Showdown Set Over Ward Remap as Deadline Looms

Video: Casino sites, gas card giveaways, and an ethics package, Alderpeople Brian Hopkins, Gilbert Villegas, Pat Dowell and Jason Ervin discuss City Council’s to-do list. (Produced by Blair Paddock)

Members of the Chicago City Council who support the map backed by the Latino Caucus will attempt on Wednesday to revise the map set to go before voters in June to reflect a compromise hammered out with an independent commission.

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However, supporters of the map backed by the Black Caucus are expected to block that effort, accusing the Latino Caucus of asking for a mulligan in the racially polarizing debate over what the boundaries of the city’s 50 wards should look like after the 2020 census.

Unless 41 alderpeople agree on a map in the next 23 days, Chicago voters will decide between the two maps for the first time in 30 years as part of the June 28 primary election.

Black Caucus Chair Ald. Jason Ervin (28th Ward) said during an interview Tuesday on “Chicago Tonight” that he was open to additional negotiations but will not accept a map that creates 15 wards with a majority of Latino voters as demanded by the Latino Caucus.

“I’m hopeful that people do get an opportunity to sit down and come to a rational conclusion,” Ervin said. “As I’ve stated before, the African American community will not live on its knees.”

Latino Caucus Chair Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) said he was also willing to negotiate with the Black Caucus, especially since U.S. Census officials believe both Latinos and Black Chicagoans were undercounted.

A coalition of community groups led by Change Illinois joined forces with the Latino Caucus in February, dropping its push to convince City Council members to give up the power to pick their own voters, while punishing their enemies and boosting their allies with a map that will determine political power in Chicago for the next decade.

But because the Latino Caucus had already filed their initial proposed map with the city clerk, triggering a referendum, the map could not be easily revised. 

To allow that, a majority of the City Council would have to vote to suspend the rules at Wednesday’s meeting and then vote to approve one of the two maps at issue.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) said she would not vote to suspend the rules.

The revised map the Latino Caucus would like to put to voters would craft two wards, rather than three wards, to include Englewood, with the dividing line drawn between Englewood and West Englewood, officials said. In addition, Woodlawn and Washington Park would be in the same ward, officials said.

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 people of Chicago are 31.4% white, 29.9% Latino, 28.7% Black and 6.9% Asian, according to the 2020 U.S. census.

The map supported by the Black Caucus crafts 16 wards with a majority of Black voters, one ward with a plurality of Black voters and 14 wards with a majority of Latino voters.

Thirty-three alderpeople support the map backed by the Black Caucus — eight short of the votes needed to avert a referendum in June. Two alderpeople have yet to back either map: newly appointed Ald. Nicole Lee (11th Ward) and indicted Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward), who has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of bribery, extortion and corruption.

The months-long dispute has grown increasingly acrimonious, with Harris calling members of the Latino Caucus “crybabies.” Harris also serves as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader.

Lightfoot has refused to weigh in on the debate, and neither side has welcomed her support as she prepares to launch a reelection campaign.

Video: Casino sites, gas card giveaways, and an ethics package, Alderpeople Brian Hopkins, Gilbert Villegas, Pat Dowell and Jason Ervin discuss City Council’s to-do list. (Produced by Blair Paddock)

In addition to the showdown over the ward map, Ethics Committee Ald. Michele Smith (43rd Ward) plans to introduce an overhaul of the city’s ethics ordinance that would hike the fine for violating it to $20,000.

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) and Dowell said they were open to making those changes, which are backed by the Chicago Board of Ethics.

The City Council is also expected to confirm the appointment of Deborah Witzburg as inspector general, 193 days after former Inspector General Joseph Ferguson left office.

Ervin and Villegas said he expected the mayor’s plan to use $12.5 million in city funds to give away 50,000 cards with $150 worth of gas as well as 100,000 passes that will cover $50 worth of CTA rides to be approved by the City Council.

“We know that many members of our community are hurting,” Ervin said.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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