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With less than two weeks before remap deadline, Lightfoot urges Council members to agree in time for public input

“I’m not gonna dictate what the timeline is, but it’s gotta be meaningful,” she said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks at City Hall on Oct. 29, 2021.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks at City Hall on Oct. 29, 2021.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

With less than two weeks to go before the deadline to approve a new ward map, Mayor Lori Lightfoot demanded Wednesday the City Council quickly come to an agreement on the new boundaries so the public has time to weigh in.

“I’m not gonna dictate what the timeline is, but it’s gotta be meaningful. It can’t be what we’ve seen happen [in Springfield] ... where a map goes up and, two hours later, it’s voted on by the General Assembly. That’s not meaningful public engagement,” she said.

“There’s gotta be enough time for people to be able to understand it, to be able to see where the lines are actually drawn, look at the block detail of individual wards. That’s gonna mean some meaningful time for a map to be out there in the public view. And people should have an opportunity to weigh in.”

Time is running out. The deadline is Dec. 1.

The Latino Caucus reiterated Wednesday that its demand for 15 majority Hispanic wards — two more than there are now to reward Hispanics for their 5.2% population increase — is “non-negotiable.”

The Black Caucus is equally adamant that the new map preserve 18 majority African-American wards, even though Chicago’s Black population has dropped by 86,413 people over the last decade and 275,000 since the 1990 Census.

Through it all, Lightfoot has tried to remain above the fray — even though she will ultimately have to decide whether to sign or veto a map that maintains 18 majority Black wards or reduces that number to reward Hispanics.

On Wednesday, the mayor was asked whether it was finally time for her to get off the sidelines and say whether she views it as “reasonable” for the Black Caucus to maintain its “hard-line” stance.

“I don’t think it’s a time for me to be involved just yet. I want to see how the process plays out. Obviously, I’m aware of the back-and-forth — some of which is public. Some of which has not been public. But it’s not for me to put my imprint on a particular map. These are very sensitive issues. I’m hopeful there will be a resolution,” the mayor said.

While attempting to remain above the fray, Lightfoot reiterated her “basic parameters” about a mapmaking process that has, historically, been guided by incumbent protection.

“It can’t be done exclusively behind closed doors. There’s got to be a process for public engagement. The public needs to see any map before it’s voted on by the City Council. … [And] making sure that we’re not carving up city neighborhoods into tiny little pieces,” she said.

During a wide-ranging news conference that followed Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Lightfoot also:

• Pressured Magnificent Mile merchants victimized repeatedly by smash-and-grab robberies to do more to improve their own security, instead of relying exclusively on Chicago Police.

Lightfoot said she has shopped in Milan, London, Paris, Rome and along Hollywood’s Rodeo Drive, and all of those merchants have “security measures that don’t exist along the Mag Mile.”

“Things like you’ve got to be buzzed into the store. There’s cameras at the entrance. You have a security guard at the door. All of the merchandise is either chained and roped or it’s put behind glass so that one piece of merchandise is taken out at a time,” the mayor said.

“These are just basic common sense things that some retailers have started implementing. I urge all of the Mag Mile retailers to take those kinds of precautions. It doesn’t make sense to me, given the fact that we’ve seen some pretty high-end thefts, that more isn’t being done.”

• Predicted that an “amended ordinance” lifting the ban on sports betting in Chicago will be approved by the City Council next month over the strenuous objections of casino magnate Neil Bluhm.

“There are some that believe that sports betting will be a drain on casino revenues in a disproportionate way. Our experts and studies [show that], of course, it’s gonna have an impact. But I don’t think it’s gonna materially be a problem,” the mayor said.

• Responded with glee to the prospect of running for reelection against her political nemesis, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara.

“It would be a gift — in all seriousness. I’d have a lot of fun with that,” she said.

• Said “why not” to the proposal by her deputy floor leader George Cardenas (12th) to study the feasibility of the city buying the Chicago Bears and selling shares to the public, following the Green Bay Packers model.

“I didn’t say I would support the city buying the Bears. But it’s an interesting exercise,” she said.

• Signed an executive order creating an “Inter-agency Re-Entry Council” to make Chicago what she called a “Second Chance City” with improved outcomes for residents released from prison.