• Erin Hegarty
    FEB 16, 2022

    Independent ‘People’s Map’ commission endorses Latino Caucus-backed ward map, supports PAC in latest step toward referendum

    Members of the City Council Latino Caucus walk into Council Chambers for an in-person ward map meeting in January. [Erin Hegarty/The Daily Line] 

    Supporters of the independent commission that drew its own ward map proposal announced on Wednesday its endorsement of the City Council Latino Caucus-backed “Coalition Map.” The joining of forces and creation of a new ballot initiative committee show supporters of the map are “taking the step in moving toward a campaign,” the Latino Caucus chair said on Wednesday. 

    The CHANGE Illinois Action Fund and The People’s Map commission announced the endorsements in a news release, saying they have “joined forces” with backers of the Latino Caucus-backed map to push forward an updated map “that incorporates key elements of The People’s Map.”  

    The endorsement, combined with the launch of a political committee, are the latest sign that the Latino Caucus is ready to leave City Council negotiations behind and ask voters to make the choice. 

    The groups will work together on pushing for a “referendum that puts power in the hands of the people and legislative initiatives to bring lasting transparency to the remap process moving forward,” according to the news release.

    But leaders of the Aldermanic Black Caucus and the chair of the committee overseeing the remap are casting doubt over the partnership, saying the proposed map "disenfranchises" the city's Black voters and pointing out that the collaboration has not yet netted any new support from aldermen.

    Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36), chair of the Latino Caucus, told The Daily Line on Wednesday that the priorities of Coalition Map supporters aligned with those of the People’s Map commission, including a commitment to following Census data and “listening to what the residents of Chicago wanted to see” in the next map.  

    “When we looked at our map and [the People’s Map], there were a lot of similarities,” Villegas said. The groups then began discussing “the best way to move forward” while adhering to the groups’ principles.  

    “They had some ideas of what they wanted to see and there were very few changes because, again, the data was the guiding principle,” Villegas said.   

    Villegas said he will continue to have “further discussions” with aldermen who may want to join in supporting the “Coalition Map.” 

    “The next task is to continue discussions with residents, with community leaders, with current colleagues to let them know we are taking the step in moving toward a campaign,” Villegas said on Wednesday, adding the coalition will “continue talking to colleagues to join The People’s Map and the Coalition Map to put forward” a new map. 

    “We worked hard to engage residents in our city to try to ensure their feedback is in a map proposal to give voters a choice in the 2022 referendum,” Chaundra Van Dyk of the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund said in the news release. “This map is more compact and does a better job of keeping key communities from being significantly splintered.” 

    Wednesday’s endorsement comes as negotiations around a new ward map for the city look to have ground to a halt more than two months after a critical Dec. 1 deadline for City Council to vote on a ward map to be used for the next decade.  

    Related: Aldermen remain at loggerheads over ward remap as negotiations shift to ‘hot spots’ 

    Leaders of the Latino Caucus and the Aldermanic Black Caucus have sparred for the past few months over ward boundaries and the process for drawing a new map.

    The Black Caucus "respect[s]" CHANGE Illinois but "has real concerns about how both their map and the Latino Caucus map disenfranchise Black voters and grossly reduce gains the Black community has made in Chicago," Ald. Jason Ervin (28), who chairs the caucus, wrote in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

    "For example, they completely deconstruct the entire West Side of Chicago, diluting Black voices in historic communities," Ervin said in the statement. "The majority of the City Council stands firm in the map we’ve created that increases Latino wards, maintains Chicago’s Black vote in City Hall and creates our city’s first Asian American ward."

    Ald. Michelle Harris (8), who chairs the City Council Committee on Committees and Rules, told The Daily Line on Wednesday that it is “really unfortunate” that backers of the "Coalition Map" "decided to take this route instead of working with the other 33 of us.”

    “It’s so unfortunate that 15 aldermen decided they don’t want to work together with other aldermen,” Harris said. “It’s just not good for the city of Chicago.”

    Harris said she doesn’t “see it as a win” for the Coalition Map to have gotten an endorsement from the People’s Map commission “because they haven’t pulled any aldermen over.”

    At the same time, aldermen are still working on drawing ward boundaries in the map room at City Hall, though work is “slowing down” as aldermen are “doing some tweaks to certain maps and working on things," Harris said.

    Harris has not yet set a deadline for when backers of the rules committee map will decide whether to launch their own campaign for their map in a potential referendum. “It’s 33 of us from all different parts of the city,” Harris said. “Whatever we do, everyone has to be in agreement.”

    May 19 is the last day 41 aldermen may come together and agree on a new map in order to avoid a referendum.

    And Wednesday’s endorsement “marks a turning point in our effort to bring more transparency and accountability to the mapping process,” Villegas said in the news release.  

    “We’re proud to have the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund’s endorsement and collaboration as we work together to put forward a map that’s reflective of hundreds of hours of community input, follows the census data, and fairly represents all of Chicago’s communities,” Villegas said in the release.  
    Additionally on Wednesday, supporters of the Latino Caucus-backed map filed paperwork with the State Board of Elections for a ballot initiative committee "To support the 'Coalition Map' ordinance for the fair, transparent, and equitable redistricting of the City of Chicago at the June 28, 2022 General Primary Election." 

    Juan Morado Jr. is listed as the chair of the Chicago Coalition Map to Redistrict Chicago ballot initiative committee, and Micaela Vargas is listed as the committee's treasurer. Morado has worked as legal counsel for the Latino Caucus in the past and Vargas is the current executive director of the Latino Caucus.  

    As of Wednesday, the ballot initiative committee did not yet have any cash on hand. 

    With the endorsement of the People’s Map group, backers of the Coalition Map made changes to their map in part to reflect the “community input process” undertaken by the independent commission, according to the news release. 

    The tweaked Coalition Map keeps the new 11th Ward a majority-Asian ward and proposes Englewood to be represented by two wards “splitting it by the boundaries of the Englewood and West Englewood community areas,” according to the news release.  

    The map also “reconfigures” the ward covering Woodlawn to keep Woodlawn and Washington Park in the same ward and boundaries of the 16th, 20th, 5th, 37th, 29th and 28th wards “to align with the ward boundaries in The People’s Map,” according to the news release. 

    Following the guilty verdict delivered Monday in the federal trial of former 11th Ward Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, the Latino Caucus released a statement urging Mayor Lori Lightfoot to appoint an Asian American alderman to replace Thompson, who was forced to resign immediately upon conviction. 

    Related: With Daley Thompson ‘guilty’ verdict, clock begins ticking to appoint new 11th Ward alderman 

    This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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