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Ward Politics Wed Jan 23 2013

Ward Remap Follow Up: Who You Gonna Call?

The new ward map agreed upon by Chicago aldermen last year won't affect elections until 2015, but some of Chicago's aldermen are already serving their new wards, which has created some confusion among residents.

Little more than one year ago, City Council approved a controversial new ward map, based on the 2010 census, which was approved by all but eight aldermen.

"Every alderman in the Council is serving their new constituency," said Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward).

Dowell's new ward covers some new territory in the South Loop, and she is already meeting with residents and businesses in the area. But for some aldermen, like Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward), the change is much more drastic.

Chicago ward boundaries, ca. 1921
Fioretti's Near West Side/South Loop ward now covers a completely different area, snaking around the North Side through the Gold Coast and Old Town all the way over to Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village. Although many aldermen are ignoring the 2015 transition and serving their new wards, Fioretti is not abandoning his constituents.

"I still represent the 2nd Ward," said Fioretti, referring to the old boundaries. "Some aldermen have abdicated their responsibility of representing their citizens."

There is no ordinance that gives aldermen any official authority over their new wards until after the election in 2015, according to Fioretti, who was one of the few aldermen to vote against the map.

"I'm not waiting for the election," said Dowell, adding that she recently held a fundraiser in the new part of her ward, which contains part of Fioretti's current ward.

"Almost every ward out of the 50 wards is making some kind of significant change," said Dowell. Her ward's northern border is being extended about two blocks, from 14th Street to Roosevelt Road, and the eastern border is being extended to Lake Shore Drive.

Alderman Scott Waguespack's North Side 32nd Ward is gaining and losing some areas, and now borders Fioretti's ward on the new map. He is trying his best to serve both the new and old 32nd Ward until 2015.

"Some of the alderman have basically abandoned their old areas," said Waguespack.

Waguespack has been helping Fioretti with the transition to the new neighborhoods since the new map was approved.

"I started putting together a list of issues he would be facing," said Waguespack.

With many areas currently in a transition from one ward to another, many residents are left with one question: Whom do we call?

"People are confused, they're upset, they're mad that the remap has divided communities," said Fioretti.

Jeanette Johnson, Vice President of the Greater South Loop Association, said that informing residents of the change is a struggle.

"I think residents are very confused. This is probably the biggest concern I have with the redistricting--getting the word out to residents about whom to call and when," said Johnson in an email statement. "Election Day, for instance, was very frustrating."

Johnson added that the GSLA, one of the South Loop's numerous neighborhood organizations, is sad to see Fioretti leave the South Loop, but will work with any and every alderman that now serves the South Loop.

"[Dowell] has always attended our events and supported us in making the South Loop a great neighborhood," said Johnson. "She has now increased her presence as she has more ground to cover. We look forward to working even more with her in the future."

The Mayor's office hasn't made the transition to the new map official, meaning it's harder for alderman serving their new wards to access things like 311 call logs, according to Waguespack.

As for Fioretti's chances in the 2015 election in an all-new ward, he's not stressing out about it.

"I'm not a lifetime alderman," said Fioretti.

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