Tensions within the Black Caucus escalated this week as Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward) joined the Latino Caucus after he accused Black Caucus Chairman Jason Ervin (28th Ward) of barring him from a room where contentious talks regarding remapping the city’s wards were underway.
The allegations capped an intense week that led to the cancellation of a critical City Council vote on a new map that would have taken away two of the city’s 18 Black wards and added two to Latino wards.
The new map would have given the Latino community 15 wards and Blacks just 16. After backroom talks failed to help produce at least 41 votes, necessary to pass the proposal, the City Council vote was called off on the day of the December 1 deadline. That move was likely after the Rules Committee Chair Michelle Harris (8th Ward) canceled its plans to vote on the 50- ward map a day earlier.
While some officials hope to continue negotiations for a new ward map, others believe it will lead to an expensive referendum that will go before voters. If that happens, Black wards may be in jeopardy because of historic low voter turnout in most of those wards.
While chaos engulfed City Hall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot drew criticism for flying to Washington as she was accused of dodging a divisive battle between two minority groups that voted her into office. Chicago’s first Black female mayor claims her trip involved securing federal funding for COVID-19 relief and infrastructure projects, but questions remain as to whether that trip was more of a priority than meeting the December 1 deadline amidst a messy remap process that may cost the city millions it cannot afford during the ongoing pandemic.
There were reports that Lightfoot planned to veto the map because it protected indicted Alderman Ed Burke’s, 14th Ward. But that may have given Lightfoot a way to avoid taking a stand on the battle between the Black and Latino caucuses.
Alderman Beale is Lightfoot’s biggest critic among the 20 Black aldermen. He broke with the Black Caucus this week after clashing with its chairman, Alderman Ervin, when talks involved removing the diverse and voter-rich Pullman neighborhood from Alderman Beale’s ward, which also includes the less affluent West Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods.
Before the Rules Committee canceled its plans to vote on the map, Alderman Beale, in an interview with WGN 720 Radio, said he was trying to enter a room where talks were being held when Alderman Ervin stopped him from entering.
“I was told that I could not go in the room with the Black Caucus by the chairman of the Black Caucus,” Alderman Beale said. “I know where that came from, and I know he’s doing that on behalf of the mayor because there are certain people in this process that are constantly trying to be heard.”
A critic of Mayor Lightfoot, Alderman Beale believes his ward is under attack.
When WGN 720 Radio asked him, “So, they’re trying to draw you out?” Alderman Beale responded, “Absolutely. They’re trying to take the Pullman area out of my community. They’re trying to take all the best housing stock out of my community and all these things were done without talking with me and working with me, and so I went and saw there was a coalition of people. And I went to join the coalition because I have to do what’s right for my community and fight for my community.”
In a brief interview with the Crusader, Beale reaffirmed his move to the Latino Caucus came when learned that he was being allegedly shut out of the remap talks by the Black Caucus.
“I knew I was being dismissed when I was being denied access by Ervin and the Rules Committee,” he said.
Sources confirmed to the Crusader that Beale found out that his ward was being redrawn when he was informed by Alderman Susan Sadowski Garza. Beale then went into the room and saw the Black Caucus ward remap that confirmed what he had been told.
Alderman Ervin did not respond to an email by Crusader press time Wednesday for its print edition.
Alderman Beale said he accused the Black Caucus of lacking transparency in the remap process.
“This is my third remap and this has been the least transparent remap that I have been through. They let some people in the room, [sic] some people not in the room. There’s a lot of pettiness and vindictiveness that’s going on in this process and the [Rules] Committee is not following the law. They’re not following the numbers as far as the Census is concerned. That’s why we’re in the position we’re in now where we’re gridlocked because the whole process has been foiled.”
Last September in an article in the Sun-Times, Beale questioned the Census figures that show Chicago’s Black population shrank by over 86,000 residents.
He said, “I just can’t believe that certain communities have had that kind of drop in population. I just think the manpower was not put in the African American community to go door-to-door. I would like to see the data that shows where resources were put and how people were counted.”
Alderman Beale criticized Lightfoot for being out of town on the day the Council was to vote on a new map.
“I am extremely shocked and disappointed that with this critical issue before us that we do every 10 years you leave town. Whatever is in Washington, you couldn’t wait another week? We’re mandated by federal law to pass a map by December and do not have the mayor in the city working along with the city of Chicago—this potentially could cost us $50 million if we go to a referendum.
And so, knowing that everything is on the line I think everybody should be all-hands-on-deck to get a deal done so we would [not] have to spend money.”
Alderman Beale said in 1990 a similar referendum cost the city $20 million.
Despite the potential cost, Alderman Beale and the Latino Caucus reportedly are pushing the referendum to go before voters. At least 10 aldermen are needed to force such a move.
He said, “Based on what I have seen, the lack of leadership, the lack of input that is going on in this particular map, I don’t see how we can avoid a referendum unless there’s a real honest conversation that brings people in, put their feelings aside, their emotions aside, their vindictiveness aside, the pettiness aside, and do what’s right by the people of this great city of Chicago.”
The Black Caucus wants 17 Black wards and 14 Latino wards. Politico reported Wednesday, December 1, that Alderman Harris enlisted union leaders to try to convince Latino Caucus members to get them on board, but that did not work.
Politico also reported that the Latino Caucus has formed a political action committee with $1 million in commitments to fund a campaign that will be needed to inform voters about its coalition map that they hope will be on the referendum.