A new brunch spot opens. An old one closes. More heated words (and bricks) are thrown in the debate over gentrification. Even the “Aloha” billboard comes down. Plenty has changed in Logan Square since 2015 — and that includes the neighborhood’s representation in City Council, with the redrawn ward map shrinking the 30th Ward’s border to north of Diversey Avenue. That leaves the neighborhood represented by five aldermen, two of them (35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and 31st Ward Alderman Milly Santiago) still in the middle of their freshman terms won in that year’s election.
WBEZ produced an updated interactive map of Chicago’s 50 wards back in 2015; we’re providing contact information so once you’ve located your alderman, you can reach out and stay civically aware, whether you’re adjacent to Belmont Gardens or Bucktown.
First, however, what does an alderman actually do? The amount of power an alderman wields over his or her ward is quite large, owing to the infamously extensive system of political patronage on which Chicago was built. If an alderman is happy, secure and powerful within the confines of their own ward — or so the thinking went at the system’s inception — they’re more likely to be pliant to the will of a powerful mayor. Today, however, as the city becomes more diverse and the thrall of machine politics subsides, more aldermen are willing to buck that trend — especially members of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, a group frequently at odds with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and of which the 35th Ward’s Ramirez-Rosa and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack are both outspoken members.
Participation in the legislative warfare at City Council isn’t our aldermen’s only duty; they’re also responsible for zoning, a political tool that can be incredibly powerful in shaping a ward’s character and economic welfare. Aldermen also respond to the day-to-day needs and complaints of the average citizen, even if that means adjucating a dispute over dog poop (as former 33rd Ward Alderman Richard Mell was quoted in WBEZ’s 2013 in-depth look at the aldermanic workload.)
If you want to get involved in your local community efforts, then — or even just if something in your ward has been on your mind lately — use the map and the contacts below to give them a piece of it.