CHICAGO — Facing criticism over a lack of transparency, a City Council committee will hold at least one more public hearing for residents to give input on a new ward map that will shape the city’s politics for the next decade.
As aldermen meet behind closed doors to chisel out the final boundaries of the city’s 50 wards, residents and community groups have blasted the committee in charge of the process for not unveiling a draft of a potential map nor adequately seeking public input, despite three redistricting hearings that began last week.
Members of the Committee on Committees and Rules met Monday to discuss the process. Following more rebukes urging alderpeople to drag the process out of proverbial backroom, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), who chairs the committee, announced they would hold another public hearing 3 p.m. Thursday.
The meeting will be virtual and you can tune in at the City Clerk’s website. The link will go live when the meeting begins.
At Monday’s hearing, supporters of the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Coalition, an independent group that has put forward its own “people’s map,” promoted their efforts for a resident-driven process compared to how influential alderpeople have overseen the heavily politicized exercise.
Anne Jamieson, president of the League of Women Voters of Chicago, said the city’s remapping process has been conducted with “no transparency for the people of Chicago who will be greatly affected by the new ward map.”
“I’m worried that the City Council can’t convince the public that the mayor and the Council are departing from Chicago’s long history of behind the scenes gerrymandering of districts,” she said.
Chris Kanich, a University of Illinois Chicago professor and commissioner of the “people’s map” group, said the committee “may be serious about passing a ward map by the deadline, but it certainly does not appear that you’re serious about keeping the people of Chicago in the loop during this process.”
“We held 31 hearings throughout the city, both in person and virtually. We received testimony from over 500 Chicagoans, the vast majority of them supporting our work in communities together,” Kanich said. “In contrast, this committee has held three hearings, virtual only, with public testimony from approximately 25 Chicagoans.”
With Chicago’s population now at 2,746,388 residents, all 50 wards must have a roughly even split of 55,000 residents, be contiguous and compact.
City Council is facing a Dec. 1 deadline to approve a new map with at least 41 votes and avoid sending competing maps to Chicago voters to decide.
If a map is approved with less than 41 votes, any 10 aldermen who didn’t approve the consensus map can join forces to support an alternative version that would go before Chicago voters in a referendum next June.
With just over two weeks to go before the deadline, it’s unclear City Council is any closer to reaching that 41-vote super-majority. The independent group is scrambling to get backing from at least 10 alderpeople, while 15 Council members have signed on to support the map put forward by the Latino Caucus.
The Latino Caucus, led by Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), is adamant the new map must increase the number of majority Latino wards to reflect the community’s population growth over the last decade. That version reduces the number of majority Black wards from 18 to 16, while increasing the number of majority Latino wards from 13 to 15.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who chairs the Black Caucus, has opposed that shift, insisting any new map must retain 18 majority Black wards, despite a loss in the city’s Black population.
The Black Caucus has not released a proposed map. Ervin previously said the group would work with the Rules Committee to build support for a map that could muster enough support to be approved by the City Council.
Both the Latino and Black Caucuses have voiced their support to create a majority Asian American ward — centered around Chinatown — for the first time in Chicago’s history.
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