Black aldermen propose new ward boundaries

October 5, 2011
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A group of African-American aldermen have presented plans for how they would like to see Chicago’s 50 wards redrawn this year in the city’s redistricting process.

The proposal would help the black politicians maximize their political power after a decade that saw 17 percent of Chicago’s African-American population – a sizable chunk of their voter base – leave the city.

The Black Caucus’s map avoids a tense run-off between any two sitting aldermen and willingly reduces the number of black-majority wards from 20 to 19. African-Americans would concede the majority in the 2nd Ward – an area covering parts of downtown and the South and West Loop that has grown increasingly white since 2000.

“There were great attempts to draw 20 wards … However, given the population loss, it was totally impossible,” Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said at a public forum Sept. 29 at Malcolm X College. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what happened Downtown, on State Street or on the Near West Side to see there’s been some (African-American) population loss.”

The map, commissioned by an out-of-state mapmaker, could see substantial changes as it goes first to the Latino Caucus and finally to the full City Council for a vote in December.

Conceding the 2nd Ward may not be enough, though. According to census numbers, the black population is down more than 180,000 since 10 years ago – a drop equivalent to the population of not one, but three wards. And African-American leaders still need to go head-to-head with the Latino Caucus, whose population has increased by nearly 25,000.

The city is required to reconfigure its districts once per decade when new U.S. Census numbers are released in an effort to keep an equal number of voters – roughly 54,000 – in each ward. As the total number of wards must remain at 50, the result is frequently a political tug-of-war over voter strongholds, donors’ homes and special projects.

Coming to an agreement of the proposed boundaries took months, aldermen said at last week’s public hearing.

“The first part is getting the 19 of us to agree,” said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the Black Caucus. “There are instances in here where we had relatives, we had strong voting blocks, we had people that supported the aldermen.”

While the West Side has seen its population plummet in the past decade – especially among African-Americans – the proposed changes are relatively modest, with the 24th, 28th, 29th and 37th wards mainly shifting by a matter of blocks in any direction. (Click here to view a close of up the West Side under the Black Caucus’s proposal.)

Many of the nooks and crannies of the current boundaries – drawn during the last redistricting process of 2000 – have been intentionally removed, aldermen said.

The 24th Ward has seen its total population drop 15 percent since 2000; the population is down 16 percent in the 28th Ward, 12 percent in the 29th and 13 percent in the 37th. The drop among African-Americans is even greater: Eighteen percent of blacks left the 28th Ward in the past decade, and 24 percent left the 37th. (View ward-by-ward maps here or spreadsheet here.)

Some residents at the meeting complained that despite a public campaign urging minority groups to return census forms, African-Americans were undercounted in 2010. The result is losing valuable representation and tax dollars.

South Side Ald. Latasha Thomas (17th) said she knows her ward’s census numbers are incorrect because the count on her garbage pick-up lists is far higher.

“I am very clear that the number of people they say I lost is not correct,” Thomas said. “I’m pushing (to pick up African-American voters) west, north, south. I’m pushing to pick up those numbers when I’m clear at least half of these people are still in the ward.”

The following 19 wards would remain majority African-American under the Black Caucus’ proposal: Wards 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 24, 27, 28, 29, 34, 37

Click here for the Black Caucus’s proposed 50-ward map.

Click here for a close-up view of the West Side wards under the Black Caucus’s proposal.

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3 thoughts on “Black aldermen propose new ward boundaries

  1. If those alderman performed the duties of their jobs then they would not be too concerned about their ward’s boundries. Those aldermen can get off of their butts and tell their constiuents to go out and vote for them, instead of complaining. But the best thing about the remapping is that it would make it more difficult for some of them to cheat in order to win elections as a few of them did in the Feb election. I welcome the remapping. I support the elimination of this position because the services that the alderman deliever is used as a bargaining tool. For instance the residents of the 1400 N Lockwood being told that if they vote for Mitts they would get a new paved street. Which is utter foolishness because taxes pay for such services.

  2. The aldermen’s gripe about losing constituents is due to them simply not doing their job. Yes, many African-Americans/Blacks have relocated to other areas including suburbs because they have become mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted with lying, deceitful political parasites and poverty pimps who are simply incompetent and greedy. Crime continues to increase, politicians continue to award funding to defunct organizations and faith-oriented institutions to galvanize voting power. They assume that race is the sole premise for our continuous justification for their re-election. Danny K. Davis is a prime example of a waste of votes.

    Black politicians don’t feel obliged to their constituents. Many are arrogant, self-righteous and have no commitment or desire to improve the quality of life within their respective wards and/or districts. They’re power drunk.

    Common sense! Look within your communities and evaluate the performance of your legislators. What decisions or actions have they made to improve your lives?

  3. As an African-American young professional living in northwest Austin, I have often wondered about the political underpinnings of this neighborhood. This article has brought some particularly troubling clarity to me.
    It’s unfortunate that the current crop of aldermen see the redistricting process as primarily a means of holding on to power. The kind of thinking behind such a campaign hinges on the assumption that at the end of the day, African-American citizens of Chicago have a different set of needs than any other citizen in the city. However as citizens of Chicago, we ALL desire safe streets, equitable and accessible educational opportunities for our children, clean urban landscapes, and a place to raise our families.
    No alderman is qualified to advocate for citizens in the ward based upon the simple assumption of having the same ethnic background. It quite effectively is a means of ensuring that political, social, and economic racial segregation flourishes in this world-class city. This is 2011, and any public official should have the education, experience, and competence to represent any group of people within this city. We should demand nothing less for aldermen of any ward in this great city.

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