CHICAGO — Move over, lobster ward — Chicago’s about to get a pool noodle ward.
Under the proposed ward map unveiled Monday, which has garnered the support of a majority of the city’s aldermen, the newly redrawn 36th Ward is a stick-like, 7-mile-long diagonal line tracing Grand Avenue from Damen Avenue to Oak Park Avenue. As such, it’s being slammed by its current alderman and has become the source of jokes on social media.
The newly drawn ward would cover a stretch of the Northwest Side from West Town to Montclare, near the city’s border with Elmwood Park. The current 36th Ward covers a portion of the Northwest Side near the intersection of Fullerton and Narragansett avenues.
The redrawn ward is being criticized by some elected officials and political observers as an extreme case of gerrymandering.
“The 36th in the map is the ugliest ward in the history of Chicago. It’s absolutely obscene,” a source close to the remap process told The Daily Line. The person added that the ward as sketched looks like a “pool noodle.”
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said his ward’s proposed redrawn boundaries “disenfranchises” Northwest Side neighborhoods and “disrespects” the Latino community.
“You can barely call it a ward,” Villegas said Tuesday. “It doesn’t really connect communities. It’s a slap in the face to the Latino community to even draft a ward like that.”
Villegas, who was once Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader, led the group of alders that supported the “Coalition Map.” Some alders who previously supported the Coalition Map have moved over to support the Chicago United Map, which has proposed the new 36th Ward along Grand Avenue.
The “Chicago United Map” has the support of 41 alders, enough for it to pass through City Council and avoid going to a referendum by which voters would decide on the new city ward map.
Villegas slammed the Chicago United Map, saying it does more to preserve existing alders’ seats than it does to represent the city’s Latino community.
“Back room deals were cut in order for self-preservation,” he said. “I cannot support a map that sells out the Latino community.”
The proposed 36th Ward map is drawing jeers on social media, too, with some saying its an even more brazen use of gerrymandering than Chicago’s 2nd Ward, which famously resembles the shape or a lobster.
Villegas said the 2nd Ward, redrawn after the 2010 census, is still a worse case of gerrymandering that the proposed 36th Ward. But “the fact that they’re disenfranchising communities puts it in the top 5,” he said of his new proposed ward.
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.
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