What Ward Leaders DoWhen this blog was started, Dan asked me to do a post about the Ward structure and what Ward Leaders actually do. With all this talk of Neighborhood Networks and the fraud known as the judicial elections, I thought it was about time I did that post.
I live in a working/middle classed diverse neighborhood, which is rare here in “the city of neighborhoods”. I have known my Ward Leader all my life, but I have only been working with him for the past year. I keep the specifics of which Ward I am in private, because I don’t want anything I say on here to be construed as coming from a particular Ward Leader or Candidate. I think that it is important to note that there are actually good guys who are Committee people and Ward Leaders, even if they are few and far between. I think that it heightens the fact that we need reform and we need more good guys to step up to bat.
So what does a Ward Leader do? Well, as has been noted before, around election time, they get out the vote for the candidates that they support. They hold little fundraisers to pay the Committee people, buy literature, and sometimes just to do something fun for the Ward. They help the committee people put up posters and do lit drops before the election. On Election Day, they coordinate the efforts in the more or less 20 divisions in the Ward by dropping off food, literature, and paying people at the end of the day. They often do what can best be described as musical chairs by driving campaign workers and Committee people from one division to the other, depending on who is under and over staffed.
When it isn’t election time, they pretty much devote their efforts to staying Ward Leaders. This includes doing anything that they can to keep their Committee people happy, or trying to get new people to run to be a Committee person. They usually do this with patronage jobs as well as services and free tickets. When you help get people elected, they usually help you in getting your people jobs or giving you a few tickets to a concert or a Baseball game. Also, if the Committee people have problems, like their heat doesn’t work, their child needs a job, or they need help with something in the neighborhood, they often call their Ward Leader to help them out.
In theory, when you have a problem in your neighborhood, like your street light doesn’t work, you need a pot hole filled on your block, or you got your heat cut off without reason, you talk to your Committee person, who then talks to your Ward Leader, who then talks to your District Councilperson. How often it works this way, of course, depends on your Ward Leader and District Councilperson. City Council controls the budgets for the city organizations, so if you ever get the run around, it is always good to have a Councilperson call on your behave. Ward Leaders also do a lot of things to get in contact with the neighborhood, like organize cleanups and attend every neighborhood, Rec Center, and block meeting under the sun.
Seeing what it takes to be a Ward Leader, I have to tell you that I would not wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy. There is prestige involved in it, and you do get to rub elbows with people in power and get free stuff from time to time, but it is not for the faint of heart. So the question arises, who in their right mind would ever want to become a Ward Leader? Well, either you want to run for something or you want to get a nice cushy job at some do nothing quisi Governmental organization that does “Community Development”.
I think that we need to change all that. I think that we need more people involved in the political process who are in it for doing good and not in it to get a job or be a power broker. I urge everyone to ask around about their Ward Leader. If you hear good things, then get involved or maybe even run for Committee Person. If you hear bad things, then do what you can to get their butts out of there. You have no idea how appreciative some Ward Leaders are of go-getters who are willing to pull up their sleeves and do some work. They need all the help that they can get. While I think things like Neighborhood Networks are good, I also think that some of us need to try and change things from the inside. It is hard and isn’t as fun as sitting around with like-minded people trying to change things from the outside, but it is necessary.