Lincoln Park residents tend to pride themselves on seeming cohesiveness of the neighborhood. However, that may change, they say, if a current proposed ward map goes through.
The "Map for a Better Chicago," splinters the heavily LGBT neighborhood between five different wards. Under it, Lincoln Park could be spread over the 43rd, 44th, 32nd and 27th wards as well as a new 2nd Ward.
That possibility does not sit well with residents, including 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith.
"It's just very impractical," Smith said. "The entire feeling of the ward would shift."
The "Map for a Better Chicago" was put forth by some alderman in an attempt to maintain the same number of Black aldermen on the council. The map has been met with the expected criticism as aldermen representing different interests take up the decennial battle of redistricting.
In a letter released on behalf of Lincoln Park community groups, residents argue that the alternative, the "Taxpayer Protection Map," put forth by Latino aldermen, is fairer.
The issue is a matter of pragmatism, residents say.
Five different aldermen in one neighborhood will make community planning difficult to impossible, residents say. Neighborhood festivals will need five approvals, as opposed to just one or two. In addition, zoning issues could become tricky.
"There are going to be people across the street that are literally in a different ward," said Rodger Owen, president of Lincoln Central Association.
According to Owen, the "Map for a Better Chicago" remap will carve the Lincoln Central Association's represented area between four wards. Other community groups could be similarly affected.
Owen said that community groups have developed a strong working relationship with Smith, who took office in May. A remap that severs the community five ways will mean that local organizations have to start over, he said.
Additionally, Smith's office at 2523 N. Halsted St., will have to relocate, as it will no longer be in the ward.
However, "that's the least of my worries," said Smith, who argued that having to negotiate community planning between five aldermen would be difficult neighborhood residents.
Pat Dearing, president of the Park West Association, said the "Better Chicago" map is problematic politically as well.
"We just had an election," Dearing said, noting that Smith only recently took office. "People who live in certain areas are being disenfranchised. We didn't vote for these aldermen."
Shifts in the population are expected when boundaries are redrawn, she said. But she said that the shifts were too significant for Lincoln Park to be fair the community as a whole.
Lincoln Park is not the only neighborhood to suffer a 5-way split in Chicago's history. Residents in the Back of the Yards neighborhood are engaged in a similar push to unite their community which has been spread out over five wards in past years. Other neighborhoods like Little Italy could be facing a split of up to four wards.
Ald. Richard Mell, chair of the City Council's Rules Committee, has taken much of the heat over the map, which he is sponsoring.
He said that in the redistricting wars, people always lose.
"I know Lincoln Park people are upset, and they have a right to be," he said. Mell said that in his decades overseeing the process, this is the "worst" redistricting he has seen.
The bottom line, he said, is that everyone will have to swallow the bitter pill of compromise if the city is to avoid a costly referendum vote. That may mean that map lines are redrawn over and over again, he said.
"It's not a utopian situation," he said. "It's a difficult situation. ... I've lost people I represented for 25 years."
In the end, Mell said, the goal is simply to figure out what appeases enough wards to gain the City Council votes needed to avoid a referendum.
The magic number is 41.
Lincoln Park will hash out the debate a public hearing Wed., Jan. 11, at 6 p.m. The hearing will take place at DePaul University, 2324 N. Fremont Ave., at Cortelyou Commons.
Another meeting on redistricting will be held Thursday, Jan. 12, at Progressive Baptist Church, 3658 S. Wentworth Ave, at 6 p.m.
Two more hearings are expected to be held, the details of which have not yet been announced.