CHICAGO — Enough aldermen struck a tentative compromise on Monday over a new ward map to avoid tossing the issue to voters in the June 28 primary, multiple sources told The Daily Line on Monday.
The new map includes 16 majority-Black wards plus the “Black influence” 27th Ward, 14 majority-Latino wards and one majority-Asian American ward and has secured more than the 41 votes needed to avoid a referendum, according to officials. Members of the Latino Caucus have repeatedly said in recent months said that would not agree to a map that includes fewer than 15 majority-Latino wards following steady Latino population growth since 2010.
“I’m thrilled my colleagues have come together in compromise in what has been a long and challenging process,” City Council rules committee chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) wrote in a statement late Monday. “I am ready to move our city forward with the Chicago United Map, as it represents a fair map for all Chicagoans. I have always wanted to avoid a costly referendum for Chicago’s taxpayers, and today we achieved that.”
Up until the end of last week, two groups of aldermen could not agree on ward boundaries and negotiations were rocked when one member of the Latino Caucus, Ald. Felix Cardona (31st) switched his allegiance from the Latino Caucus-backed map proposal to the map drawn under the leadership of the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules.
Monday’s compromise came more than five months after aldermen missed a critical Dec. 1 deadline to vote on a new ward map before aldermen could band together to file for a referendum vote. It will take 41 aldermen to approve a new map before May 19 in order to avoid a referendum.
Following another furious round of negotiations on Wednesday, the supermajority group of mostly white and Black aldermen “peeled off” enough members of the Latino Caucus to surpass the magic number of 41, according to a source close to the process.
Negotiations contorted the “Chicago United Map” drafted by the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules to earn the support of multiple aldermen on the progressive flank of the Latino Caucus. The latest draft map leaves others, including Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd), Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Latino Caucus chair Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), out in the cold.
The 36th ward “straightened out a bit” from the latest draft of the “Chicago United Map,” which strung it from Galewood near the city’s western limit to Logan Square on the Near Northwest Side, a source close to the remap process told The Daily Line on Monday. But the ward “still looks really, really ugly,” the person said.
“The 36th in the map is the ugliest ward in the history of Chicago. It’s absolutely obscene,” the person said, adding that the ward as sketched looks like a “pool noodle.”
“To solve the problem, they just sacrificed Gil,” the person said.
The “Coalition Map” group led by Villegas issued a searing statement around 7 p.m. Monday saying that the map proves “41 aldermen will sacrifice equity to save themselves.”
“Today, Chicagoans lost,” the group wrote in their statement. “Advocates for fair maps lost. Forty-one Aldermen decided to throw out census data in favor of a highly gerrymandered ward map. So-called ‘reformers’ made backroom deals and decided that voters shouldn’t be allowed to choose their map, and that’s something the People’s Coalition Map has always stood for.
“We’re disappointed some of our colleagues chose to save themselves over the Latino community,” the statement continued. “This ‘Welcoming City’s’ elected representatives have proven that they’ll let us in, but our voices do not count.”
Negotiations got a major late push from the progressive organizing group United Working Families when its leaders entered the fray with its City Council allies in an attempt to force a late deal. The group developed an official position earlier this year that aldermen should work to avoid a referendum, which would “not be in the interests of our shared vision of multiracial working class solidarity,” United Working Families executive director Emma Tai told The Daily Line Monday evening.
Last week, when the core of the “Coalition Map” group appeared to be “crumbling” as some members looked to switch over, “we urged our members to go in and see what could be secured in the best interests of the communities that they represent, and in the interest of keeping communities together to be in a better position to fight displacement and organize for the resources that folks deserve.”
Madeleine Doubek, executive director of CHANGE Illinois, which organized residents to draw their own ward map proposal through the Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission, told The Daily Line on Monday that the organization was not involved in the most recent negotiations and was learning of the details through the news media Monday evening.
“It’s again not surprising but terribly disappointing and disrespectful to the people of the city of Chicago who have made it clear for years now that they want to have a say in helping shape their wards and their communities,” Doubek said. “And apparently a super-majority believes they know better and have caved once again to the power of Mike Madigan.”
Doubek said CHANGE Illinois’ work on the new ward map proposal began “a long time ago” but “at the 11th-and-a-half hour once again the non-transparent backroom deals are getting cut and the people and their interests are falling by the wayside.”
Asked around 7 p.m. Monday whether she would support the deal, Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) said she was “working toward a solution.”
“I would like nothing more than to get this done and to come to a compromise,” Garza told The Daily Line. “I want to be optimistic.”
Ramirez-Rosa, La Spata, Lopez and Hopkins declined to comment on the compromise on Monday. Tabares did not respond to a request for comment.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the compromise Wednesday night, writing in a statement that “it is a good thing that an overwhelming majority of City Council members have come together and reached a compromise on a new ward map.”
“The road was difficult and raised a number of issues around representation for people of color who historically have been locked out of corridors of power,” the mayor wrote in her statement. “Not everyone got exactly what they wanted, but forging a compromise and avoiding a referendum is in everyone’s best interests.”
“With this compromise, the City Council can now devote its full attention to the more immediate needs of our city like keeping our communities safe and driving our equitable economic recovery from the pandemic,” she added.
In order to vote on a the compromise ward map by the May 19 deadline, the City Council will have to call a special meeting before its regularly scheduled monthly meeting set for May 23.
Aldermen who backed the “Chicago United Map” during the past several weeks put pressure on their colleagues and residents to support their map, touting a list of endorsements from six labor groups and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. The list included IUOE Local 399, IBEW Local 134, Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2, LiUNA Chicagoland Laborers’ District Council, Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council and IUOE Local 150.
As of Monday evening, none of the labor groups had made donations of $1,000 or more to the “Chicago United Map” ballot initiative fundraising committee, according to the state Board of Elections . But unions often sit on large sums of money available for donations and regularly make thousands of dollars in donations to local candidates. They can also turn out their members in droves, which can make all the difference in obscure or down-ballot races.
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The Latino Caucus-backed map, on the other hand, netted more than $100,000 in donations since the group launched its ballot initiative committee in February. The most recent large donation, recorded at $15,000, came from Toro Construction Corp. The fundraising committee also received donations from Architect Juan Moreno, state Rep. Aaron Ortiz (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Edgar Gonzalez Jr. (D-Chicago).
The coalition of mostly Latino aldermen had wanted to amend some of the ward boundaries on their map approved for the June ballot to include suggestions made by CHANGE Illinois, which endorsed the map in February.
But state law does not allow for a map to be decertified or withdrawn after it’s been approved, and aldermen cannot simply submit a new petition to place a tweaked map on the ballot because state law bans aldermen from putting their names on more than one map in a referendum.