Lightfoot leaves town as City Council at impasse over new ward boundaries

A South Side alderman explains why the Chicago City Council is almost certain to miss Wednesday’s deadline for drawing new ward boundaries.

"It’s lack of leadership, lack of transparency, pettiness and putting fear in people as relates to their map," said Alderman Anthony Beale.

After failing to achieve a compromise, Mayor Lori Lightfoot left town for meetings in Washington, D.C.

At the heart of impasse, Black members of the council are resisting the loss of seats that U.C. Census Bureau figures appear to dictate.

Meanwhile, Hispanic members are demanding a share of seats equal to the size of their growing population.

"They’re still trying to keep 18 or 17 African American wards when there's just not the population to do that. And they're not giving the Latinos the representation which the census population says that they should have, which is at least 15 wards," said Burt Odelson, lawyer for the Hispanic Coalition.

While a Black caucus-led group of City Council members has declined to make public any version of its proposed map, the Hispanic Coalition group publicly posted its proposed ward boundaries more than a month ago. At least one African American alderman is supporting that map.


The 9th Ward's Anthony Beale, who's been an outspoken critic of Mayor Lightfoot, claims her allies tried to "punish" him by carving the Pullman neighborhood out of his ward.

"The Pullman community, that I’ve worked well with my entire career, 23 years, and my signature development is being taken out of my particular ward and put in another ward. And these are the people that have entrusted me to lead this community. We're rebuilding it -- a billion dollars in public-private investment," Beale said.

Although state law sets Wednesday at midnight as the deadline for the City Council to adopt new ward boundaries, members ignored it the last time they did this. As a practical matter, they are likely to continue negotiating for days or even weeks.