You can call this ward map a lot of things, but not fair and not equitable

Would you be surprised to know that the first is the proposed new ward for Ald. Gil Villegas, 36th, chairman of the City Council’s Latino Caucus—and the second the home of Mike Madigan, who may no longer be speaker but is not without influence at City Hall?

That’s all you need to know about the new “compromise” ward map that at least 41 Chicago aldermen are expected to ratify in a few days, the map that Mayor Lori Lightfoot hailed as “a good thing.”

In fact, it’s anything but. Even by the nonexistent moral standards of reapportionment, this map is an unfair exercise of raw power that is anything but reform-minded. It begs for a court challenge.

If you’ll recall, this year’s fight was essentially between the City Council’s Latino Caucus and Black aldermen, with most white aldermen from the North and Northwest sides aligning with Black aldermen. The key question was how to redraw ward links in a city in which Black aldermen didn’t want to give up a thing, even though Chicago’s Black population has dropped by hundreds of thousands, and Latinos, whose population is growing and argue their City Council representation should increase.

The first group was shrewd enough to hire allies of the former speaker. Like ace election lawyer Mike Kasper, and Madigan’s ex-spokeswoman, and Madigan’s cartographer. And lo and behold, they produced a map that, as I describe above, just happens to preserve and even strengthen the ex-speaker’s 13th Ward fiefdom.

The Latino bloc hired some well-known folks themselves and tried to block the majority map. But under pressure from labor unions and other groups friendly toward the ex-speaker, they eventually broke, with Socialist aldermen such as Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th, cutting their own deal a few days ago, leaving Villegas to hang out to dry.

Consider, though, that in a city that according to the 2020 census has 33,000 more Latino than Black residents, the map now awaiting a vote has 17 Black-majority or -plurality wards, compared with 14 for Latinos. Doesn’t seem quite fair—or, to use Lightfoot’s word, equitable. So how did that happen?

Take a look at the numbers behind the new map and you’ll find that, on balance, wards on the North and Northwest sides will have thousands more residents than the citywide median population per ward, and those on the South and West sides thousands less. Ergo, Ald. Scott Waguespack will represent 57,634 residents in his new 32nd Ward, and Villegas’ new 36th Ward has 57,616. But Ald. Michael Scott’s new West Side 24th Ward will have only 52,205, and the South Side 20th Ward 52,207.

That’s a top-to-bottom deviation of just under 10%. It may pass legal muster. But it sure ought not win applause in the court of public opinion.

Talk to some of the people who pushed through this map by getting the Latino Caucus to fracture and the fog machine immediately comes on.

For instance, Emma Tai from Working Families United—along with labor allies, it reportedly played a big role in putting together the final deal—says putting competing maps to voters in a referendum would have been “highly costly, divisive, and ultimately a problem for our vision which is multi working class solidarity.” It was important to save the wards of Ramirez-Rosa and others like Ald. Daniel La Spata, 1st, by cutting a deal, she says.

Lightfoot could intervene to break up the 13th Ward, just like she intervened to break up the 14th Ward of another powerbroker now under federal indictment, Ald. Ed Burke. But she’s busy raising re-election campaign cash in Texas.

Paddy Bauler was right. Chicago still ain’t ready for reform.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

May 16, 2022 at 06:57AM

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