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City Council Expected To Vote On New Ward Map Wednesday, But Public Has Not Seen It, And Some Call For End To Gerrymandered Wards That Splinter Communities

CHICAGO (CBS) -- If you live in Chicago and care about city services, take note of an important deadline coming up.

Wednesday is the day the City Council is supposed to vote on a new ward map – but no one has seen it yet. As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday night, many Chicago communities are hoping the new map gives them more unity – rather than leaving their neighborhoods split between oddly-shaped wards each under the jurisdiction of a different alderman.

At Ainslie Street and Central Park in Albany Park, walking from the 35th Ward to the 33rd Ward or the 39th Ward involves a distance of a matter of feet. Three wards splitting up one neighborhood equals fragmented representation in City Hall for residents. A new map could change that.

But here is the problem – no one knows what the new ward map will look like. Less than 24 hours before aldermen are mandated by law to vote on that redrawn map, it is still cloaked in secrecy.

Some watchdogs say that all amounts to City Hall business as usual.

"They have been doing it essentially in a back room with the doors closed, and not a whole lot of sunlight or transparency," said Madeleine Doubek, executive director of Change Illinois.

Doubek said that should concern everyone who lives in the Windy City – an appropriate use of the moniker in this case.

"What they're doing is essentially rigging the system to favor incumbents and keep themselves in office," she said.

It is a time-honored practice in Chicago, despite campaign promises from Mayor Lori Lightfoot that it would be different this time around.

"We're terribly disappointed," Doubek said.

Change Illinois sent a letter to Mayor Lightfoot on Tuesday expressing those concerns. The group spent months working with the public on what they call a People's Map, which keeps most neighborhoods in one ward instead of splintering them.

The proposed People's Map and the current map can be seen side by side below.

Ward Maps

Follow these links for a closer look at the current map and the proposed People's Map.

"There are communities like Englewood, like Logan Square, like Austin, and many others – Back of the Yards – that have been splintered and split up historically," Doubek said.

Chinatown is also one of those communities – in fact, it has never been encompassed in just one ward, despite a decades-long fight.

"Our whole drive behind making an Asian American majority ward is to ensure that the Asian American voice is heard in City Council," said Justin Sia of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago.

Sia said they have gotten promises it will happen this time. If not, they will go to court.

But for those wondering why they should care, Doubek says neighborhoods splintered along several wards means confusion for people trying to get city help.

"it's makes it impossible for you to understand who you're supposed to reach, and how you're supposed to get government to respond to you," she said.

Splintered neighborhoods also undermine the power of community groups and organizations.

If there is no ward map vote on Wednesday, it opens the door to a possible public map vote down the line. But that has its hurdles too.

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