Controversy surrounds new Chicago ward map

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.

Ald. Michelle Harris, chairwoman of the City Council’s Rules Committee, announced the deal Monday night on new boundaries for Chicago’s 50 wards.

"I’m thrilled my colleagues have come together in compromise in what has been a long and challenging process," Harris said. "I am ready to move our city forward with the Chicago United Map, as it represents a fair map for all Chicagoans. I have always wanted to avoid a costly referendum for Chicago’s taxpayers, and today we achieved that."

Harris said the proposed map, which still must be cemented by a City Council vote next week, would create 16 Black-majority and plurality wards, along with 14 majority-Latino wards, one fewer than the Latino caucus had wanted. It also contains the city’s first Asian-American-majority ward.


If 41 council members approve the deal by May 19, a scheduled June 28 referendum would be preempted.

Reform groups have denounced the secret, backroom negotiations that lead to the deal.

"It’s terrible news for the people of Chicago," said Madeleine Doubek of Change Illinois. "A super majority of the City Council has disrespected them and ignored their repeated wish to be involved in shaping their wards and communities."

Rebecca Evans, spokeswoman for another group of council members, issued a statement noting that the growing Latino community now outnumbers Chicago’s shrinking Black community. The statement denounced the new proposal as "highly gerrymandered."

"As a result, Latinos lost for the second decade in a row," the statement said. "The largest minority population in Chicago won’t be fairly and accurately represented as such. The voices of immigrant populations remain on the fringes. We’re disappointed some of our colleagues chose to save themselves over the Latino community. This ‘Welcoming City’s’ elected representatives have proven that they’ll let us in, but our voices do not count."

In Harris’ statement, she said several Latino council members "have agreed to compromises under the Chicago United Map."

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.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.