Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Say it ain't so...

From Russ Stewart's 1/2 column...
3rd Ward (Near South Side: Bronzeville, 16th Street to 59th Streets, east of Vincennes Avenue to Paulina Street): Longtime Alderman Dorothy Tillman (1984 to 2007), who was first elected as a Harold Washington supporter, perpetually played the race card. She was the city's chief proponent of reparations for slavery, but she also was an ally of Mayor Rich Daley, and her ward, once nearly all black and with much public housing, became more upscale and whiter.

Tillman beat Pat Dowell by 52-35 percent in 2003. She led Dowell by 3,383-3,020 in the February 2007 primary, getting 42.7 percent of the vote. Local unions backed Dowell in the 2007 runoff, as Tillman had supported Daley on many issues, including the "big box" minimum wage ordinance. Dowell beat Tillman with 54 percent of the vote.

Tillman is not running for re-election as committeeman. The 2008 contest is between Dowell and state Representative Ken Dunkin (D-5), who backed Dowell in 2007, allegedly in exchange for a promise that she would back him for ward committeeman in 2008. Dowell rejects Dunkin's assertion.

The outlook: In 2007 the Near South Side 2nd Ward (Dearborn Park, North Bronzeville, Taylor Street, South Lawndale) ousted its black alderman and elected a white alderman, Bob Fioretti. The 3rd Ward will be next.

Dowell has been a reliable support of the mayor, but the ward is changing. Public housing along Michigan Avenue, Wabash Avenue and Taylor Street has been removed. Housing prices for units from 22nd Street to 55th Street have exploded. Low-income housing is now a memory. The white population is growing. Section 8 housing units, which normally contain two or more bedrooms, are perfect for converting into condominiums, and they are being bought by whites.

The black turnout will be huge, and Dowell will beat Dunkin, but some time in the next 10 years, the 3rd Ward will elect a white alderman.
An historic black area won't be dominated by blacks. I think that's unfortunate but things change especially if there are those blacks who don't want to live in the city and instead move to the suburbs.

I should also note that I saw Pat Dowell on cable access over the weekend. I know that she has to explain what a committeeman does and she does want to organize an organization over in the 3rd perhaps in ways that Dorothy Tillman her immediate predecessor hasn't. Perhaps her job is to get people organized in ways that might make positive changes in the third and I guess I can admire that.

In a few years Bronzeville will be a great place to live. Very expensive and I would imagine that it would be a great place to do business as well. Oh and on the heels of a Chatham vid posted at Sixth Ward that I found on MySpacetv, here's a vid on Bronzeville.

1 comment:

IrishPirate said...

After the 2000 Census the black aldermen demanded that 19 majority black wards be drawn. That led to some really strangely shaped wards trying to pick up bits and pieces of population to get to the needed 60,000 people per ward. There has been a tremendous amount of "depopulation" going on in large swaths of the black west and south sides. Recently that has started to change in greater Bronzeville and Kenwood, but not enough to stop the change.

Tillman's former ward went well into the south loop and stretched for 5 plus miles. The 3rd ward while traditionally black wasn't nearly the same geographically as it used to be. Large parts of it were given to other wards. Tillman largely lost because her poorer black constituents were replaced with middle or upper middle income black constituents who found her brand of race based politics less attractive. The "scandal" revolving around the Bronzeville cultural center certainly didn't help her.

The black population is declining rapidly in the city. I suspect Walter Burnett's ward is now majority or at least plurality white. He is popular enough to get reelected in such a ward, but some of his black colleagues couldn't say the same.

After the next census you may see 16 majority black wards. Which means some aldermen will be fighting each other. Same thing happened on the NW side after 2000 when white alderman were placed in the same ward after the creation of Hispanic dominated wards.

It's going to be interesting. Because of differences in age and voting patterns you often need a 65% plus black ward to elect a black alderman. In Hispanic wards it can go up to 75% or more because of citizenship issues.

While I agree with Stewart that the white population will likely go up in the areas he mentioned I think the larger change, which seems to be happening already, is upper middle income blacks replacing lower income blacks.

I think the future of Bronzeville is as an affluent largely black enclave. I might be wrong. If I were it might become something like an East Beverly where affluent people of various ethnicities live in relative harmony. Maybe it becomes a different version of Hyde Park where "blacks and whites stand united against the lower classes."

Time will tell. The working class/middle income black population seems to be emulating the whites who fled those neighborhoods generations ago by moving to the south suburbs. We now have the phenomena of affluent largely black suburbs such as Olympia Field and Matteson competing with the south side for people. It's a loss for the city, but people do what they perceive to be in their best interest.

Stay tuned for the 2010 census and the hard fought remap afterward.

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