Mayor, Lori Lightfoot banged the gavel this week on a vote to approve a new ward map to take effect in 2023 on the question of the redistricting map for the next decade. The 43-7 vote map was enough to dodge a referendum, but some community organizations are saying the new map reflects the same old problems: no input from residents, neighborhoods carved up across ward boundaries, and borders drawn to punish political rivals.
“I was hopeful that the coalition would make it happen, get the residents’ voices heard,” said Hermosa Neighborhood Association vice president Alma Krueser. “The aldermen, city council, should be listening to residents’ concerns. In my case, I’m a resident of Hermosa and since my family moved in 1980, nothing has been done to make the community safer.”
Krueser said the new map will not change anything in how the Hermosa neighborhood operates.
“To be honest, I don’t see it there, I won’t see a difference. This is just the same old, same old,” she said.
CEO and founder of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood Asiaha Butler said she thinks Mayor Lightfoot, who declined to become involved with the remap debate, should have been more engaged in the process from the start.
“I served on the good governance committee for Lightfoot’s transition and this was one of the issues that we brought up, about the transparency with the remapping and to me it just seems like it was kind of the same,” Butler said.
“As the mayor of our city who also stood on transparency and really listening to the citizens of Chicago voices, I definitely think she should have intervened in this conversation and similarly to how they engage in INVEST South/West or any other projects that they want community input on,” Butler continued. “The map was actually more important to have that process done. So it was very disappointing that she didn’t take that leadership role to make sure that kind of the same old same old did not happen.”
The heel turn by some alderpeople prompted questions for CHANGE Illinois’ Chaundra Van Dyk, project manager of the Chicago advisory redistricting commission launched by that organization.
“It does leave one to wonder, what caused you to decide to go against everything that you stood for in regards to transparency and community engagement in the mapping process?” van Dyk said. “Obviously this wasn’t about communities … and specifically we see the same things happening in communities that significantly engaged with the commission?”
Illinois Latino Agenda 2.0 member Juan Morado Jr. said that while he foresees potential for legal challenges to the approved map, communities should redouble efforts to involve residents in the process for next time.
“What I do think is most important moving forward is a robust voter education engagement and registration effort. You have 14 majority Latino seats now that are in this new map that was passed, not all of those are represented by Latinos,” he said. “If we are as a community going to exercise our political muscle, it’s going to require engagement. It’s going to require registration and it’s going to require getting people to the polls so that we can put the folks who look like us in those positions of power to represent us.”
Van Dyk agreed that even more engagement with residents is needed to push back on business as usual in City Council.
“I think what’s next is that we continue to educate residents and to engage them differently in this process, to get them registered to vote, to help them understand why it’s important for them to have a voice in these processes and not continue to allow our elected officials to hinder us from having those voices in our communities,” Van Dyk said.
Disappointment in this map aside, Butler said she finds reason to hope for a better outcome next time.
“When we first started doing this work, a lot of folks were not interested. This time around, people were involved because it was an avenue for people’s voices to be heard through the coalition,” she said. “I’m optimistic that the two wards that have the majority of Englewood will be stronger advocates than what we have right now.”