Redistricting may be done, but bigger problems remain

By Samuel Charles

Well, it’s finally over.

Chicago’s decennial tradition of redrawing the 50 ward boundaries has come and gone once again. While the new map passed with a 41-8 vote in the City Council Jan. 19, it wasn’t without struggle, and its effect will be felt for years to come.

With a substantial decrease in the Caucasian and African-American populations, as well as a sizeable influx of Latino residents, the new map is much more reflective of Chicago’s changing racial makeup.

But there is still an even bigger and more ominous problem within the City Council, besides the constant infighting and formation of cliques: It’s far too big.

There are 50 members of the City Council, one alderman per ward. As of the 2010 Census, there were approximately 2.7 million people living in Chicago. Almost every alderman represents about 54,000 people.

New York City, on the other hand, has 51 members on its City Council. Those 51 represent three times as many constituents. Every single alderman is charged with being the voice of an average of 158,000 citizens. As of press time, NYC hasn’t burned to the ground because there aren’t enough aldermen.

Given Chicago’s current budget situation, the local government has been on the hunt for any way to raise revenue, from closing libraries on Mondays and increasing parking meter costs to fines for unruly protesters during the G8 and NATO summits scheduled for May 2012—even though the latter is unsettlingly close to a fascist state.

The only idea that seems to be taboo is to reduce the size of the City Council, even when most aldermen only hold the position part time but still make more than $100,000 per year for their work.

Now, I think libertarianism is a fad that’s caught fire recently because of Ron Paul’s inexplicable rise in popularity. The City of Chicago has many, many departments and programs that genuinely do help the greater good and work to improve the lives of the citizens here.

But now, no idea should be shunned.

Consider this: If the City Council was cut to 25 aldermen, the city would save $2.5 million.

That extra money could be put toward areas that need more attention, like the police department, which is celebrating Jan. 18, Chicago’s first murder and shooting free days in 2011. That rationale is twisted, demented and greatly skewed.

The city is in dire financial straits, and much blame can be put on the aldermen.

Why should everyone else’s feet be held to the fire?