CHICAGO — Aldermen unveiled a proposed ward map at City Council meeting Wednesday, showing Chicagoans for the first time what the city’s newest political boundaries could look like.
But City Council did not vote on the map that was largely worked out behind closed doors and repeatedly delayed by political battles, increasing the possibility of a contentious referendum where voters would decide on which map will be in place the next decade.
Paper copies of the map were handed out at City Council Wednesday. A copy was made available later in the day on the city’s website, but it wasn’t clear enough to show street boundaries.
Here’s what the city’s proposed ward map looks like:
Here’s an interactive version of the map:
Ald. Austin Drawn Out, Ald. Hopkins Could Lose Lincoln Yards
The city’s ward remap process was led by Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), chair of the Rules Committee, political insider and attorney Michael Kasper and the Aldermanic Black Caucus, whose members said they fielded feedback from alderpeople across the city.
The city’s map includes 16 majority Black wards, 14 majority Latino wards, one majority Asian ward and one “Black influence” ward that isn’t quite a majority — the 27th Ward.
Under the proposed map, indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) would be drawn out of her Far South Side ward. The longtime alderwoman said she’ll likely retire rather than run for a new term under the proposed map, which would move the 34th Ward into parts of The Loop, West Loop and Near West Side.
Lincoln Yards would also be moved to Ald. Scott Waguespack’s 32nd Ward from Ald. Brian Hopkins’ 2nd Ward, something independent venue owners pushed for because of Hopkins’ support for the mega-development.
Hopkins has vowed to fight to keep the site in his ward, arguing he’s the right person to steward “a billion dollars” of public infrastructure projects associated with the development over the finish line. Waguespack said the proposal “literally draws the lines back to where they were” prior to the last remap, and makes the area more cohesive.
Latino alderpeople blasted the City Council map as a “backroom deal” worked up by connected attorney Kasper, who served as the longtime election attorney to former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who resigned his seat under the cloud of a corruption investigation of ComEd.
Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd) said she’d be completely drawn out of her ward to protect the incumbencies of Madigan protege Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) and indicted Ald. Ed Burke (14th), by shifting it completely east of Midway Airport.
Tabares was appointed to the City Council with the blessing of Madigan and has been seen as an ally, but she said a map that would save Quinn and Burke at her expense was “wrong” and suggested it was brokered by Kasper.
“We are united, we are sticking together, we’re not going to get screwed like we did 10 years ago,” she said. “We’re not going to let Kasper tell us what to do.”
The proposed map would also dramatically reconfigure Ald. Gilbert Villegas’ (36th) Northwest Side ward extending along a small sliver east to near Western Avenue.
After the meeting, Villegas, who chairs the Latino Caucus, said it was retribution for leading the group to propose its own map after its members said they were largely shut out of negotiations.
“What you see there is the Rules Committee and Mike Kasper punishing me for putting forward a group of aldermen, the Latino Caucus, in organizing us to ensure that our community doesn’t get shortchanged again,” he said. “So this is the map that’s drawn for me in order to punish me instead of allowing me to follow the Latino census tracts that are up out west, where the Latinos have migrated to.”
Villegas said he’s “confident that we will stick together.”
“We have said collectively that as opportunities come up for an alderman, if they fix their boundaries or any issues, then that’s good. But we need the other members of the coalition issues to be addressed, as well, to the best of our ability. We’re not saying that we’re going to get 100 percent what we want. What we’re saying is there has to be true negotiation and compromise,” he said.
The Latino Caucus map, first introduced in October and resubmitted Wednesday, has included 15 majority Latino wards, 16 majority Black wards and one Asian American ward.
Here’s what the proposed Latino Caucus map looks like:
Because the City Council missed a Wednesday deadline to approve a map a 41-vote super-majority, it opens the possibility that any 10 alderpeople can put forward their own map with the City Clerk’s Office to compete in a referendum next June.
Harris, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader, did not call a vote on the City Council map Wednesday, signaling there isn’t enough support to avoid a referendum despite last-minute negotiations and Lightfoot’s attempt to broker a compromise over the weekend.
A referendum — which would be Chicago’s first in 30 years, according to Sun-Times — is still a long way off. Alderpeople have until 40 days before next summer’s election to garner 41 votes for a map, but they can only support one proposal.
Harris said the City Council map is a starting point and expects it to change over the coming months. She plans to schedule public hearings through January to gain public input before a vote is held.
Harris wouldn’t say if she thought the proposed map could stave off a referendum, saying she was “confident that we can get in the room and work together and that as a City Council, we worked together in the past to get things done.”
Harris also said Lightfoot didn’t pressure her to hold extra community meetings to allow residents to provide input, but her City Council colleagues were opposed to voting on a map before they were able to “take it to the community and socialize it.”
“Over the next days, months we’re going to work together as a council to get a map that we can live with as a council and that we can represent to the city that they’ve been part of the process to look at the map to tweak the map,” she said.
Eleven supporters of the Latino Caucus map — which boosts the city’s Latino majority wards from 13 to 15 and reduces Black majority wards from 18 to 16 — didn’t rule out the possibility of a referendum, but called for “true negotiations” to take place to avert what could be a costly and racially charged campaign.
Villegas said he was happy to have an actual map from the Rules Committee to negotiate with, describing Wednesday’s meeting as a “restart.” He said his coalition would hold a call this evening to decide whether to move forward with putting the Latino Caucus map forward for a referendum or continue to negotiate.
“I mean we’re all finally, finally analyzing this, and so are the other 2.7 million people that live in Chicago are finally getting a chance to see something that’s going to affect them for the next 15 years,” he said.
Lightfoot wasn’t present at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Instead, she flew to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to lobby for more federal dollars to fix the city’s infrastructure and combat COVID-19.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), the president pro tempore of the City Council, presided over the meeting in Lightfoot’s absence.
“Let me see, I could come to Washington DC and advocate on behalf of the city about getting millions, hundreds of millions of dollars to support residents’ recovery from COVID, or I could preside over the city council meeting,” Lightfoot said on a call after the meeting. “I think for me, and I think for most people that have any common sense, that’s a pretty easy call.”
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