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Aug 2001 / church and state :: email this story to a friend

Ward Wars
By Thomas Crone

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a column on about Craig Schmid. At the time, the six-year Alderman from South City's 10th Ward was looking ahead to the weekend, when a march was planned to protest the cross-town shift of his ward.

Ward 10

What follows is a full transcript of the interview for that piece, on a topic that's transfixed City politics watchers for the past two months.

Q: With the incidents in the Board of Aldermen recently, I'd imagine that it's hard to get attention focused on the more serious issues. Do you feel like it's been tough getting the bigger issues talked about?
A: Yeah, definitely. The real issue is about the process of redistricting. It has nothing to do with the sideshows. Somebody asked me about that before. It just represents some of the underlying insensitivities that exist in other areas. It's had some impact nationally on how the City's issues are viewed by people outside the City.

Q: Do you think there's been more attention paid to Sharon Tyus and the 20th than the 10th?
A: Naturally, that ought to happen. The 20th Ward is disappearing. I'll leave it at that.

Q: Have you had a hard or easy time getting the message out to the residents of the ward?
A: I have to tell you that I haven't made an effort to get the message out. There are organizations that are concerned and have done that. When people call me for any number of reasons, some have called and laughed about it. They say it's so ridiculous. I say, 'Maybe you should stop laughing. It looks like it's going to happen.' They ask me why and I don't have a good answer.

Q: Is there a role for Mayor to play in all of this?
A: I believe there is a role for the Mayor, whether it's taken prior to the votes or after.

Q: And what is that role?
A: Leadership.

Q: How would you describe the march on Sunday? What are people looking to do with this?
A: I think people have been searching around for things they can do to demonstrate their concerns on the issue and not be threatening to anybody. It's just a means of getting together to outwardly express that concern. The other thing is symbolic. They're not walking that far, but Native Americans, when told they needed to go from their homelands to reservations, had to walk to get there.

Q: How do you feel about your political future?
A: You're out! The process has been an accumulation of votes. Once you reach 15, you're okay. Your Alderman (Fred Wessels) has said that there will be 20 minutes of debate on September 14 and then they'll pass the thing. It doesn't mean it won't happen before then, but that's what they're saying. To some degree, it's a question about democratic process, reaching a consensus. This one's about building a vote-base by bringing people into a room, showing them the wards. If people were relatively happy, they were brought on, or added as co-sponsors. Anybody else, they didn't have to deal with.

Q: Do you feel a sense of disappointment in some of your colleagues?
A: I have always been a bridge builder and have always had a good relationship with everyone on the Board. I've been willing to vote convictions, rather than with any particular pack. I was surprised and disappointed that no one told me, other than Mark Schlinkmann, that the 10th Ward wasn't going to be in the same location. Sure, anybody would be. But, on the other hand, it's important because of the City's business — particularly of the area I live in and was elected from — that I be effective in doing my job. How that'll work out, I'm not sure.

Q: How quickly do you think it will happen?
A: If it's passed on September 14, the Mayor could sign it on the 14th or the 15th and it'd be effective immediately.

Q: Do you think that having a light-voting ward factored into this?
A: I would be speculating about reasons, and that's one you could speculate about. On the other hand, people came out 60-40 for Slay in the 10th Ward. You can never predict the desires of people and what they're going to do. You wouldn't play baseball games, you wouldn't have elections. Numbers don't tell you about people. It's posturing. It's politics. There's more posturing around this than usual.

Q: Do you worry about any particular projects that you have going in the ward?
A: Yes. This is a ward that requires daily attention. The details of whether somebody's interested in a development project or if there's a neighborhood's desire to keep out a negative use, so that a positive use can come in at a later date. Understanding some of the hot spots, in quality-of-life or crime. Yes, I would say so. I spend a lot of time on that; it's not required, but it's from my passion towards the neighborhood I live in. I'm sure others could do a fine job. I happen to have lived in the general area my entire life. I have a lot of experience with it.

Q: Have you spoken to the Mayor directly about that?
A: I have. Earlier. And there seemed to be a willingness to work through the process to work with the map. But he made it clear to me that he did not have any claim to that map.

Q: Do you think Greg Carter's map is workable?
A: I think Greg Carter's map wouldn't be able to get 15 votes. That doesn't mean it's not workable. It's just more difficult than the map they currently have. The current map may be more workable in getting 15 votes. But whether it'll be deemed as legal or not, that's not my determination.

Q: How do you sort out your personal plans while this unfolds?
A: Oh, I'm going to continue to do what I'm doing now. Send in service requests. Serve as the elected official of the people in the area. Probably get even more immersed and entrenched in organizations in the area. That's the hope.

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