The Chicago City Council missed Wednesday’s deadline to pass a new ward map, as negotiations reached an impasse over the boundaries that will shape Chicago politics for the next decade and determine the balance of power between Black, Latino and Asian Chicagoans.
The City Council met briefly Wednesday afternoon, allowing Rules Committee Chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) an opportunity to unveil the map drawn behind closed doors and supported by the City Council’s Black Caucus.
Harris said she would hold two public hearings on the proposal next week, but did not expect to call for a vote until after the holidays.
“We’re going to sit down and work,” Harris said, calling the map released Wednesday a “starting point.”
However, the City Council did not debate or vote on that proposal — or the latest map proposed by the City Council’s Latino Caucus.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not attend Wednesday’s City Council meeting, traveling instead to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal officials to discuss President Joe Biden’s infrastructure agenda as well as COVID-19 relief efforts.
In a virtual news conference with reporters, Lightfoot said the remap fight was “inside baseball” not of interest of Chicagoans focused on “jobs and safety.” The mayor said her time was much better spent ensuring Chicago gets its fair share of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and helping shape the second part of the president’s plan awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Maps from both groups would redraw the 11th Ward to create a ward centered around Chinatown with a majority of Asian American voters, carving up the heart of the political empire that elected former Mayors Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley and ruled the city for decades.
That proposal comes over the vehement objections of the mayors’ grandson and nephew Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th Ward), who is scheduled to stand trial in February on charges that he submitted false tax returns and lied to FBI agents.
As early as Thursday, members of the Latino Caucus, led by Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward), could file their revised map with the Chicago City Clerk’s office to trigger a referendum on June 28, 2022, sending both maps to Chicago voters to decide the fate of Chicago’s 50 alderpeople for the first time in 30 years.
However, negotiations could continue until mid-May in the hopes that 41 members of the City Council could agree on a map and avert a referendum.
The map supported by the Black Caucus has 16 wards with a majority of Black voters, even though Black Caucus Chair Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) insisted for months that he would not support a map with fewer than 18 wards with a majority of Black voters, unchanged from the current map. The 27th Ward, now represented by Ald. Walter Burnett, would have a plurality of Black voters.
The map backed by the Black Caucus crafts 14 wards with a majority of Latino voters. However, the Latino Caucus has drawn a map with 15 wards with a majority of Latino voters, and its members said again Wednesday they will not accept a map with any fewer.
The map supported by the Black Caucus has 34 co-sponsors, seven short of what it needs to become law.
Eleven City Council members joined the Latino Caucus at a Wednesday news conference, decrying the closed-door sessions held by the Rules Committee as the “least transparent process” in the city’s history.
“We are united,” said Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd Ward). “We are not going to get screwed like we did 10 years ago.”
Members of the Latino Caucus believe that the remap after the 2010 census did not accurately reflect Chicago’s Latino population, and too few wards with a majority of Latino residents were created.
Always fraught, this year’s remapping effort is particularly tense because of the city’s changing racial makeup. While Chicago’s Black population dropped 10%, its Latino population jumped 5% and its Asian American population surged 30%, according to the 2020 census.
State law requires Chicago wards to be “nearly equal as practicable” while being as “contiguous” and “compact” as possible while complying with the Voting Rights Act, which is designed to protect the voting rights of Black, Latino and Asian residents.
Since Chicago’s population in 2020 was 2,746,388 residents, each ward should have 54,928 residents, according to data presented to the Chicago City Council.
The map released Wednesday with the support of the Black Caucus changed the boundaries of the 14th Ward, which has been represented for more than 50 years by Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward).
Lightfoot declined to answer a question from WTTW News about whether she urged those crafting the map released Wednesday to reduce the number of white voters in Burke’s Southwest Side ward and make it more difficult for him to win a 14th term on the Chicago City Council.
The Black Caucus’ map would move the 34th Ward — now on the Far South Side, which saw a steep drop in population during the past decade — to the booming area south and west of the Loop.
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th Ward), the second longest serving member of the City Council, confirmed Wednesday she plans to retire after her term ends in 2023.
Austin is awaiting trial on charges she took bribes and lied to FBI agents. Austin has pleaded not guilty.
The Black Caucus’ map also shifts the massive Lincoln Yards development from Ald. Brian Hopkins’ 2nd Ward to Ald. Scott Waguespack’s 32nd Ward. While Hopkins shepherded the proposal through a highly contentious approval process in 2019, Waguespack opposed the proposal.
Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]