• Justin Laurence
    DEC 03, 2021

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

    The Latino Caucus and its supporters signed paperwork Thursday to put their ward map proposal up for a referendum vote next year. [Justin Laurence/Block Club Chicago]

    Saying “it’s time for the voters” to decide, City Council’s Latino Caucus and its supporters signed paperwork Thursday to put their ward map proposal up for a referendum vote next year.

    The move comes one day after the city finally unveiled — but failed to vote on — a ward map produced by the council’s Rules Committee with heavy influence from the Black Caucus.

    The filing ratchets up the pressure for aldermen to reach a compromise, as a June referendum where Chicago voters are asked to decide between competing maps is no longer a theoretical exercise.

    The Latino Caucus proposal was signed by 15 alderpeople, five more than necessary to petition for a referendum.

    Latino Caucus leaders said they’re open to negotiations to prevent sending the map to a voters, but the Black Caucus has failed to negotiate in “good faith” so far, said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36), who chairs the Latino Caucus.

    Villegas said those who support the Latino Caucus map are prepared to campaign hard to convince voters their ward map is more reflective of what Chicago needs right now.

    “We’ve always been open to negotiations. But the reality is that we have to stand up and take a stand here, that we’re not gonna be pushed around anymore,” he said. “If you want to negotiate and compromise, no problem, let’s do it, but we have to do it in earnest.”

    Ald. Michelle Harris (8), who chairs the Rules Committee and has led the remapping process at City Hall, has clashed with Latino Caucus members for pursuing their own version of the map. In response to the caucus’ move, Harris said Thursday “the continued undermining of my leadership of the map process is disrespectful and offensive.”

    The Rules Committee hired attorney Michael Kasper, the longtime attorney of former House Speaker Mike Madigan, to help craft the new ward map.

    “I and many of my colleagues — not just one attorney — have been in the map room working together, offering viable solutions, and compromising to try to get this done. Our map doesn’t represent any one interest,” she said in a statement. “It takes into consideration new and growing populations. We’ve increased Latino wards, created our first Asian American ward, and ensured our city’s Black communities also maintain their representation at City Hall.”

    Here’s what the city’s proposed ward map looks like:

    The Latino Caucus map has 15 Latino majority wards, 16 Black majority wards, the first ever Asian American ward and three minority majority wards.

    The map put forth by the city’s Rules Committee did not meet the demand of the Latino Caucus to create 15 Latino majority wards, drawing 14. It establishes 16 Black majority wards, one Asian American ward and one ward, the 27th, with a Black plurality population.

    Here’s what the proposed Latino Caucus map looks like:

    Twelve of the 13 Latino Caucus members signed on to place the map up for referendum. Former chair of the caucus, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) does not support the proposal.

    Supporters of the Latino caucus proposal would have their wards dramatically changed under the competing map plan. Ald. Raymond Lopez (15), who left the caucus over policy disputes, has also signed on, in addition to Ald. Brian Hopkins (2), a white alderman, and Ald. Anthony Beale (9), a member of the Black Caucus. 

    The Latino Caucus map places the controversial Lincoln Yards mega-development inside Hopkins second ward unlike the Rules Committee proposal, which shifts it into the 32nd Ward. Hopkins criticized removing the development from his ward on Tuesday.

    “Lincoln Yards is important, it’s 40,000 jobs, major economic development for the city but that’s just one relatively smaller issue compared to the other larger issues that are at play here,” Hopkins said.

    “I’ve been observing what’s been happening, and frankly, I’m appalled by some of the things that I saw happen under the rules committee, and I can’t support it, and I can’t endorse it. It’s wrong,” he said. “And I’m going to confidently predict [the Latino Caucus map] will pass on June 28.”

    Beale said he joined the coalition because his input was sought in a “fair and transparent process.”

    “I don’t think we can say that it has been fair and transparent on the other side when we got a cartoon coloring book map yesterday that shows our wards,” he said. 

    Paper copies of the competing map were handed out at City Council Wednesday. A copy was made available later in the day on the city’s website, but it wasn’t clear enough to show street boundaries.

    Reaching a compromise now will be about more than the inclusion of one additional Latino majority map in city’s Rules Committee proposal. 

    Villegas’ 36th Ward would be moved east under the Rules Committee map, away from the growing Latino population that is the base of his support. Villegas described the move as “punishment” for his leading the Latino Caucus to introduce their own map. 

    Ald. Silvana Tabares (23) would lose Midway Airport under the Rules Committee map, saying that version “sliced and diced” her ward.

    “We’re willing to come to the table and negotiate and discuss with our colleagues but with compromise and in a transparent way. They’re not willing to do that. For instance, my new map, they’re telling me ‘this is your map, this is how we drew your map, take it or leave it,’” she said.

    What Happens Now?

    The battle of the ward map will continue with public hearings and more negotiations over the next few months. The Rules Committee has scheduled two committee hearings to discuss the map next week and additional public hearings will take place in January after the December holidays, Harris said.

    Because City Council failed to approve a map with a 41-vote super-majority by Dec. 1, they opened up the possibility of what would be a contentious and expensive referendum campaign, but the referendum is still not a certainty. 

    If a compromise proposal reaches the 41-vote super-majority between now and 40 days before the referendum, it would cancel the vote, although the map could still be challenged in court. 

    If City Council approves a map without that super-majority, it restarts the process and the Latino Caucus, or another group of at least 10 alderpeople who didn’t vote yes on the Rules Committee-led map, would have 15 days to re-submit their map for a referendum. 

    If negotiations break down, additional maps could be submitted for the referendum if they have at least 10 City Council supporters. 

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