• Erin Hegarty
    APR 26, 2022

    Aldermen blast Latino Caucus Map as ‘Burke protection plan’ as they look to block effort to update map on ballot

    Ald. Michele Smith (43), left, and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) speak during a press conference on Monday.

    Two days ahead of the last regular City Council meeting before the final deadline to reach an agreement on a new ward map, supporters of the map drawn under the Rules Committee leadership took a new approach calling the opposing map a “protection plan for Alderman Ed Burke.”

    It was the latest push by the rules committee group to prevent an effort by the City Council Latino Caucus to force a vote that would allow its updated “People’s Coalition Map” onto the June 28 ballot.

    Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) and Ald. Michele Smith (43), both supporters of the “Chicago United Map” (F2021-93) drawn under the leadership of Rules Committee chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8) and backed by a majority of the Black Caucus, held a news conference on Monday in an attempt to dissuade their colleagues from supporting any advancement of the “People’s Coalition Map” (O2022-913) largely backed by the Latino Caucus. 

    “I think most people across the city would agree that as we've seen in the past, protecting Alderman Ed Burke in such a map is not a good idea,” Waguespack said. “And when we listened to people, we made sure that as we drew this map, there was not an incumbent protection plan for Ald. Ed Burke.” 

    But neither the People’s Coalition Map nor the Chicago United Map include the piece of Garfield Ridge in Burke’s current 14th Ward from which he historically has drawn the votes most critical to his re-election, with the People’s Coalition Map instead extending his ward farther into Little Village, likely making the indicted alderman’s reelection more difficult.

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    Waguespack and Smith during their news conference touted the Chicago United Map for its inclusion of “less than 1 percent of today’s Ward 14” remaining in their proposed new 14th Ward. Harris did not appear to attend Monday’s news conference. 

    When asked about the fact that neither ward map proposal’s 14th Ward includes the sliver of Garfield Ridge from which Burke draws his strongest support, Waguespack said Burke “maintained broad support in many parts of his ward, and every vote adding up allowed him to get reelected.” 

    “I think the map that we present with not even 1 percent [of the current 14th ward in the new 14th ward] is more amenable to those who are looking to allow for representation across the board to come in and not create that protection that he's had in the past.” 

    Mapmaker and political consultant Frank Calabrese, who drew the “Coalition Map,” tweeted Monday that his team focused on removing the most Burke-friendly slices from the ward “while keeping the integrity of the 14th Ward.” 

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last year that she would veto any ward map that protects Burke. And the rules committee-backed map initially appeared to do just that, according to reporting from the Sun-Times. 

    Waguespack and Smith, both allies of Lightfoot, also called on other aldermen to not support a potential move by the opposing map group to call their map for a vote during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. 

    Sponsors of the “People’s Coalition Map” filed paperwork to put their ward map proposal on the June ballot the day after the City Council blew past a critical Dec. 1 deadline to vote on a new ward map. 

    Related: Latino Caucus puts its ward map proposal up for referendum: ‘It’s time for the voters to decide’  

    An advantage to being the first group to file referendum papers is that that map appears on the ballot before any other potential map proposal. But state law does not allow for a map to be decertified or withdrawn after it’s been approved. That became an issue for the coalition when it earned the support from the CHANGE Illinois-back group that drew its own map “People’s Map” proposal. The two groups announced in February that they had joined forces and would push forward an updated map “that incorporates key elements” of the CHANGE Illinois proposal.  

    But there is no direct legal path to change a map after paperwork has been filed to place it on the ballot in the form of a referendum question. And aldermen cannot simply submit a new petition to place a tweaked map on the ballot because state law bans aldermen from putting their names on more than one map in a referendum.  

    Only a vote on a ward map proposal that yields support from at least 26 aldermen but fewer than 41 would restart the referendum process, allowing the Latino Caucus-backed coalition to file its updated map to be placed on the June 28 ballot. That vote would require a vote of at least 34 aldermen to suspend the City Council Rules of Order during Wednesday’s meeting, and Waguespack and Smith said that shouldn’t happen. 

    Related: Latino Caucus hopes to force a City Council floor vote on map proposal in April as other aldermen call it a ‘stunt’ 

    Backers of the “People’s Coalition Map” have not publicly said whether they plan to call for a vote on their map proposal during Wednesday’s meeting. 

    “We would urge our colleagues across the board not to vote to suspend the rules for the Burke protection plan,” Waguespack said during the Monday news conference. 

    “There's reasons why these are the rules,” Smith said. “It's kind of like saying ‘I hit a ball out of bounds, or I didn't get a chance to make a home run, can't I go again?’” 

    “This is essentially a request to do a do-over when the rules are pretty well known and protect everyone,” Smith added. “In the case of other kinds of referendum, allowing this would set a very, very dangerous precedent for the taxpayers and for the citizens.” 

    Smith said she doesn’t believe the council should never suspend the rules, something that happens regularly during council meetings, but that “we shouldn't suspend rules to redo a referendum.” 

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