With Chicago's new ward map a hot topic of conversation this year, local aldermen have been wading into neighborhoods they represent for the first time and introducing themselves.
This week, it was 22nd Ward Alderman Ricardo Munoz's turn, as the Little Village-based politician ventured south of the Stevenson Expressway to introduce himself to Vittum Park residents.
|Alderman Munoz listens to his new constituents.
Most of Vittum Park (47th Street to 51st Street, Cicero to Laramie) is now in the 22nd Ward. The southern edge of the neighborhood (from 51st Street to Archer) has been remapped into the 14th Ward. Until recently, all of Vittum Park was in the 23rd Ward. Click here to see the old ward map.
Twenty-third Ward Alderman Michael R. Zalewski was one of only eight aldermen to oppose the new ward boundaries when the new map was put to a City Council vote back in January---and the only Southwest Side alderman to vote against it.
A number of Vittum Park residents have expressed anger at being mapped out of the 23rd Ward. As the Southwest Chicago Post reported back in April, a Vittum Park homeowner at a packed public meeting bitterly complained to 14th Ward Alderman Edward M. Burke that the neighborhood "...was 'raped' by the remap 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."
|New map showing most of Vittum Park in the 22nd Ward.
Munoz also offered a more personal suggestion on how to meet with him. “To be honest with you, I am a foodie. You could invite three or four or seven of your neighbors on the block and invite me to dinner,” he said with a laugh, drawing chuckles from a few in the audience.
The alderman suggested block club meetings were a good way for him to get to know the residents. “I want you to get tired of seeing me,” he added.
One man expressed the remap frustration of many when he said, “We kind of felt like orphans. When Burke and Madigan got done cherry picking, you got stuck with us. But the question I wanted to ask is, will we still get good city services?”
Munoz responded, “I hope to provide better services than you've had in the past.”
The alderman and the audience discussed a number of local concerns, including speed bumps, curb cuts for sidewalks, stop signs, residential permit parking, rodent control, garbage collection, recycling, residential overcrowding due to illegal home conversions, police staffing levels, and more.
Munoz that he would have a traffic study done in the area and report the findings at the VPCL's next public meeting, in January. (December is Christmas party month, and no business meeting will be held.) He reiterated that residents on a block typically have the most say about what happens on their own block.
One man complained about cramped conditions at the polling place at Vittum Park, saying that voting should have occurred in the gym and not the much smaller community room. “I think we’ve been overlooked," he said. "How come they put us in here (meeting room) like cattle?"
The alderman said that the situation occurred because of an inexperienced judge, that voters should have been in the gym and that he would talk to Park District staff to make sure that voting would take place in the gym for the next election.
“We may all have gray hair, but we all vote,” the man added.
Munoz has been an alderman since 1993, when he was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley to fill the vacancy created when Munoz's political mentor, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, was elected to the state senate. Garcia was a key political ally of Mayor Harold Washington.
Munoz is a member of the City Council's Latino Caucus, as well as the Progressive Caucus, which is occasionally at odds with the mayor---most recently over whether or not public hearings should be held on the proposed 2013 city budget. The mayor broke with tradition and declined to hold public hearings; the Progressive Caucus went ahead and staged three public hearings.
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