Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus files for a public vote on ward maps

The move gives the Latino Caucus months of negotiating room as it pushes for more majority-Latino wards.

Ald. Silvana Tabares
Ald. Silvana Tabares, 23rd Ward, attends a City Council meeting at City Hall on September 18, 2019. The Latino Caucus, with the help of three other aldermen, filed a petition Thursday for a public referendum on the city's next ward maps. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Ald. Silvana Tabares
Ald. Silvana Tabares, 23rd Ward, attends a City Council meeting at City Hall on September 18, 2019. The Latino Caucus, with the help of three other aldermen, filed a petition Thursday for a public referendum on the city's next ward maps. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus files for a public vote on ward maps

The move gives the Latino Caucus months of negotiating room as it pushes for more majority-Latino wards.

The Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus is officially pushing for a public referendum that would likely be held in June to allow voters to decide between competing proposals on how to draw the city’s 50 wards.

A group of 15 aldermen filed a petition with the Chicago City Clerk Wednesday as a fail-safe “should data-driven negotiations and the promise of public hearings fail to happen, as has been the case throughout the past several weeks leading up to the Dec. 1 deadline,” a press release said.

The filing doesn’t make the referendum a sure thing just yet. Aldermen can continue to negotiate up until 40 days before the scheduled referendum, which would likely be held as part of the next regular election. The next election — the Illinois primaries — is June 28, giving aldermen until mid-May to reverse course.

The council overall could have avoided the potential for a referendum petition had they come to consensus and passed a map before midnight Wednesday. State law stipulates that after the missed deadline, 10 aldermen can ban together to file a petition for a referendum.

The move comes a day after the council’s Rules Committee, which leads the formal remapping process, finally unveiled a draft map that did not satisfy some members of the Latino Caucus.

“Months before yesterday’s deadline, our coalition requested that the new map—one that will determine city ward lines for the next 10 years—simply mirrors accurate population data, as required by law, and comes with public hearings,” Ald. Silvana Tabares, 23rd Ward, said in a press release. “That failed to happen and we’re not going to let political insiders entrenched in Madigan politics of decades past muscle through a map that unfairly represents all the communities of Chicago.”

The caucus was joined by a three other aldermen in filing the petition Thursday, Ald. Anthony Beale, Ald. Daniel La Spata and Ald. Brian Hopkins.

That Rules Committee map would create 14 majority-Latino wards and 16 majority-Black wards, with one “influence ward” where the largest racial demographic, but not the majority of the population, would be Black. It would also create the city’s first majority-Asian ward, anchored by Chinatown, which both sides have committed to doing.

But the Latino Caucus has said it won’t settle for fewer than 15 majority-Latino wards, citing census data that show Latinos make up the second largest racial and ethnic group in the city next to white Chicagoans.

The caucus is instead pushing for its own proposal released in October. That map, which has 15 sponsors, would increase the number of majority-Latino wards by two and decrease the number of majority-Black wards by the same number.

Currently, there are 13 majority-Latino and 18 majority-Black wards in the city.

Overall, Chicago’s population is 31.4% white, 29.8% Latino, 28.7% Black and 6.9% Asian. Chicago’s Latino population grew by 5% since 2010 amidst a nearly 10% drop among the African American population.

Aldermen are not allowed to increase the total number of wards — so increasing majority wards in one community often means taking from another.

Mariah Woelfel covers city government for WBEZ. Follow @mariahwoelfel.