More than 400 people packed into a room at DePaul University Jan. 11 to voice their concerns over the ward redistricting process, and nearly all of them appeared furious.
The public hearing, heavily attended by Lincoln Park residents, was the first of four scheduled on the remapping process. Five proposed maps are currently under consideration, two of which were introduced Jan. 11.
Lincoln Park residents took aldermen to task for what they claimed was a hasty and selfish attempt at remapping at the cost of their neighborhood.
Residents oppose the "Map for a Better Chicago" put forth by the City Council's Black caucus and sponsored by Ald. Richard Mell, chair of the City Council's Rules Committee. That map splinters Lincoln Park into five wardsthe 43rd, 44th, 32nd, 27th and a new 2nd Ward.
Residents also allege that that map attempts to keep incumbents in office, rather than respond to the population shifts facing city neighborhoods.
Many have argued that the "Better Chicago" map is illegal, because it creates South Side wards that are up to 5,000 people larger than North Side wards, disenfranchising large sections of the North Side to keep Black aldermen in office, despite a significant decrease of the city's Black population.
"Democratic government is supposed to be the voters choosing the aldermen, not the aldermen choosing the voters," said Sue Leibowitz.
"If you pass these maps, I hope they get you re-elected," said another man, who called the proposed maps an "atrocity."
Dozens spoke against the "Map for a Better Chicago," which went largely undefended by the aldermen who introduced it.
Mellwhen questioned on why that map split the North and South sides into disparately sized wardsconceded, "That's a good question."
Colleen Day, a Lincoln Park resident, said that the map divides her life into several wards. Her daughter will attend school, 100 yards from her house, in a different ward than she lives.
Many Lincoln Park residents, including 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith, support the Taxpayer Protection Map the Latino caucus has proposed. However, a number of residents from other parts of the city argued that that map is also unacceptable.
"I don't think we need 50 wards," said Mike Riordan, president of the River North Residents Association. "I don't think we need 50 aldermen."
A number of residents agreed, arguing that because the population of the city has decreased, the number of aldermen should as well.
Also taking heat was 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, who was pressed to speak up against the "Map for a Better Chicago." Tunney, shifting in his chair as the crowd shouted at him to comment, remained silent.
Mell previously told Windy City Times that this redistricting is the worst he has ever seen. He said his sights are on getting the needed 41 votes for any map and that it remains unclear which map will achieve such support.
Residents implored the city council to slow down and draw new maps.
The overwhelming majority of attendees appeared to be North Side White residents. Still, some residents of the city's South and West sides also called for greater transparency.
Some expressed weariness with maps that they said prioritized segregated wards over neighborhood needs.
One Lincoln Park woman noted that her neighborhood already lacked racial and ethnic diversity, and that she felt the "Better Chicago" map simply furthered that trend.
Several Chicagoans from other parts of the city grumbled that the hearing, intended for all neighborhoods, became a "Lincoln Park pep rally."
The fight is expected to continue at three remaining hearings in other neighborhoods. Little Italy could be severed into four wards under proposed maps, and Back of the Yards is fighting to unite its neighborhood, which is currently split five ways.
An up-to-date schedule of the remap hearings can be found at chicago.legistar.com/Calendar. The Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics is holding the meetings.