Wednesday, February 23, 2011

South Side Politics is About to Change Big Time

posted by chicago pop

Redistricting is coming up in post-election 2011. While that normally entails some politically-motivated jiggling with the Chicago ward boundaries, given the 2010 census numbers showing dramatic reductions in the city's African-American population, it will directly affect the number of wards that currently exist on the South Side.

Greg Hinz of Chicago Business lays it out:

Huge areas of the city – particularly on the South Side –are dramatically under-populated. Such areas will have fewer aldermen under the one-man, one-vote rule.

The lowest is Alderman Pat Dowell’s mid-South Side 3rd Ward, now home to just 40,506 people – barely half of Mr. Reilly’s 42nd. Closely trailing is Alderman Tony Beale’s 9th Ward, with 43,530 residents.


Four other wards have fewer than 47,000 people each. Those are the 5th, with 46,263; the 7th, at 46,582; the 16th, with 45,955, and the 17th, with 45,993. They are represented by Leslie Hairston, Sandi Jackson, JoAnn Thompson and Latasha Thomas, respectively [italics added].

Since each new ward will have to have around 54,000 residents, at least one of the above wards is going to have to go or gobble loads of people from its neighbors. And most nearby South Side wards are way off, too – just not as much.

So there is going to be some major sorting of voters going on and Hyde Park-Kenwood-Woodlawn-South Shore will be right in the middle of it. The 5th Ward could disappear entirely.

How will this play for Hyde Park politics? Chances are it will make it harder than ever before for the neighborhood's tradition of "independent" politics -- detailed so well in Rebecca Janowitz's book -- to get translated into action on a city-wide level, as Hyde Park gets swallowed up in an even larger ward unit. Whatever news ward or wards comprise Hyde Park and other South Side neigborhoods will be even more geographically diverse, with all the political challenges that entails.

On the other hand, there is a slight possibility that all of Hyde Park-Kenwood might wind up within the same ward -- as it had been within the 5th Ward for most of the 20th century -- for the first time since it was split in two in 1981 under Mayor Jane Byrne.

That would not be good for Alderman Hairston. But it would be good for Chicago. The question is whether the New Boss would come to view a more powerful Hyde Park neighborhood as most of his predecessors have, i.e., as something to be avoided.


Chason said...

As with many aspects of Chicago politics, tracking down an explanation for how something works is next to impossible, so I will instead direct my question here: is there a way for the citizens of these wards to lobby effectively for logical reorganization (like combining Hyde Park-Kenwood)?

Richard Gill said...

Pair up adjacent wards and reduce the number to 25. Fifty wards are unnecessary, and having that many wards begets little Aldermanic fiefdoms. The savings on salaries and rents would be substantial. One suggested way would be to match 25 ward boundaries, with the 25 police districts.

SJS said...

More interesting (to me, anyway) than your obsession with Leslie Hairston is the question of whether it is better for "Hyde-Park Kenwood" to be split between two wards (giving the university,in particular, influence over two aldermen) or if it would be preferable for a single ward to contain Hyde Park Kenwood and the part of Woodlawn that the University is expanding into.

chicago pop said...

Though we haven't spent much time on the topic, I'm pretty sure the bloggers here -- and a lot of the readers -- would supporthe inclusion of Hyde Park-Kenwood within the boundaries of a single ward, as it was for most of its history in the 5th Ward.

Will said...

gill's suggestion is stupid. if you think it is hard to reach your alderman now, imagine how hard it would be if the population the alderman had to service was doubled.

Richard Gill said...

Will, the reduction in the number of wards is only part of the needed Aldermanic-system reform. The other part is to take the power of politicians (the Aldermen) out of the process of residents getting city services.

The present system invites-and produces-outright corruption. Political support for the Alderman begets improved city services; political opposition begets punishment (eg suddenly the building inspectors show up). Need a business license, or need a pothole filled? Be grateful to the Alderman for assisting to obtain it, especially at election time. This has got to stop.

WoodLawn Jack said...

I took the data linked to from the Hinz article and threw the numbers onto the city ward map. (Taking the 2010 population for each ward subtracted from the 54,000 needed to make an even distribution of population for 50 wards.) The 14 wards starting at the 16th, 3rd, and 4th and heading south all will need to add numbers to get to 54,000. In all those 14 wards are 94,000 behind.

The wards directly North and West of that southern stretch need to lose a total of 67,000 to bring them down to 54,000. (The 42nd and 2nd wards alone need to lose 40,000.) It really seems like there really needs to be a "new" ward moved into the middle of the 1st, 2nd, 32nd, 42nd, and 43rd--those 5 need to lose just about 54,000 exactly.

At any rate it seems that one of the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th or 20th wards would be the one to move (or really two of them merged and one loses their number).

As far as a combined HP-Kenwood ward--I can see the alderman giving lip service to the idea. But it won't happen. It would create a potentially "white" ward. And I don't even really think it is a racial thing--but no sitting alderman is going to try to annex the whitest part of HP if it is going to through their ward demographics that far from what it currently is.

I'm guessing the UC part of HP will go to the 20th. The rest of the 5th will be merged with the 7th or 8th and the new Downtown ward will get the 7th or 8th as a number to keep the name of the 5th in the HP area. (An alternative is that the 20th is the name given to the new-north ward and 5th stays the name of the UC HP area, but losing everything South of Hayes.)