Mayoral allies oppose suspending rules to allow vote on revised City Council map proposal

Finance Committee Chairman Scott Waguespack and Ethics Committee Chair Michele Smith launched a pre-emptive strike, hoping to head off a vote on a new ward map Wednesday — a vote that could aid an eleventh-hour switch by the Latino Caucus and CHANGE Illinois.

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Chicago City Hall.

A vote allowing the Latino Caucus to revise its proposed ward map could occur at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Sun-Times file

Suspending the City Council’s rules to allow the Latino Caucus to substitute and place before Chicago voters a revised map negotiated with CHANGE Illinois would set a “dangerous precedent” and only protect indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th), two mayoral allies said Monday.

Finance Committee Chairman Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Ethics Committee Chair Michele Smith (43rd) joined forces in a pre-emptive strike aimed at heading off a vote on a new ward map at Wednesday’s council meeting that could pave the way for an eleventh-hour switcheroo by the Latino Caucus and CHANGE Illinois.

“It’s kind of like saying, ‘I hit a ball out of bounds’ or ‘I didn’t get a chance to make a home run. Can’t I go again?’ Allowing this would set a very, very dangerous precedent,” Smith told a Zoom news conference.

“If the system allows people to willy-nilly change maps, what happens to other referenda? Does that mean that, when you want to change something in a liquor referendum, you do that? Or asking people to support measures to decriminalize marijuana? This creates tremendous confusion with the voters and it also systematically undermines the idea that, when you seek a referendum, you’ve thought it over carefully before you start.”

Waguespack noted the Latino Caucus map preserves 58.8% of Burke’s current ward, while the map drawn for the Rules Committee and the Black Caucus saves less than 1% of it.

No map has passed out of committee, and Waguespack warned suspending the rules and voting on either map Wednesday would only further the chance that the indicted alderman will be protected.

CHANGE Illinois Executive Director Madeleine Doubek said she hopes 34 alderpersons will vote to suspend the rules at Wednesday’s council meeting, then vote to approve the map crafted for the Rules Committee and the Black Caucus and supported by 33 alderpersons.

If that happens, it would allow the Latino Caucus to substitute and place before Chicago voters in a June 28 referendum a revised map, with 10 changes made to accommodate the independent mapmaking group’s demand to keep “key communities from being significantly splintered.”

The changes keep Englewood in two wards, instead of six or seven. They keep the Chicago Avenue business corridor in the same ward with South Austin, and Washington Park in the same ward as Woodlawn. They change some boundaries in six other wards to align with the map drawn by the CHANGE Illinois commission.

With those modifications, CHANGE Illinois agreed to embrace the Latino Caucus map, and back that up with lobbying and fundraising. That map includes 15 majority-Hispanic wards, an increase of two based on Hispanics’ 5.2% population gain in the 2020 census.

“Democracy is a messy business, things get fixed and redone all the time. Why are they afraid of letting the people vote on a map that they helped shape?” Doubek said.

“It’s democracy in action. Let’s get everybody on the record and show who supports which map and let the people see that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

The map backed by 33 alderpersons, eight short of the 41 needed to avoid a referendum, includes 14 majority-Hispanic wards and preserves 17 African American wards — 16 with Black majorities and one with a Black plurality.

The major roadblock to a deal between the Black and Latino caucuses is the demand for a 15th majority-Hispanic ward.

After leaving two Hispanic majority wards on the table 10 years ago at the behest of then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Latino Caucus will not settle for anything less.

That sets the stage for Chicago voters to decide between the Black Caucus map and the new ward map filed by the Latino Caucus.

Doubek was asked what happens to the deal forged between the Latino Caucus and CHANGE Illinois if there is no council vote on either map and, therefore, modifications negotiated with CHANGE Illinois are not included in the map placed before voters.

“This is the map that we’re supporting because the people helped shape it. If it doesn’t get before voters, I cannot say what we would do. We will follow the lead of our commissioners. And they have, so far, indicated that they are only interested in supporting the map that they think reflects things that people told them they want,” she said.

Does that mean the deal hailed as a “game-changer” could be off?

“I need to talk to them. I don’t want to comment on that,” Doubek said.

Responding for the Latino Caucus, Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) scoffed at the argument that “exercising democracy” is somehow a dangerous precedent.

“That’s the same thing they were saying about going to a referendum earlier. So it doesn’t surprise me,” La Spata said.

La Spata said the Burke protection argument is contradicted by the fact that Aaron Ortiz, who defeated Burke for 14th Ward Democratic committeeperson, had his home “mapped out” of the 14th Ward in the map drawn for the Black Caucus.

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