A better way to draw ward lines in Chicago

Chinatown it a stellar candidate to get its own ward. But drawing lines along racial lines in general seems less legally valid.

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The Chinatown Gateway at South Wentworth Avenue and West Cermak Road in Chicago’s Chinatown.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

I read the op-ed last week by Paul Luu, CEO of the Chinese American Service League, and thought to myself, “Gee, that makes a lot of sense — Chinatown really deserves its own ward.” 

I also recalled that, according to Sun-Times reporting, the City Council’s current ward map, approved ten years ago, gives Chicago 13 “Hispanic influence wards” and 18 “Black wards.” And it seemed unfair to me that there was no specifically “Asian ward.” 

Then I asked myself a question: What the heck is a ward in the first place?

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For the answer, I went to the Chicago Municipal Code and found that “each ward shall be compact, contiguous, and of substantially equal population with an acceptable deviation to respect established communities of interest or to achieve other legally valid and permissible objectives.” Chinatown is compact. Chinatown is contiguous. Chinatown is certainly an established community of interest. Chinatown meets all the criteria, and I therefore believe that Chinatown it a stellar candidate for its own ward. 

In the same way, downtown’s 42nd Ward is compact, contiguous and an established community of interest — perhaps what some would call a “special interest” — and I see no obvious problem there. 

But where does that leave the 13 “Hispanic influence wards” and 18 “Black wards?” Are they actually “communities of interest,” or are they just race-gerrymandered areas on a map? I don’t know, but they sure make some funny shapes. 

In my humble opinion, I don’t really find gerrymandering to guarantee a racial outcome in an aldermanic election to be a “legally valid and permissible objective.” But, then again, I’m not running for alderman in one of those wards. 

Do I have a better idea? Perhaps. Why not look to “communities of interest” (like the Municipal Code says) instead of looking to the race of the alderman likely to be elected? The result may lead us on a path to a better city.

Ari Weiner, Downtown

American socialism

I tend to read a lot about how people detest capitalism. I’m surprised they don’t understand we already live in a basically socialist society. All government handouts to people who can’t or won’t work are socialist programs. The difference when it comes to American socialism is that we still have the opportunity to rise above it all by working to better ourselves as individuals.

American socialism works because it’s basically for people who are satisfied with their station in life. More ambitious people work and struggle every day to improve their lives, not sit back and blame others.

Socialism works only until the free money runs out and the bills come due.

Mike Zaczek, Orland Park

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