An attempt to redraw Chicago’s wards into a so-called “People’s Map” has been abandoned by its creators, who said Wednesday they’re throwing their support instead to a map drawn by the City Council’s Latino Caucus.
But with the current impasse among aldermen over maps that would redraw wards for the first time in 10 years, the move of support may only push Chicago one step closer to a referendum, in which voters would in June get to decide how they want the city carved up.
Chicago aldermen have been bitterly divided over two different ward maps – the Coalition Map and one drawn by other aldermen through a process run by the City Council’s Rules Committee.
Both maps create the city’s first Asian-majority ward and include 16 majority-Black wards, down from the current 17. The key sticking point is how many wards would be majority Latino: 15 or 14. Currently, there are 13 majority-Latino wards.
Months of negotiations among aldermen have so far failed to forge a compromise. Unless at least 41 aldermen support one map, the dueling maps will be put to voters in a referendum on June 28.
Getting the support of the People’s Map backers could be a boon for the Latino Caucus come referendum time. More than 2,000 people signed on in support of the People’s Map and the group behind it, CHANGE Illinois, has a political action committee focused on changing the redistricting process.
Chaundra Van Dyk, the project manager for the People’s Map, said the group tried to “exhaust every opportunity” for their version of the map and the everyday Chicagoans who helped draw it. Ultimately, they knew it would not be considered through the official channels in City Council or at the ballot box.
“At some point, we have to accept… no one’s going to be bold enough to go against the City Council and put forth this new map that no politicians were involved in,” Van Dyk said.
Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th Ward, chair of the Black Caucus, said both the People’s Map and the map drawn by the Latino Caucus “disenfranchise Black voters and grossly reduce gains the Black community has made.”
“They completely deconstruct the entire West Side of Chicago, diluting Black voices in historic communities,” Ervin said. “The majority of the City Council stands firm in the map we’ve created that increases Latino wards, maintains Chicago’s Black vote in City Hall and creates our city’s first Asian American ward.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa, 35th Ward, disagreed, noting that all of the maps create the same number of Black wards. Chicago’s Black population has declined dramatically over the past two censuses.
He took issue with the battle of the ward map being a fight between Blacks and Latinos.
“The media has continued to focus on the Black Caucus versus the Latino Caucus, and I think the question here is really: What are the South Side Irish doing in all of this?” Ramirez Rosa said. He took aim at the Rules Committee’s lawyer, Michael Kasper, who has also represented Michael Madigan.
Ramirez Rosa said they’re hoping to incorporate elements of the People’s Map into the Coalition Map, but because of the way the law is written, that may not be possible through the referendum. He hopes additional aldermen will support the Coalition map, now that the People’s Map is behind it.
Ald. Michelle Harris, 8th Ward, chairs the Rules Committee and has been trying to get the Latino Caucus to come to the “map room” in City Hall and find a compromise.
“I’m still at the point where I want to be optimistic and say I’m still trying to get to 41 (votes),” Harris said. “Everybody has conceded. Everybody has given. Everybody has moved lines and worked with their neighbors… No mapping process gets everybody 100% of what they want.”
Becky Vevea covers Chicago government and politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.