PALMER SQUARE — Palmer Square could be drawn out of Logan Square in the remap of the city’s wards, which has some neighbors concerned.
Palmer Square Park, 2200 N. Kedzie Ave., and the homes nearby have been in the 32nd Ward for a decade. The 32nd Ward, represented by Ald. Scott Waguespack, includes parts of Logan Square, along with Bucktown, Lincoln Park and Roscoe Village.
But there’s a strong possibility the remap will fold the Palmer Square Park area into the 36th Ward, which includes parts of Hermosa, Belmont Cragin, Montclare, Portage Park and Galewood.
As the remap battle inches closer to a ballot referendum, members of the Palmer Square Homeowners Association are appealing to Waguespack to prevent that from happening. They’re worried they won’t get the same level of representation under a new alderman.
“To split Palmer Square from Logan Square is absurd, but even more ridiculous is to split Palmer Square in half,” longtime homeowner Carrie Cochran said.
“That makes no sense to anybody. We exist as a community. We’ve existed as several community organizations — [the Palmer Square Homeowners Association, the Palmer Square Park Advisory Council and Logan Square Preservation] — and we’ve all worked together as a cohesive unit for decades. And it’s insane that we’re being split apart.”
The group’s message: “Please don’t disenfranchise us from Logan Square,” Cochran said.
‘This Is The map That’s Drawn … To Punish Me’
There are two ward maps under consideration in City Council.
The Latino Caucus map has 15 majority Latino wards, 16 majority Black wards, the first Asian-American ward and three minority-majority wards. This map moves the Palmer Square Park area from the 32nd Ward to Ald. Daniel La Spata’s 1st Ward, which includes other parts of Logan Square.
Then there’s the map proposed by the city’s Rules Committee, which has the support of the City Council’s Black Caucus and creates 16 Black majority wards, one Asian-American ward and one ward — the 27th — with a Black plurality population.
Under the Rules Committee map, homes along the north side of Palmer Square Park would be in Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa’s 35th Ward, but the rest of the park area would be in the 36th Ward represented by Ald. Gilbert Villegas.
The 36th Ward has arguably the strangest shape of any ward in the Rules Committee map: a sliver stretching from Bucktown to Montclare that expands at both ends, resembling a seahorse on its side.
“This isn’t about personalities or being able to work with one alderman or another,” Cochran said. “It’s about sensible boundaries; it’s keeping the neighborhood and the community together.”
Villegas said the dramatic reconfiguration of the 36th Ward is retribution for him being the chair of the Latino Caucus.
“What you see there is the Rules Committee and [political insider and attorney] Mike Kasper punishing me for putting forward a group of aldermen, the Latino Caucus, in organizing us to ensure that our community doesn’t get shortchanged again,” Villegas previously said. “This is the map that’s drawn for me in order to punish me instead of allowing me to follow the Latino census tracts that are up out west, where the Latinos have migrated to.”
Villegas said he shares Palmer Square homeowners’ concerns over how the 36th Ward is drawn in the Rules Committee map, though it’s far from a done deal.
Aldermen haven’t reached a compromise on a new ward map. If they don’t reach a deal by May 19, voters will get to choose Chicago’s political boundaries through a ballot referendum.
“We’re concerned, as well, because of the fact that we want to make sure we’re able to service our community. … It may not be convenient for a constituent from all the way by Western and Fullerton to come out to Harlem Avenue for city services,” he said.
Still, Villegas said he’d welcome the opportunity to represent people who live near Palmer Square Park should the Rules Committee map win. He said he’s familiar with the area, having grown up on the Northwest Side, and has a proven track record of serving his constituents across communities.
Members of the Palmer Square Homeowners Association said it’s nothing personal against Villegas or whoever becomes 36th Ward alderman in the next election, but they want to stay in a “Logan Square ward” with an alderman focused primarily on Logan Square and its people.
Villegas is running for the newly created 3rd district congressional seat, which could leave his seat up for grabs.
“Obviously [with] the people in the sliver, there’s a risk: Who is the alderman going to pay attention to? He’s going to pay attention to the bulk of his base and the bulk of his or her ward,” group member Mike Warner said.
Waguespack didn’t return messages seeking comment, but he said Monday in a hearing he supports the Rules Committee map that would remove the park from his ward, according to The Daily Line.
‘No One’s Fighting To Have Us’
A group of Palmer Square residents founded the Palmer Square Homeowners Association in 1980 to help keep the area around Palmer Square Park clean and safe.
Group members host cleanups and other events. They’ve also planted the majority of Palmer Square Park’s trees over the past four decades, paying for them with member dues. The group has 35 members.
The Palmer Square Park area, bounded by Kedzie Boulevard to the west and Humboldt Boulevard to the east, has been in the 32nd Ward for the past decade. In that time, Waguespack has proven to be a good partner to the Palmer Square Homeowners Association, members said.
“Everybody is cognizant that if you buy an alderman’s golf tickets or make a contribution to their ward fund, good chance you’ll get a liquor permit,” group member Steve Hier said. “With Waguespack, that was never ever the case, in terms of him getting something to give something.”
Hier and other group members said they’re worried a new alderman could upend that partnership and undo decades of work.
Today, Palmer Square Park is a serene oasis filled with big, shady trees — but that wasn’t always the case, Cochran said.
The park was a “forgotten mud hole” when the Palmer Square Homeowners Association was founded in 1980, and it only saw major improvements after group members starting “taking personal responsibility” by planting trees and throwing events, Cochran said.
With the remap, “it feels like we’re orphans and nobody’s fighting to have us,” Cochran said.
The same could be said of other communities within the 36th Ward “sliver,” including narrow parts of Hermosa and Belmont Cragin, group members said. The Rules Committee map hurts those neighborhoods, too, they said.
“If you stretch out these very disparate communities, then how can the alderman serve anyone? Each demographic region has different needs,” group member Michael Yeagle said. “The reason Palmer Square is a wonderful place is because a lot of people who have been here a long time built a community.
“A lot of people put a lot of effort into making this a very united community, and to just see that teased out in a gerrymandered map to punish a guy seems ridiculous.”
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