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Voters Should Decide On Chicago’s New Ward Map, Latino Caucus And Independent Group Say As They Join Forces To Push For Referendum

The head of the City Council Black Caucus fired back that the Latino Caucus map proposal would "reduce the gains the Black community has made in Chicago."

Homes, buildings and the Chicago skyline, as seen from above the Bucktown neighborhood on Nov. 16, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO – With negotiations at a standstill, the head of City Council’s Latino Caucus said Wednesday he is “100 percent” committed to pursuing a June referendum that would let voters to decide on the next ward map.

The Latino Caucus has joined forces with the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission, an independent group that submitted their own “People’s Map,” to push for a referendum by getting behind a compromise map proposal, said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th). The Latino Caucus also launched a new referendum campaign fund.

Meanwhile, 33 alderpeople are backing a competing map created by the Rules Committee that has the support of most of the Black Caucus. 

Here’s the Rules Committee map. You can find another version here.

Hoping to take the map-making process out of the hands of the politicians, the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission was created in 2021 with the backing of CHANGE Illinois and other community groups and crafted their map proposal following a series of public discussions throughout the city. 

But the map created by the group failed to gain the backing of a single alderperson. Without that support, the group submitted their map last year with the City Clerk’s office, along with 1,600 support signatures. 

Madeleine Doubek, executive director of CHANGE Illinois, said the group was hesitant to lend its support to a map crafted by politicians, but “we made the determination that we have to operate in the reality that we are living in.”

“This group of council members was committed to and willing to make 10 significant changes to improve their map. And their map is, by standard metrics, more compact, and does a better job of not splintering important communities,” Doubek said of the Latino Caucus map.

The Latino Caucus, who call their proposal “The Coalition Map,” agreed to changes to their proposed boundaries to secure the support of the independent commission, including reducing the number of wards serving Englewood from three to two and placing the Chicago Avenue corridor in Austin in the same ward as the South Austin neighborhood. 

The updated map also shifts the boundaries of the 5th, 16th, 20th, 28th, 29th and 37th on the South and West Sides to “align with the ward boundaries in The People’s Map.”

Here’s the Chicago Coalition map:

Doubek said her group will “spend funds to help educate voters about the maps and this process.”

Separately, the Latino Caucus created a campaign account on Wednesday to raise money to “support the ‘Coalition Map’ ordinance in a fair, transparent, and equitable redistricting” of Chicago’s ward map.

Villegas argued that the Latino Caucus map was “started with elected officials drawing it, but it was always with the intent of starting the discussion.”

Their openness to making changes at the request of the independent commission shows they listened to the community, Villegas said.

He would not estimate how much the pricey campaign will cost, but said they will raise the “necessary resources to put our message out.”

Villegas was confident the map would win in a referendum, despite the competing proposal having the backing of 33 alderpeople from across the city.

“What we know now is that there’s 33 votes on the other side that support that map…for the referendum, and then there’s 15 votes on our side…plus our families,” he said, but there are “hundreds of thousands of people that will determine the outcome of the city map” that can be won over.

Credit: Justin Laurence/ Block Club Chicago
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) speaks to reporters after the meeting.

All 15 alderpeople who have supported the Latino Caucus proposal signed on to support the new compromise map with the independent commission. 

The two map factions have been unable to reach a compromise that would avert a referendum, despite a Sunday morning live-streamed negotiating session in late January

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who chairs the Black Caucus, released a statement Wednesday saying the “majority of City Council stands firm in the map we’ve created that increases Latino wards, maintains Chicago’s Black vote in City Hall and creates our city’s first Asian American ward.

“While we respect Change Illinois, we have real concerns about how both their map and the Latino Caucus map disenfranchise Black voters and grossly reduce gains the Black community has made in Chicago. For example, they completely deconstruct the entire West Side of Chicago, diluting Black voices in historic communities,” Ervin said. 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) at a City Council meeting on June 25, 2021.

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), who chairs the Rules Committee, said she is consulting the supporters of the Rules Committee map on whether to forge ahead with a City Council vote that is unlikely to reach the 41 votes needed to avoid a referendum.

Because the City Council did not approve a map with 41 votes before Dec. 1, it opens up the possibility that any map can be submitted for the referendum if it has the support of at least 10 alderpeople.

Harris received a letter from the Latino Caucus this week outlining six areas of contention in the two proposals, but Harris said she has not yet had the chance to respond before announcing the campaign fund for a referendum.

“It shows you who they are. They send me a letter so they can say “oh, I sent her a list and she didn’t respond,” and then less than two days from when they sent the letter they’re in the newspaper saying that they’re ready to go to referendum,” she said.

The Latino Caucus believes the current ward map, created after the 2010 census, didn’t adequately represent the city’s growing Latino population and have vowed to not accept less than 15 majority Latino wards in the current map.

The Latino Caucus map has 15 Latino majority wards, 16 Black majority wards, the first ever Asian American ward and three minority majority wards.

The map put forth by the city’s Rules Committee has 14 Latino majority wards. It creates 16 Black majority wards, one Asian American ward and one ward, the 27th, with a Black plurality population.

The Latino Caucus had suggested creating a “hybrid ward” instead of a 15th majority Latino ward that would have a slim majority Latino total population, but a higher voting age population of Black residents. Villegas told reporters after the January meeting that “over the next 10 to 13 years we could grow into the ward, not affecting the change immediately.”

But the offer was rejected by the Black Caucus, because it would reduce the number of Black majority wards from the current 18 down to 15.

“I can’t help you get to 15 wards,”  Ervin said at the time

According to the 2020 census, Chicago’s population is currently 31.4 percent white, 29.9 percent Latino, 28.7 percent Black and 6.9 percent Asian. 

Both map proposals would create the city’s first Asian American majority ward centered around Chinatown by shifting the boundaries of the 11th ward, the longtime power base of the Daley family political dynasty. 

Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, the grandson of former Mayor Richard J. Daley and nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley was convicted of lying to federal authorities and undervaluing his income on tax returns on Monday. The guilty conviction forces Daley Thompson to resign and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has just under two months to nominate a replacement.

Although Lightfoot previously supported having an independent commission redraw the city’s ward map, she backed off that promise in office and has largely stayed on the sidelines during remap negotiations. 

Lightfoot’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alderpeople can still negotiate a compromise to avoid the referendum if a map is approved by City Council with 41 votes at least 40 days before the June 28 referendum. 

While the campaign spending on the referendum will likely tally in the millions, the Chicago Board of Elections has said it will cost taxpayers less than $600,000 to add a ward map question to the ballot, and much less if an additional printed page is not required.

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