Lately, whenever I use a Metra Rock Island line commuter train to travel downtown (I live within walking distance of one of their stations and I hate the idea of paying for parking), I know when I’m passing through the Beverly neighborhood because I see an outbreak of what I think of as the measles.
|Variations are spreading around Beverly|
Red blotches all throughout the neighborhoods, on the front lawns of residents who see the potential for the redistricting of Chicago’s 50 wards for the upcoming decade and become ill at the very thought.
THE SO-CALLED BLOTCHES are really signs (bright red, with white lettering) and in style they are just like those signs that crop up every election cycle for people who persist in letting the whole world (or at least anyone who passes by their house) know who they support.
But these signs aren’t for any specific candidate. They literally are about the issue of redistricting – which is usually something that people don’t give much thought about.
But these Beverly residents are giving thought, and they are upset – which is why I get to read sign after sign that says, “Don’t Re-Map Me!” every time I pass through the neighborhood (both headed for the Loop and on the return trip home).
And in smaller type, they read, “I am 19th Ward.” The Beverly Area Planning Association takes credit for spreading these signs around the ward.
WHICH HISTORICALLY HAS been the Southwest Side ward that is centered around the Beverly neighborhood. The fact that the ward and the neighborhood come so close to coinciding is a good chunk of why that neighborhood has significant political pull in the City Council.
But it also makes it a largely-white community and ward surrounded by African-American neighborhoods and wards.
|The ward may not look the same soon|
But it also crosses over those invisible barriers that often separate race in our home city.
WHAT ALL OF this comes down to is that there is a very good chance that a lot of these people who are complaining about not wanting to be removed from the 19th Ward and Beverly (they’d still be a part of the neighborhood, regardless of where the ward boundaries are drawn) are really saying they don’t want to be a part of any non-white majority ward.
It is the ugly tension that is a daily reality for the neighborhoods of the South Side. It might not be a blunt and brutal as decades past, but there are places where races glare across the street at each other – and the wrong word can spark a brawl.
Which means that when I call these signs a form of measles outbreak, I’m only being semi-sarcastic. Because it almost strikes me as being an illness.
People wanting to cling to a ward number because they don’t want to be perceived as living somewhere else – even though nothing about their actual residence has change – can’t be that healthy for one’s mind.
BESIDES, THERE’S ALSO the reality that population shifts mean that the current boundaries can’t stand.
The Beverly Review newspaper, in reporting about the local resident concern about the issue, cited the fact that the current 19th Ward (as it existed in the 2000s) is 1,200 people too few of the 53,912-total that all 50 wards are supposed to have.
But the 21st and 34th wards to the east have even bigger shortfalls, and the easiest way to resolve them is to make that ward boundary shift that is going to rile up the natives something fierce.
Beverly would be far from the only neighborhood split up politically. Chinatown officials ranted about how much their community was hacked up among so many districts during the past decade, and one version of a new ward map being considered has the Back of the Yards neighborhood split among five different aldermen.
BY COMPARISON, BEVERLY residents ought to be grateful for what little might happen to them.
I happen to realize that this pride in neighborhood is a significant part of what makes Chicago unique and special. The idea that people who live in Beverly think of it as a special place where they desire to reside is something that we ought to be encouraging in all the city’s neighborhoods.
But the sight of all those signs from Beverly residents who don’t want to associate with neighboring Morgan Park is something that manages to give me a touch of a chill up my spine every time I see it while riding the Rock Island line.
And it also makes me a little bit proud to say that nobody I know personally who lives in Beverly has one of those red rashes popping up in their front yards.