Community groups challenge Chicago ward remap

Presenters at
Damon Smith and Chaundra Van Dyk of Change Illinois organized "people's map" hearings.

West Town's diverse community groups will be flexing their muscle this month to influence a ward remap that threatens to divide them.

Guests advised members of the East Village Association and neighboring organizations Nov. 1 to reach out to aldermen and lobby for more cohesive, responsive wards.

"We have to have sharp elbows too," said Andrew Schneider, Logan Square Preservation president. "Don't believe the map has to look this way."

The odds are stacked against East Village retaining its current representatives. Daniel La Spata's 1st Ward is likely to follow migration northwest or risk losing its Latino majority. Brian Hopkins' lobster-shaped 2nd Ward is expected to sacrifice its western claw to consolidate around the Lincoln Yards development.

Dan Pogorzelski, who organized ethnic Polonia residents in the last remap, urged another "squeaky wheel" defense before the City Council to keep community interests in a single ward. Schneider suggested approaching aldermen individually to find allies who identify with their concerns.

An independent "people's map" centers one ward in East Village. "This is the first map ever to have a process influenced by the people of Chicago," said Damon Smith, Change Illinois community outreach director. Yet by sidestepping political alignments, the Change Illinois map must compete in the City Council without a champion.

Proponents are attempting to draft an ordinance proposing the map and asking voters to convince aldermen to support it. "Everyone loves our ideas academically, intellectually," said Chicago project manager Chaundra Van Dyk. Yet aldermen fear giving up turf will put their jobs at risk.

"Aldermen don't say I'll just have to do my job better," Smith said.

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