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Latino Caucus ward map rekindles Black-Hispanic tensions

Chicago would gain two majority-Hispanic wards at the expense of African American wards under a map drafted by the City Council’s Latino Caucus.

The City Council Latino Caucus’s proposed ward map includes 2 additional majority-Hispanic wards and a majority-Asian ward.
The City Council Latino Caucus’s proposed ward map includes 2 additional majority-Hispanic wards and a majority-Asian ward.
City Council Latino Caucus

Chicago would gain two majority Hispanic wards at the expense of African American wards under a new map drafted by the City Council’s Latino Caucus that rekindles historic political tensions.

The first of several maps to be filed with the city clerk’s office also creates a new ward that is 49% Asian American by merging Chinatown with the Asian American population in Bridgeport, the ancestral home of the Daley family.

The 11th Ward is now 41% Asian, 33% white, 21% Latino and 6% Black. The new 11th Ward would be 49% Asian, 29% white, 18% Hispanic and 4% Black.

The new Asian American ward is similar to the proposal pushed by Asian American community leaders with one exception: It preserves the 12th Ward by not going nearly as deep into McKinley Park.

In all, the new 50-ward map includes 16 majority-African American wards; 15 majority-Hispanic wards; 15 majority-white wards; one Asian American ward; and three “majority minority” wards on the North Side, the 40th, 49th and 50th.

The Far South Side’s 34th Ward, long represented by indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), would be shifted north to accommodate an explosion of population in the downtown area and along the lakefront.

The 34th Ward would go from 97% Black to 63% white. It would be located on the Near North Side and surrounded by the 32nd, 43rd, 42nd, 2nd and 27th Wards.

“If the population to create a minority ward exists, then you have to do it. That’s not what’s going on in the Black community. The population is not there,” said veteran political operative Victor Reyes, a consultant to the Hispanic Caucus.

“And how do you deal with this incredible increase of white population on the North Side? There’s no option. You have to put another white ward up there to absorb all of that population growth.”

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said shifting the 34th Ward to the North Side had everything to do with the 34th being the smallest of the 50 wards with a population of just 44,000. It had nothing to do with Austin being under indictment and expected to retire from the City Council.

“On the South Side of the city, there was a loss. To pick up the population, you have to go north in order to create another ward. Since that was the smallest ward, that makes the most sense,” Villegas said.

Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, branded the Hispanic Caucus map “illegal” and “craziness that has no chance of passing.”

“You can’t infringe on one protected class at the expense of another protected class,” Ervin said.

“If the Latino Caucus chooses to infringe on African American wards, all they’re doing is inviting themselves a lawsuit. If that is their desire to infringe on the African American community, that would clearly be illegal, and it would be a waste of everyone’s time.”

Ervin said the Black Caucus has drawn its own map that preserves 18 majority African American wards.

“If we can draw it, then we deserve to keep it. Our map clearly does that. And it does not infringe upon any other protected group in the city to accomplish that,” Ervin said.

“Black folks in the city of Chicago have been disenfranchised since our arrival here. … The law protects what we have, and we’re gonna protect ourselves under the auspices of the law.”

Villegas acknowledged the map he filed is a “starting point” for negotiations. But he also argued that a map with 15 seats for Hispanics is “right on target” with what the census data shows.

“Why would the Latino Caucus — having the largest gain, having 40,000 away from a plurality in Chicago — why would we take less? We were underrepresented last time. It’s not gonna occur this time,” Villegas said.

In the 2020 Census, Hispanics passed Blacks as Chicago’s largest minority. The Hispanic population increased by 5.2%, or 40,656 people, to 819,518.

Chicago’s African American population dropped by 9.74%, or 86,413 people, to 801,195. The white population increased by 8,905, just over 1%, from 854,717 to 863,622. Asian Americans scored the largest gain — 30.86%, or 45,420 people — to stand at 192,586.

Any map that receives at least 10 City Council votes automatically triggers a referendum that would allow Chicago voters to choose among rival maps.

“Twenty years ago, it cost $40 million to do a map. That’s ridiculous. And/or have a court impose a map,” Reyes said. “This system is set up to force compromise.”