WICKER PARK — Just one day after a federal lawsuit alleging that the Chicago ward remap was unfair, an alderman with one of the most fragmented wards described the new boundaries as "worthy of a joke."
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) told a packed room of 30 residents at a Wicker Park Committee meeting, in a portion of his new ward, "We're in strange times."
The reconfiguration was created to "set me up for defeat," he said — a possible outcome but "I sure as hell am going to fight."
With the new map taking effect in two years, "some alderman are taking a hands-off approach," Fioretti said. But he pledged to "represent the old and the new."
Fioretti's ward was drastically changed by the new boundaries: the new map moved the 2nd Ward north of Fioretti's South and West Loop neighborhood by eight miles, excluding even Fioretti's own home.
The new 2nd Ward looks like a horse shoe as it cuts through portions of the lakefront, covers portions of the Gold Coast, Ukrainian Village and parts of Wicker Park and Bucktown, specifically on North Avenue from the Milwaukee-Damen North intersection, west to Leavitt Street.
The new map was engineered by powerful members of the City Council with what the lawsuit, filed by the League of Women Voters, says was the acquiescence of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The lawsuit says the new map was designed to protect most of the current aldermen.
Fioretti has shown an independent streak; he was one of only three aldermen to vote against Emanuel's budget.
After the meeting, residents expressed concern over Fioretti's ability to serve constituents in a ward that is so spread out.
"I want to be represented by an alderman, not a guy I will see every six months. It's so gerrymandered. I am going to list my condo for sale and describe it as being in a lakefront ward because technically it is now," said John Paige.
Paige lives in the 2100 block of West North Avenue in Wicker Park, which is now part of the new 2nd Ward.
"This is about politics over people," said Ken Tyler, a Bucktown resident.
"They took our chunk of Bucktown away" from Ald. Scott Waguespack and expanded the ward of Ald. Joe Moreno west "because he wanted more Hispanics," said Tyler.
Tyler — who has lived near Wolcott and North avenues in Bucktown for 12 years with his wife, Carol — said they were "instrumental in getting Waguespack elected."
Now, Tyler said, "Waguespack has had a chunk of his ward taken away from him."
Like many in the room, Tyler was quick to say that he likes Fioretti.
"He's a nice guy, known him awhile and he has similar philosophies as Scott [Waguespack]," said Tyler.
But "the map has the 2nd Ward so large and spread out that it makes it a challenge for the alderman," said Tyler. "How can he service us in such a broad geographic area?"
Teddy Varndell, president of Wicker Park Committee, said, "I love Fioretti. If we can't have Scott [Waguespack], it would be Bob Fioretti."
Even with his affinity for Fioretti, Varndell said, "I don't like the way it happened, the process, the way they separated the residents and commercial districts, leaving the Special Service Area money with Moreno and the whiny folks like me to Fioretti."
While Varndell said he believes Fioretti will "rise to the occasion" and serve the Wicker Park residents on the westernmost portion of the new 2nd Ward, others were already looking ahead to the 2015 election.
Wicker Park resident Craig Norris referred to the swath of Wicker Park that he and many of the new 2nd Ward residents live in as "no man's land."
"It's a mess. I think that many of us in the old [ward] were hoping that the days of ridiculous-looking gerrymandered wards were going to end. But apparently not and it got worse," he said.
"If Fioretti is not running in 2015, he needs to tell us sooner than later. My fear is that we will get stuck with a Rahm guy," Norris said.
Norris said, "Fioretti needs to show his hand early and not late. But I do not think he wants to [run.] Aldermanic campaigning for the next elections can start as early as next spring."
As for the the remap lawsuit, Norris said, "I personally do not think that any lawsuit has a chance. But hopefully I am wrong."