A compromise is struck on a new Chicago City Council ward map

Under the deal, which still needs to be cemented by a Chicago City Council vote next week, the map will create 16 Black majority wards and 14 Latino majority wards — one fewer than the Latino caucus had fought for.

city hall
A newly created ward map appears to have enough support in the Chicago City Council to avoid forcing a public referendum on the new boundaries. Anthony Vazquez / Chicago Sun-Times
city hall
A newly created ward map appears to have enough support in the Chicago City Council to avoid forcing a public referendum on the new boundaries. Anthony Vazquez / Chicago Sun-Times

A compromise is struck on a new Chicago City Council ward map

Under the deal, which still needs to be cemented by a Chicago City Council vote next week, the map will create 16 Black majority wards and 14 Latino majority wards — one fewer than the Latino caucus had fought for.

WBEZ brings you fact-based news and information. Sign up for our newsletters to stay up to date on the stories that matter.

A deal has been struck on a new Chicago City Council ward map that will keep the decision from ending up in the hands of voters in the form of a June referendum.

Under the deal, which still must be cemented by a City Council vote next week, the map will create 16 Black majority wards and 14 Latino majority wards, according to Ald. George Cardenas (12th).

Faced with a May 19 deadline to work it out themselves, the agreement calls for one fewer majority Latino ward than the Latino caucus had wanted.

The proposed map also contains the city’s first Asian-American-majority ward.

Demographics are key to ward map negotiations.

The city’s Black population is shrinking while the city’s Latino population is growing.

“There’s no need to bring the house down. We can own the house,” Cardenas said, referring to the next remap — in 10 years.

“Our day is coming for sure. We have to be patient and humble,” he said.

Cardenas offered a “kudos” to Mayor Lori Lightfoot for her work on Monday to facilitate the agreement and getting all sides to sign on to the map.

Cardenas is grateful the map won’t go to a referendum vote — a measure that, he said, would have siphoned energy from council members to deal with pressing issues like crime and approving a city casino.

“At the end of the day, everyone saw it was in everyone’s best interest to try to solve this,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), head of the council’s Black Caucus.

“As a city, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Lightfoot issued a statement praising the deal.

“It is a good thing that an overwhelming majority of City Council members have come together and reached a compromise on a new ward map. The road was difficult and raised a number of issues around representation for people of color who historically have been locked out of corridors of power. Not everyone got exactly what they wanted, but forging a compromise and avoiding a referendum is in everyone’s best interests,” she said.

Lightfoot also thanked Ald. Michelle Harris, chairwoman of the council’s rules committee, “who did a yeoman’s job to bring her Council colleagues together to get this done for the residents of Chicago. …With this compromise, the City Council can now devote its full attention to the more immediate needs of our city like keeping our communities safe and driving our equitable economic recovery from the pandemic.”

But the compromise map did not sit well with the reform group CHANGE Illinois, which had created a “People’s Map” drawn up by an independent commission. That group eventually forged a partnership with the Latino Caucus, which modified its map to reflect some aspects of the “People’s Map.”

With neither that revised map or the previous Chicago United map getting enough support, the matter appeared headed to a referendum — until the late deal, which involved enough Latino Caucus members agreeing to give up the fight.

“If 41 or more elected council members proceed with a backroom map no Chicagoan has seen, the people of Chicago will have been completely and blatantly disrespected and dismissed by the very people who are supposed to represent them,” CHANGE Illinois said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.

“For years, people in Chicago have made it clear they want a say in shaping their wards and their communities. For so many elected officials to turn their backs on the people and break their repeated promises in order to yet again to serve their own self interests is beyond disheartening,” the group said.

Though the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice praised the creation of the city’s first ward with an Asian American majority, centered on Chinatown, it said it was “deeply disappointed” that the West Ridge Asian American community remains split between two wards.“Asian American representation in City Hall has been long-overdue,” said Justin Sia of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago. “Our historic redistricting achievements will allow Asian American voters to have greater influence in local elections and will help elevate the unique issues that impact our community.”