19th Ward residents: Leave us alone
BY MATTHEW BRUCE Correspondent November 9, 2011 10:56PM
Residents of the 19th Ward in Chicago, Illinois let signs state their case during the public hearing Wednesday night November 9, 2011 to discuss the redrawing of ward boundaries. The hearing took place at Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Illinois. | Art Vassy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 13, 2011 8:40AM
Hundreds of residents of Chicago’s 19th Ward packed into Morgan Park High School for a public hearing Wednesday night to let city officials know that they want to keep their ward intact.
Appearing before the Chicago City Council Rules Committee, residents opposed the remapping of ward boundaries and touted the diversity, safety and proud tradition of the close-knit community.
“When you talk about remapping, you’re talking about taking away my family because the 19th Ward is family,” 30-year resident Roseann Prince said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Prince’s comments brought the crowd to its feet and incited a rousing chant of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The proposed realignment of ward boundaries results from the 2010 census and is required to comply with federal voting rights law that each ward have a similar population. The wards are redrawn every 10 years following the census.
The 2010 headcount showed that Chicago’s population dropped by about 200,000 between 2000 and 2010 to just under 2.7 million. That means the ideal size for each ward is 53,912.
The 19th Ward has a population of 52,647 and consists of the Beverly, Morgan Park, and Mount Greenwood communities.
But the 21st and 34th wards on the 19th Ward’s eastern border have 50,845 and 48,245 residents, respectively. That has led city officials to look at moving residents from the 19th Ward’s east sector into one of the neighboring wards.
“What I hear over and over is, ‘I don’t want to leave the 19th Ward,’” Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) told the audience. “It’s not about politics, and it’s not about class, it’s not about numbers. It’s about community.”
The standing-room crowd of about 300 filled the auditorium at Morgan Park, 1744 W. Pryor Ave., and included several officials from homeowners associations. Residents wore “I Am 19th Ward” stickers on their shirts and waved red-and-white signs that read “Don’t Re-Map Me” in roaring approval of their neighbors’ comments against changing the boundaries.
“The reason that we chose to stay, above all else, in the 19th Ward was that people here show up,” said Roger Brewin, who moved to the area in 1980 to be pastor at the Beverly Unitarian Church, 10244 S. Longwood Drive. “They show up for community events, they show up for neighbor assistance.”
Many on hand praised the high-quality services provided in the 19th Ward and openly loathed the idea of being shifted into other wards.
“When we call the (alderman’s) office, we get the benefits. We get leaves removed,” resident Russell Lee Nicholson said. “If this neighborhood is remapped into the 21st Ward, me and a couple of my neighbors will move somewhere else.”
Wednesday’s meeting was the fourth of six public hearings across the city before an official remap is proposed to the city council. Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), the committee chairman, said the committee would hold one more public hearing after the proposal is submitted.
“I wish that I was the only one drawing this map because what I see here tonight wouldn’t be a problem,” Mell told the audience. “I don’t think anybody wants changes. I certainly wouldn’t. So I’m going to do everything that I can to work with you alderman, and see how we can resolve these things.”