Black redistricting

The Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus' proposed redistricting

The Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus is proposing that redistricting create 14 majority-Latino wards, 17 Black wards, 18 white wards and a new Asian-majority ward, while the City Council Latino Caucus' proposal has 16 majority-Black wards and 15 majority-Latino wards, with one majority-Asian ward and the rest majority-white.

The Black Caucus unveiled the plan on Monday, Nov. 22, at a press conference with Alds. Sophia King (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) in attendance. The Black Caucus' proposal divides the city into majority-Black, -white, -Latino and -Asian zones.

The council would have until Wednesday, Dec. 1., to redraw the lines and pass them with 41 favorable votes; otherwise, if 10 or more alderpersons back another map, Chicago voters would choose which ward map they want in next year's election.

"It's about having representation," Hairston said in a subsequent interview. "It's about being able to have a voice. It is about being able to have a minority elected — be that minority Hispanic, be that minority Asian, be that minority African American."

Hairston said the Black and Latino caucuses met on Sunday, Nov. 21, and are trying to find a compromise. Together, the caucuses have 32 members.

King did not respond to requests for comment about ward redistricting.

The Latino Caucus map has all 50 wards drawn already.

Another map is the so-called "People's Map" drafted by an independent commission of Chicagoans launched by good government advocacy organization Change Illinois after a series of public meetings. It too has 50 wards drawn, without the odd borders that have long defined Chicago ward geography. But the requisite 10 alderpersons have not signaled support for it.

Instead of dividing Hyde Park into two wards — as has been the case since Mayor Richard J. Daley tried to break the political support of independent, reform 5th Ward Ald. Leon Despres — the Latino Caucus' proposal would put all of Hyde Park into the 5th alongside parts of southern Bronzeville, eastern Woodlawn and South Shore, where Hairston lives.

The Latino Caucus' proposed 4th Ward is similar to its current iteration, the lakefront from South Loop to Kenwood. But its 20th Ward would drop its reach into Back of the Yards for a patch down the western side of the Dan Ryan Expressway to 79th Street.

The Tribune reports that the People's Map has 15 majority-Black and 14 majority-Latino wards.

On Nov. 17, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the redistricting process should not be done behind closed doors, and she said it should not be done last-minute. She said she hopes the ultimate remapping does not involve "carving up city neighborhoods into tiny little pieces." She said constituents from Englewood to Back of the Yards to Chinatown have told her that they do not know whom to hold accountable because they are "cut between three, four, five different aldermanic wards."

Chicago currently has 18 majority-Black wards, but the city's African American population is in decline. The 2020 Census found that, for the first time, Latino Chicagoans outnumbered Black Chicagoans.

Per the Tribune, the census found that African Americans now comprise 29% of Chicago's population, down from 32% in 2010, while Latinos are nearly 30% of the city's population and growing. White people are 31% of the city's population.

Though Chicago's Black population, which just two decades ago numbered more than 1 million, is in decline, it is growing on and near the South Side, in neighborhoods like Bronzeville, Washington Park, South Shore, Kenwood, Hyde Park — reversing short or long periods of population loss.

Currently, three South Side wards as drawn have gained population: the 3rd and 4th — which partly include South Loop, which has seen a large influx of residents — and the 5th. Third Ward Ald. Pat Dowell is currently running for Illinois secretary of state; if she wins next year's primary and general elections, the mayor would name her City Council successor.

Hairston observed that the last two censuses have seen Black population loss in Chicago and population gain among the city's Asian and Latino populations.

"Watching how things have been trending, now is the time for an Asian ward," she said. "For the last three remaps, the Asian population went from small, medium to large, every 10 years. So you can see that trend. The same with the Hispanics. And you saw the African American numbers trending downwards.

"I think you have to look at what was done in the city: the lack of investment, lack of opportunity. And then you have an aging population, people who have been here all their lives. And you have kids who go away to school and don't come back home to the communities that they lived in."

There is growing consensus that Chicago's Asian population, which now makes up 7% of the city's population, will have a population in which the race makes up a majority of the population. Both the Black and Latino caucuses support creating one, and one is created on the People's Map. All three proposals comprise Chinatown and Bridgeport, the long locus of the Daley political family but today, south of Chinatown and nearby the now-heavily Latino Southwest Side, minority-majority and plurality-Asian.

Taylor takes no position, stresses that she represents her Latino constituents

At least two of the community areas in Ald. Jeanette Taylor's currently configured 20th Ward, Woodlawn and Englewood, are currently losing population; for decades, that ward has been considered the Woodlawn ward, and Taylor lives there.

A member of the Black Caucus, Taylor declined to take a position on the number of majority-Black wards redistricting ought to yield.

"I'm not looking at the map in that way. That's not my responsibility. It's Jason Ervin's," the West Side 28th Ward alderman and caucus chair, Taylor said. "For me, it's the surrounding wards. Thinking that we've lost population, but think about this — I'm already majority-Black, but I do have a Latinx presence. And I do very well in the Back of the Yards, New City part of my ward."

Her office employs a Spanish speaker, and when she canvasses in Back of the Yards, she brings an interpreter with her.

Taylor said that the redistricting process should include the community, and she said she wished a more inclusive redistricting process with the government would have begun in January.

She does not support the People's Map proposal, saying it would not have gotten 10 alderpersons' support. But she does agree that redistricting by alderpersons is just going to result in gerrymandering, "not what's best for the people."

Nonetheless, Taylor said she has worked to represent her ward, which also includes southern Washington Park, since taking office in 2019. "I will be able to stay because I've done the work," she said. "Wherever they put me, I can always build those relationships."

Like many South Side alderpersons, Taylor rued the geographic size of her ward — given the South Side's lesser population density than the north, its wards are bigger — and said it takes her a month to get it clean.

"That's not fair to people when the grass is too high," she said. She complained that it takes residents 20 or 30 minutes to get to her ward office at 5707 S. Wentworth Ave., depending on traffic or the bus.

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