Census consensus: Time for ward remap

East Village has about 12,000 residents, and three aldermen. Will yours change in this year's ward remap?

The City Council redraws boundaries every decade, after the U.S. Census Bureau publishes block-by-block population and racial profiles. The 2010 data released Feb. 15 counted about 2.7 million people to divide among 50 city wards. In theory, wards are equal in population, which would work out to 54,000 residents each.

Wards also should be compact, not sprawling, and should encourage minority voices in City Hall. But these two goals can work at cross purposes, particularly as aldermen try to strengthen their own voices in City Council chambers. Voting trends shape the ward alignments as surely as census trends.

So every redistricting brings new zigzag boundaries. The 2001 map puts East Village in the 1st, 27th and 32nd wards. A spoon-shaped stretch of the 32nd Ward dips south from Bucktown between Hoyne and Leavitt, surrounded by 1st Ward turf in Ukrainian Village and East Village. The 27th Ward stretches west from Wells Street to all but three East Village blocks east of Ashland Avenue.

There are reasons to think East Village will not get carved up next time.

First, incumbents are less likely to continue business as usual. Proco Joe Moreno in the 1st Ward and Scott Waguespack in the 32nd both campaigned to make government more efficient, and worked together to streamline Streets and Sanitation tasks.

Waste haulers in the two wards now pick up trash on each other's turf where routes overlapped. Both aldermen say they're interested in a more straightforward division of the two wards.

Second, the 2010 Census presents a more cohesive East Village. Here's how the neighborhood's three census tracts between Division Street and Chicago Avenue compare:

Census Tract Population  Households % White % Hispanic % Black % Asian
 Noble to Ashland 4,565 2,376 46.6 30 18.2 3.4
 Ashland to Wood 3,648 1,880 66.8 23.5 1.8 4.8
 Wood to Damen 3,590 1,912 70.3 21.3 2.3 4.6

Changes have been dramatic in all three sectors: Hispanics were in the majority from Ashland to Damen until 2000. Yet the three East Village tracts remain more diverse than most adjoining blocks, and voting-rights laws would discourage changes that take away minority representation. The neighborhood might fit comfortably within a single Hispanic-leaning West Town ward, but Walter Burnett Jr. in the 27th Ward may still have an claim on the community's east edge.

A multicultural neighborhood might challenges politicians to seek out specific voting blocs block by block. Such ethnic enclaves will be harder to find in a regentrifying East Village. But anyone can try: 2010 redistricting data are online at factfinder2.census.gov

The date for a new map is uncertain: Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel could ask for a census recount, since Chicago lost 200,000 residents in the 2010 survey and stands to get less federal money as a result.

State legislative districts will change as well, with maps likely to emerge in another month for the 2012 General Assembly election. City voters won't choose aldermen again till 2013.

There's no consensus that one East Village alderman would be a good idea. East Village Association directors discussed the remap prospects April 11 and quickly decided there wasn't much they could do to affect the outcome.

A single alderman would make neighborhood planning simpler: Tracking down three aldermen can be difficult for a small group of volunteers with a broad development vision. Getting all three to see things their way can be harder still.

But sometimes three's a charm. Board member Aaron Bilton, who lobbied the city for a public library as EVA president, thinks having the a trio of aldermen in his corner helped clinch the new, larger West Town branch. The library opened last year at Chicago and Ashland avenues, a ward dividing line.
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