The Black Caucus map, also called the City Council Rules Committee map.

The Black Caucus map, also called the City Council Rules Committee map.

Ward remap battles continue

Latino/black clash may drag on for months

By Tim Hadac

A ward remapping process that was supposed to be finalized by Dec. 1 may instead drag into next May and possibly beyond, as Democratic political bosses continue to butt heads—mostly out of view of the public.

Dueling political interests—primarily black and Latino—are battling over who gets what turf. Black aldermen are trying to hold onto gains they’ve made in decades past, and Latino aldermen are demanding more seats that reflect Hispanic population growth in the city in recent years.

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The Black Caucus map, also known as the City Council Rules Committee map. –Supplied image

Chicago’s Latino community is “not going to get screwed like we did 10 years ago,” 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares said at a City Hall press conference, as her Hispanic colleagues—including Southwest Side Aldermen George Cardenas (12th), Raymond Lopez (15th) and Michael Rodriguez (22nd)—nodded their heads in concurrence.

Tabares criticized two political interests she euphemistically called her “neighbors”—but when pressed by reporters, admitted she was referring to 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn and 14th Ward Ald. Edward M. Burke–and blamed them for one draft version of the map that threw the 23rd Ward entirely east of Midway Airport—five miles away from her home in Garfield Ridge.

Quinn and Burke have offered little to no on-record comments about the draft maps or the map-making process. What little Quinn has said openly has had a conciliatory, coalition-building tone designed to burnish his image as a political bridge builder.

Every 10 years

The Illinois Constitution requires all population-based political maps to be redrawn every 10 years–as new Census statistics become available—to reflect population shifts. Demographically, Chicago is currently about equal shares (30%) black, white and Latino, with the rest mostly Asian.

GSWNH LatinoCaucusMap 121021

The map favored by the City Council Latino Caucus. –Supplied image

In a perfect world, each city ward would contain about 54,900 residents; and on the map, each ward would resemble a square or at least a rectangle.

In both the map put forth by the City Council’s Latino Caucus and the one submitted by the Black Caucus, some wards look less like squares and more like ink blots on a Rorschach test.

They look that way, some critics say, because the boundaries have been drawn to protect the powerful at the expense of weaker aldermen.

Lopez knows about that. A decade ago, he was essentially mapped out of his own ward just after he was elected 15th Ward Democratic committeeman.

He said a similar thing may be happening this year to Aarón Ortíz, who last year unseated Burke as Democratic committeeman of the 14th Ward. In a tweet, Lopez described the move against Ortíz as “politricks.”

The Black Caucus map—also known as the City Council Rules Committee map—is said to have the support of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. The mayor has tried to avoid the appearance of influencing the mapmaking process, but she has publicly threatened to veto any map that protects Burke’s political interests. She did not define what exactly that means. She also has been accused by some of trying to map out political opponents, like Ninth Ward Ald. Anthony Beale.

If aldermen do not come to agreement with at least 41 votes by late May, competing ward maps may be subject to a referendum vote in the June 28, 2022 primary election. Chicago voters have not seen a ward remap referendum since 1992.

Even after a new ward map is approved, it may be subject to lawsuits.

Lopez said remapping delays “only benefit incumbents, who can see who’s planning to run against them and then map them out of the ward…it also makes it hard for challengers to run, since they aren’t even certain what ward they’ll be living in. This could put the city in a [political] lurch for months and even years.”

In a tweet, Lopez described the remap process as “a load of bullsh~t doublespeak.”

City Council Rules Committee Chair Michelle Harris (8th) said her committee has hosted six public hearings on redistricting since September. Late last week, she announced two more for this week, to be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 7 and 1 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10. She later announced more public hearings on the matter:

Thursday, Jan. 6 at 10 a.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 1 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 13 at 10 a.m.
Friday, Jan. 21 at 10 a.m.

Harris said she will provide City Council members with copies of the maps so they can display them publicly in their communities. Harris also reminded her colleagues that the map room remains open, and she invited her colleagues to schedule time to meet and work together either in person or virtually.

Harris and the Rules Committee released a proposed map Dec. 1 that has the support of 34 aldermen, following six public hearings and months of collaboration among a diverse set of City Council members. The Rules Committee map was informed by citizen input gathered during hearings, submitted in writing, shared at local meetings held by aldermen, and submitted through a free, online redistricting tool.

To watch the hearings and find instructions for how to participate in public comment, visit ChiCityClerk.com. Written public comment can be sent to [email protected] until 10 a.m. the day before each hearing.

“My priority in leading the city’s re-mapping has always been to push for compromise and consensus that results in the fairest map for all communities,” Harris said in a statement. “I am asking all Council members to work together, to listen to what the public is asking for, and to try to agree on a map that best serves all the diverse communities of Chicago for the next decade.”

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