Thursday, April 19, 2012

Burke Comments on City's Ward Re-Map, Welcomes New 14th Ward Residents

Burke (at lectern) listens to a community concern.
“I know your time is valuable, so I’ll begin my remarks by saying what King Henry VIII said to his fourth wife: I won’t keep you long,” quipped 14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke, milking new mirth from an old joke as his audience in Archer Heights broke into chuckles.

Burke spoke as an invited guest at a meeting of the Archer Heights Civic Association (AHCA), held last week at the UNO Veterans Memorial Campus, 47th and Kildare. About 150 people were in attendance.

His principal purpose at the meeting was to introduce himself to local men and women whose homes and/or businesses have been re-mapped into the 14th Ward.

He offered a historical overview of his 43 years as alderman, noting that he succeeded his father, Joseph P. Burke, as alderman; and that since 1969 he has served alongside eight mayors and 254 City Council colleagues.

"Politics is the art of the possible,” Burke noted as he used a line from 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck and explained the multi-sided political negotiations that led to the drawing of the new city ward boundaries.

“Compromises were made by everyone. It was important to avoid a costly referendum,” he added, saying that Chicago’s last round of re-map related litigation cost taxpayers about $13 million.

Noting that the Archer Heights Civic Association had requested that all of Archer Heights be remapped into the 14th Ward, Burke stated that he attempted to do that; and that under the new map, about 80 percent of Archer Heights is within 14th Ward boundaries.

Burke noted that in the switch from the old map to the new, the 14th Ward will shed a number of its northeastern precincts and add precincts to the west---which right now are on the northwest edge of the 23rd Ward, near 51st Street.


An interactive view of the new ward map can be found here.

Hinting at the bare-knuckled racial and ethnic politics that are central to every ward remap in Chicago, Burke would only note that “There are about 52,000 people in each ward; and the shape of the new ward reflects certain realities of population.”


To those people who will be newly mapped into the 14th Ward, Burke said, “I welcome you and pledge to do my very best to deliver the best city services possible. You can expect nothing short of diligence on our part to deliver the services you deserve.”


Burke acknowledged that with any re-map, there will be individuals and organizations dissatisfied and even angry with the result. Several people in the audience clearly were. One Vittum Park homeowner said his community was “raped” by the re-map process and expressed anger that Vittum Park was remapped into the 22nd Ward. “We have nowhere to go, because I can tell you this: I’m not going to go to 25th and St. Louis for a meeting,” the man said, alluding to the headquarters of 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz.


Empathizing with the anger, Burke took the unusual step of implying that he will serve an area outside his ward’s boundaries. “You don’t have to go to 25th and St. Louis. You come and see me,” Burke told the man. In response to a related follow-up question, Burke agreed to attend the next meeting of the Vittum Park Civic League.


At the conclusion of his remarks, Burke fielded a number of questions from the audience. Most concerned block-level issues like garbage carts, street lights, pot holes, location of stoplights, cul de sacs, designation of certain streets as one-way or two-way, and so forth. Mostly, Burke pledged to examine the individual concerns and referred audience members to aldermanic staff seated in the back of the room.


There were also concerns voiced about allegedly long response times from police, scrap dealers stealing from local yards, businesses that tape unsolicited advertising leaflets to garage doors and frames, understaffing at and the poor physical condition of the Archer Heights Branch Library, and an idea to ensure that the land that once held the LeClaire Courts public housing units will remain open, green and in public hands.


In response to a question about installing police cameras near schools to detect and discourage speeding violations, Burke (a longtime supporter of the idea) said he thinks the discussion about cameras should include an exploration of other productive uses of the cameras, such as possibly helping thwart drug dealing around schools, catching pedophiles and other sex offenders who are supposed to stay away from schools, assisting in “Amber Alert” situations where a child has been abducted, and even capturing “people who don’t have auto liability insurance.”

In response to an audience member who predicted and complained about a possible surge in speeding tickets caused by the cameras, Burke replied, “If you don’t want a ticket, obey the traffic laws and don’t speed. Whether it’s a camera or a police officer in a car who catches you, the fact is you were still speeding.”


Also at the meeting, AHCA officials made several pitches for membership enrollment, which is $10 per year. Simple registration forms can be found in the ACHA’s monthly newsletter, a six-page publication packed with updates on the group’s effort to fight crime and blight and promote a safer and more prosperous community.


To learn more about the AHCA, call 773-843-2232 or attend the next meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 9 at the UNO Veterans Memorial Campus, 47th & Kildare. Guest speaker will be Mary Ellen Guest, Executive Director of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, who will discuss various grants and low-cost loans available to people who want to preserve their historic bungalows.

Archer Heights is home to a number of historic bungalows in the east end of the community (starting on Kildare Avenue and going east) that may qualify for such assistance. People who live outside Archer Heights and own historic bungalows are welcome to attend the meeting as guests, AHCA officials said this week.


AHCA meetings are always the second Wednesday of the month, with the exception of July and August, and always start at 7:30 p.m. All Archer Heights residents are encouraged to attend.



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