel like you dodged a bullet? If you live on the North Side and between the river and the Lake, you probably did because you have a new, relatively compact ward that follows most neighborhood boundaries. But elsewhere, just about every other ward in town got horribly gerrymandered by yesterday’s City Council remap.

[Click here for WBEZ' great interactive map.]

It happened because politics is about pressure. Unlike Congressional maps, which are decided by state legislatures, or state legislative maps which are negotiated through a two-party system, the Chicago remap process was decided by a one-party City Council that dealt with no external pressures.

If you thought for one moment that the public had any ability to put pressure on the process, consider the maps presented at last week’s remap field hearings, and then the one actually voted on by City Council yesterday morning. Sure they look similar, but the devil is in the details, isn’t it?

The one most bedeviled by those details, and the poster boy for Chicago’s horribly gerrymandered map is 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti. His old ward used to stretch from the Near West Side to the South Loop. Now, from a political perspective, his new ward is a collection of some of Chicago’s most annoying North Side rich people: The Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village. As a former Chicago political worker, I can tell you that these voters are the most difficult to satisfy and always trouble for a politician. What did Fioretti do to deserve this fate?

Here’s what I remember from my political past: In 2007 I helped run then-Ald. Madeline Haithcock’s losing reelection campaign, where Fioretti won in a runoff election. It was a brutal campaign, largely because the 2nd Ward was transforming from a poor majority African-American ward filled with housing projects once represented by former Black Panther Bobby Rush, to a wealthier, integrated community crammed with new loft condos. And, it should be noted, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley lived in the ward.

The Black Caucus never forgave Fioretti for defeating Haithcock, in what was the first ward in Chicago to have an African-American alderman. And I don’t think Daley ever forgave Fioretti for defeating his home alderman. And then, before he withdrew due to a bout with with throat cancer, Fioretti was a candidate for Mayor last winter against Rahm Emanuel. It’s like he won a enemy trifecta.

So that’s the inside story. But now that you know the probable reasons, does any of them justify the grotesque district Fioretti has been forced into?

The reality is that the vast majority of aldermen did not see the complete map until 9:30 a.m. yesterday morning–less than two hours before they were to vote on it in the full City Council. And, it should be noted: With no time for public comment.

With so little information and no opportunity to caucus or talk to voters, aldermen did what aldermen do: they looked after their own.

Last night, reflecting on the process, 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar had the rare courage to speak frankly. “What sense does it make to be public about every aspect about this? Politics is about relationships. What I’ve been doing is cultivating relationships from day one. And I think this map reflects that.”

Good for him. He saved his own neck and in the process probably helped out his ward. But we’re supposed to expect our aldermen to think on city-wide basis, aren’t we?

Yes, we are. And because of their self-centered thinking, this remap process became a joke on us, the voters.

We’re supposed to be in a new era of Chicago politics. If we’re still divvying up wards this way in 2021, then we deserve what we get.

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  • Anonymous

    “we’re supposed to expect our aldermen to think on city-wide basis, aren’t we?”

    The next one who does so–and survives a re-election afterward–would likely be the first.

    • Anonymous

      The Power of 121 Votes. The History of the 2007 32nd Ward Aldermanic Race.  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/32ndNLA

      Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) voted against the Chicago Parking Meter Contract. 
      Ald. Waguespack was reelected by 66% in the 2011 32nd Ward Aldermanic race, running against three Chicago Machine candidates. Ald. Waguespack won all 52 32nd Ward precincts. 

      Perhaps Ald. Waguespack was the first to survive reelection. 

      Joe Lake, Chicago

      • Anonymous

        One vote is not sufficient to demonstrate that anyone is thinking on a city-wide basis.

        Which isn’t to imply that I doubt Waguespack’s motivations, but it takes a consitent pattern of actions, including some which are not necessarily beneficial for the Alderman himself or his ward, to really demonstrate city-wide thinking.

        • Anonymous

          The vote was 41-8, one not voting. Eight aldermen voted against the ward remap. Joe Lake, Chicago

        • Anonymous

          And how many of them were voting against it out of something other than self interest?  I doubt you can construct a convincing argument that even one of them was voting against it even mostly–nevermind entirely–because the map, taken as a whole, was bad for the city.

        • Anonymous

          “Just the facts, cjlane.” Joe Friday, Chicago

  • Anonymous

    I was completely unimpressed with Pawar during all of this. He aligned himself with the power base and shut up, even while knowing other north side aldermen were getting screwed. I’m also upset that Smith gave in once Lincoln Park was mostly restored. She was at DePaul and heard from people all over the city, who got nothing out of this deal. But, as long as she can redevelop the Children’s Hospital by herself, all is well, I guess. 

  • Anonymous

    So Pawar’s actions are defensible…and I suppose you agree with Joe Moore, Brendan Reilly and
    Tom Tunney who sat back and watched the carnage-even when it was in their neighboring Ward-43.
    The old guard wanted to take down Michele Smith and eliminate an independent voice-they failed.
    When Ed Burke, Dick Mell, Pat O’Connor and the three stooges mentioned above-Moore, Reilly
    and Tunney, start to “think of the entire city” then a rookie like Smith can follow their lead. She fought for her
    constituents -and she won.  We can hold our breath til the Black Caucus gives up another seat eventhough they
    are losing numbers. We can turn blue in the face til the Latino Caucus gives up its quest to dominate City Hall.
    Til then, I am very glad I continue to live in the 43rd Ward. Bravo Smith. And good luck Waguespack.
    they are outstanding aldermen. The author of this article doesn’t seem to know that people who live in Wicker
    Park, Lincoln Park and Old Town are just like other people. Bob Fioretti will learn that first hand if he sticks around.

    • Anonymous

      I actually grew up in Lincoln Park and was a long-time parishioner at St. Clement’s. I think if you ask any pol in town, they’ll tell you that voters in L.P. are much more complacent than those in Beverly, Pilsen or Sauganash. Well-to-do voters have higher expectations of their government servants and are thought of as headaches by elected officials. After thirteen years of working in politics, I never heard otherwise.

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