Alderman Ward Election and Community Issues Potency
What Alderman Ward Am I In?
An alderman is an elected member of a local government. They represent a geographic area, called a ward.
Few people excel at crafting legislation, community engagement and political negotiation while also remaining likable and honest. That’s why most aldermen win re-election year after year.
But drawing a new map can’t be accomplished through the same old process that has favored aldermen and mayoral allies, carved up neighborhoods and left many communities disenfranchised.
Across the city, candidates are talking about how they would approach public safety, development and constituent communication issues. But how can you get a clear picture of what they stand for?
The 1st Ward includes parts of Logan Square, Wicker Park and East Humboldt Park. Its incumbent, Ald. Daniel La Spata, is running for reelection against lawyer Sam Royko and Stephen “Andy” Schneider, president of Logan Square Preservation.
The city is divided into fifty legislative districts called wards. Each is represented by an alderman.
During the 2023 election, candidates from each of Chicago’s 50 wards will be elected to four-year terms on City Council.
Schneider talked up his experience working with community groups to address problems like carjackings in Logan Square, and his support for citywide TOD rules that allow developers greater density incentives near transit. La Spata focused on her work to increase affordable housing in the ward and backed the citywide expansion of accessory dwelling units.
Each of Chicago’s fifty legislative districts (or wards) is represented by an alderman who votes on laws, budgets and more for their constituents. They also distribute a portion of their ward’s $1 million annual budget to their community and sit on 17 committees broken down by policy area.
Residents of the 1st Ward are deciding which candidate to vote for, as incumbent Daniel La Spata faces challenges from attorney Sam Royko and Logan Square Preservation president Andy Schneider. The three answered questions about crime, development and other issues at a forum Wednesday.
The candidates were also asked how they would approach communicating ward issues to residents and how they might address shortstaffing at the Chicago Park District. They were also asked how they might handle problems at so-called 4 a.m. bars, which operate under a special license to stay open late on weekends.
Many aldermen have used their final say on zoning issues to benefit developers who donate to their campaigns, an issue known as “aldermanic privilege.” Current and former aldermen have pushed for curbs on this power.
Across the city, residents elect 50 City Council members who debate and vote on everything from megadevelopment deals to whether your block gets permit parking. Each alderman is elected to a geographic area called a ward.
Historically, aldermen were re-elected on their ability to deliver ward services and tend to resident service requests. But that approach can limit council members’ time to work on citywide legislation.
Byron Sigcho-Lopez is an organizer who prioritizes public safety, reparations for Black ward residents and affordable housing. He supports The People’s Map, a new city map drawn openly and endorsed by community organizations.
Ward 6 is a diverse neighborhood, home to single-family homes in a lively downtown area. Among its residents are students from Northwestern University, who add to the community’s diversity.
Streetsblog spoke with Guajardo, Venegas and Sanchez about their priorities in this ward that includes parts of South Chicago and Hegwisch. They discussed equitable transit-oriented development, CTA reliability and police reform.
Best endorsed more affordable housing and ADUs. She also emphasized the importance of the community’s involvement in local decision making.
It’s important to know your alderman’s ward boundaries, as the City’s political system depends on them. Attending community forums and reading local news can help you get a sense of who is running, their background and their policy priorities.
But remapping isn’t easy, and it will take work to create fair districts that keep communities like Englewood represented. One advocacy group, CHANGE Illinois, has been working on this.
Residents of each ward elect their alderman to represent them on City Council, which has a long tradition of hyperlocal governance. But in practice, most council members are consumed with ad hoc legislation aimed at their own constituents and tend to ignore citywide issues.
During the redistricting process, CHANGE Illinois advocated for The People’s Map, which was drawn openly and based on community input. Communities historically splintered were kept whole, including Englewood, Logan Square and Austin.
The 9th Ward includes the BJC medical complex and Northwestern University, and is a top target for transit-oriented development. The candidates endorsed ETOD, and discussed ways to expand access to jobs, schools and transit through neighborhood planning.
In addition to debating citywide issues, aldermen have hyperlocal responsibilities, such as approving local businesses and zoning changes. But this privilege can be abused, and has contributed to corruption scandals in City Council.