OLD IRVING PARK — The proposed ward map unveiled last week by a City Council committee would draw out the only declared challenger to embattled Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th).
The map introduced by the council’s Rules Committee would extend the 38th Ward, represented by Ald. Nick Sposato, deep into the Six Corners shopping district, and it would cut out parts of the Old Irving Park and Independence Park areas from the 45th Ward. It also would stretch Gardiner’s ward north into parts of Edgebrook and into the relatively conservative Wildwood area.
That would kick Megan Mathias, who lives in Old Irving Park and announced her bid to run against Gardiner earlier this year, out of the freshman alderman’s political boundary. Mathias’ home instead would be drawn into the 30th Ward, represented by Ald. Ariel Reboyras.
Under state law, aldermanic candidates are allowed to run for a City Council seat even if their homes are drawn out of that ward. In Mathias’ case, if she’s drawn out of the 45th Ward, she could still run against Gardiner. But if she were elected and the proposed map is approved, she’d have to move to the new 45th Ward before running for reelection in 2026.
Mathias said the move, which could protect Gardiner, isn’t surprising, but it is disheartening to see. She said she is confident the proposed map is not final.
“I’m still running, [and] I don’t feel discouraged,” Mathias said. “But it’s disheartening to see political power at play — voters suffer when this happens.”
Gardiner’s office did not reply to requests for comment about the map proposal or about Mathias’ address being carved out of the ward, but Gardiner told Nadig Newspapers, “No matter how the map ends up, I’m honored to serve.”
This version of the map is hardly the final word on how the city’s political boundaries will be shaped for the next 10 years.
The Rules Committee map was introduced last week with heavy influence from the Black Caucus. But it was not voted on by a critical deadline, which opened up the possibility of a competing map being submitted to go to a referendum next summer.
The next day, continuing a political battle that has engulfed the map redrawing, the Latino Caucus filed its own version, saying, “It’s time for voters to decide.”
Rules committee Chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said last week the plan is a “starting point” in negotiations and told her colleagues to go back to the drawing board.
The Latino Caucus version of the map would keep Mathias in the 45th Ward.
Mathias said she has been door-knocking since June and has received broad support for her candidacy. Her campaign has raised more than $50,000.
“Hopefully, there is a resolution and council members can work together” in creating a new ward map, she said.
The Rules Committee proposal also moves the home of former Ald. John Arena, who Gardiner unseated in 2019, into Sposato’s 38th Ward.
“I’m not surprised that he’s afraid,” Arena told The Daily Line last week. “He thinks that by breaking up communities and neighborhoods that he can avoid being held responsible for his incompetence and thuggery.”
Gardiner has battled controversy for months. He’s faced scrutiny over his derogatory language about constituents and fellow council members and for blocking residents from public meetings. There are multiple probes into his conduct in office, and a lawsuit alleges he used his position to retaliate against critics.
“It’s the classic move of somebody who can’t run on a record, so he wants to pick his voters,” Arena added.
A referendum — which would be Chicago’s first in 30 years, according to the Sun-Times — is still a long way off. Alderpeople have until 40 days before next summer’s election to garner 41 votes for a map, but they can only support one proposal.
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