After months of concerns from Latino aldermen seeking more representation as the city’s largest minority and one week before the December 1 deadline, the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus unveiled its draft of the city’s ward remap on Monday, November 22, at the Harold Washington Center in Bronzeville.
Aldermen representing Latino wards were disappointed when Alderman Jason Ervin (28th Ward) unveiled a ward remap that would give up just one Black ward and give the Latino community 14 wards, instead of 15. Currently there are 13 Latino wards.
Under the Black Caucus’ draft, most of the 18 white wards would be on the North and Northwest sides of the city. The 19th Ward, the only predominately white ward on the Southwest Side, will remain the same. The 11th Ward would be for the first time ever an Asian American ward, which includes the home of the Daley family’s political dynasty in the Bridgeport neighborhood.
The Black Caucus filed its draft with the city’s Rules Committee, headed by Alderman Michelle Harris (8th Ward).
The Black Caucus did not specify which Black ward will be eliminated under the plan. Instead of redrawing boundaries, the Black Caucus drafted a map that shows regions where they believe wards can be remapped. That job will be left up to individual aldermen.
“We believe this is a good opportunity for all of Chicago,” said Ervin, Chairman of the Black Caucus. “I think that we have focused our efforts on being intentional about protecting our community but at the same time recognizing that other communities have made gains in the city and, again, this is where we are, and we believe that this is fair for all of Chicago.”
The Black Caucus draft falls short in pleasing the Latino Caucus, which last month unveiled its draft, which would give Chicago 15 Latino wards, one more than the Black Caucus’ plan.
Latino Caucus Chairman Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) said the Black Caucus’ plan “disenfranchises” their community by making it difficult for Latinos to get elected to the City Council.
“If this is something that the Black Caucus wants to use to start discussions, I can tell you that they’re off on the wrong foot,” Villegas (36th) said in the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Black Caucus’ cartographer Edward Sarpolus, who drafted the plan, said he based the plan on whether neighborhoods can win elections. He said a lot of voters are under 18 in the Asian and Latino communities, raising questions as to whether they can win that ward. Sarpolus said he applied the same standard to predominately Black wards.
In response to Sarpolus’ claims, Villegas said, “Our mapmaker was able to draw 15 wards and, quite frankly, we could’ve drawn 16, but we went with 15 because we wanted to make sure that these were opportunity wards that would allow for the opportunity to elect a representative from the community.” Villegas said adding those wards is “defensible” and could sustain a legal challenge.
Ervin said the Latino map “attacked the African American community” and said he believes 14 Latino wards are an appropriate number for electability for those particular communities.
As she seeks re-election for a second term, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has remained neutral on the remap issue throughout the year. However, Latino aldermen have stepped up their pressure on Lightfoot, who in recent months has appointed Latinos to head the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District.
The Sun-Times reported that Lightfoot, at an unrelated news conference, said the two sides “put their stakes in the ground” too early and now must reach a compromise.
“The fact of the matter is, if they don’t reach a compromise, most of the members of the City Council are going to lose — most of them will lose, some won’t, but most of them will,” Lightfoot said. “Because, if they throw this to a referendum, anything is possible … they’ve got to recognize the art of compromise.”
Last month, the Latino Caucus submitted their ward remap, which takes away Alderman Carrie Austin’s 34th Ward and David Moore’s 17th Ward. Under the Latino Caucus plan, the 34th Ward, which includes Morgan Park, Pullman and Roseland, would be moved to the Near North Side, where it would be 63 percent white.
Alderman Howard Brookins’ 21st Ward would absorb the neighborhood areas currently included in the 34th Ward. It would be sandwiched between Alderman Anthony Beale’s 9th Ward and Alderman Matthew O’Shea’s 19th Ward, which is predominately white.
Currently, the 34th Ward is reportedly the smallest of the 50 wards with a population of just 44,000 residents. Because Chicago’s population in 2020 was 2,746,388 residents, each ward must have 54,928 residents. Blacks, Latinos and other minority groups are protected under the Voting Rights Act.
The Latino Caucus draft would move Moore’s 17th Ward further west to Marquette Park, making it a Latino ward.
According to the 2020 Census, Latinos passed Blacks as Chicago’s largest minority. The Hispanic population increased by 5.2 percent, or 40,656 people, to 819,518. The city’s Black population dropped by 86,413 people, to 801,195. The white population increased by 8,905, for a total of 863,622 residents. The Asian American population saw the largest growth by 45,420 people for a total of 192,586 people.
In news reports, Alderman Ervin called the Latino Caucus draft “illegal” and “has no chance of passing.”
The clash may lead to a divided City Council that must pass the new map by 26 votes. If that happens, the issue will go before voters in a referendum, unless the City Council comes up with 41 votes to avoid the issue going to the polls.
A “People’s Map,” created by Change Illinois activists after several public meetings, was also introduced Monday. It includes 15 Black wards and 14 Latino wards.