For the first time in recent memory, Chicago voters this month will get to choose between two city ward maps. No sample maps will actually be on the ballot. Instead, voters must choose between two lists of aldermanic sponsors. Sound confusing and impractical? You bet.
Because the Chicago City Council was unable to agree on a new, 50-ward map by December, the reconfiguration of political boundaries to conform with 1990 census data will be left up to the voters by default in the March 17 primary.
The two maps will not appear on the ballot because current election law, the Revised Cities and Villages Act of 1941, made no provision for them. Longstanding election philosophy maintains that the ballot is informative rather than educational. It's the same reason for not including biographies next to candidate names on the ballot, even though Chicago voters have had to routinely decide on scores of judges on a single ballot.
Current election law states that the following will be printed above the referenda questions on the ballot: "PROPOSITIONS FOR THE REDISTRICTING OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO." Voters will be instructed to "Vote for One." And the questions will be worded, "For the adoption of an ordinance for the redistricting of the City of Chicago proposed by Aldermen...." Next comes the list of City Council members supporting the ward map. The lists, of course, present a choice to the voter.
"Do your homework," is the charge to voters from Michael Hamblet, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. "Listen to the media, the parties, organizations and groups talking about the maps."
The Mayor Richard Daley administration regulars were the first to file, so they are first on the ballot. They chose to lead off with three fine ethnic names. Their ballot list of 28 will be: Aldermen Carole Bialczak (30th), Thomas Murphy (18th), Luis Gutierrez (26th), Patrick Huels (11th), James Laski Jr. (23rd), Anthony Laurino (39th), Ginger Rugai (19th), Patrick Levar (45th), John Madrzyk (13th), Theodore Mazola (1st), Lemuel Austin Jr. (34th), Edwin Eisendrath (43rd), Edward Burke (14th), William Banks (36th), Bernard Stone (50th), Eugene Schulter (47th), John Buchanan (10th), Mary Ann Smith (48th), Brian Doherty (41st), Ambrosio Medrano (25th), Lorraine Dixon (8th), Theris Gabinski (32rd), Ray Suarez (31st), Burton Natarus (42rd), Bernard Hansen (44th), Richard Mell (33d), Thomas Cullerton (38th) and Mark Fary (12th).
The anti-administration forces will lead off with names from the west, south and north sides. Their ballot list of 19 will be: Aldermen Ed Smith (28th), Allan Streeter (17th), Helen Shiller (46th), John Steele (6th), Dorothy Tillman (3rd), Larry Bloom (5th), Robert Shaw (9th), Jesse Evans (21st), Bobby Rush (2rd), Percy Giles (37th), William Beavers (7th), Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Rickey Hendon (27th), Joe Moore (49th), Arenda Troutman (20th), Shirley Coleman (16th), Virgil Jones (15th), Jesse Miller Jr. (24th) and Sam Burrell (29th).
Their so-called "fair map" is supported by all but two of the black aldermen. Dixon, backed by Cook County Commissioner John Stroger, and Austin, a protege of Cook County Board of (tax) Appeals Commissioner William Frost, support the regulars' map.
Those sitting out the remap referendum are Aldermen Jesus Garcia (22rd), Michael Wojcik (35th) and Patrick O'Connor (40th). Garcia has never been comfortable with the regulars but avoided supporting the alternate map because his ward has strongly backed Mayor Daley. Wojcik will have a
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very difficult time getting reelected if the regulars' map wins. But because of his ward base, he can't back the map supported by the majority of black aldermen. As for O'Connor, he's facing a tough race against incumbent Cook County State's Atty. Jack O'Malley and can't afford to offend black voters.
There are several givens facing those who have proposed Chicago ward maps. The city's overall population has dropped to 2.8 million from 3 million between 1980 and 1990. The percentage of nonminorities has dropped to 38 percent from 43 percent. And minorities have shifted into nonminority wards. In Burke's southwest side ward, for example, nonminorities dropped to 36 percent from 74 percent.
Under the current boundaries and population statistics, there would be nonminority pluralities in 23 wards, black pluralities in 20 wards and Hispanic pluralities in seven wards. However, there's much more to drawing a map than just averaging 55,700 residents into each ward. There's the matter of politics. In this one-party town, the political power at stake is among Democrats.
Daley regulars realize they will lose wards, but they are hoping to keep control of the City Council with a map that would give them 23 winnable, nonminority wards and 20 wards in which blacks would have strong chances of winning. The anti-administration forces are seeking to increase their numbers with 22 winnable black wards, allowing 21 nonminority wards.
In both cases, Hispanics would get seven wards. The majority of Latino aldermen signed on with the regulars, however, reinforcing that coalition. Yet, while the black-brown coalition that existed under Mayor Harold Washington did not rematerialize, blacks have become more unified — at least on this one issue of the remap — than they have been since Mayor Washington's death in 1987.
The winning map at the polls will be the one with the most votes, and Chicagoans will likely vote based on the aldermanic supporters. It's up to the voters March 17 — except for the inevitable lawsuits. Just as politics are involved in redistricting, so are legal challenges. The next chapter in Chicago's new ward map will likely be lawsuits leading to several, special aldermanic elections.•
Manuel Galvan is a Chicago writer and marketing consultant.
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