So the Board of Aldermen Will Shrink in Ten Years. Now What?

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The clock's a-tickin' at City Hall on the Board of Aldermen shrinkage
On election day, city voters approved Prop R, which will shrink the Board of Aldermen from 28 to 14 members by 2022. But even among board members, uncertainty remains about how this will actually go down.

"I opposed it," says Eleventh Ward Alderman Tom Villa. "My concept of an alderman is front line of defense for the people, the closest link the people have to the city. I fix the hole in your dumpster; I don't attempt to re-write the judicial code. But the people have chosen this. I can live with that."

According to backers within the board such as Phyllis Young, the Seventh Ward Alderwoman who worked to place it on the ballot, the whole idea is to change an alderman's job description from a handler of dumpster-hole problems to bigger-picture problems. The dumpster holes, in theory, would be left to city employees.

Villa says: "It will be interesting to see, as the city evolves, whether the other city departments will jump on the bus and get smaller right along with us." He laughs with skepticism. "That will be interesting!"

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Alderman Scott Ogilvie of the 24th Ward
Alderman Scott Ogilvie of the Twenty-Fourth Ward says that to pick up that slack, the city's workforce may not get smaller, but shouldn't have to enlarge in order to compensate.

"There's more we can do with technology to provide ways for people to ask for assistance," says Ogilvie. "The CSB [Citizens Services Bureau] is good but it can be better. It could do better follow-up after complaint. It could give more accurate indication of how long something will take to resolve. It could be available for more hours during the day."

"Technology is what's gonna pick up the slack in terms of service delivery," Ogilvie continues. "I don't think we'd need more city employees."

Then there's the issue of how the new wards will be drawn up and consolidated.

Villa points out that the "fine-tuning" hasn't been done yet on that process, but he's already prepared to defend his turf from the aldermen in the adjacent Twelfth and Thirteenth Wards.

"I've already bought the rights to the CNN debates when I square off with Larry Arnowitz and Fred Wessels," jokes Villa. "I'll pummel them into submission! And you can tell 'em I said that!"

Daily RFT will do you one better, Alderman: We will sponsor a kickboxing tournament in which the last man standing gets the new super-Ward! Provided you all have insurance.

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