Census trends can mean more White city alderman
It’s called non-retrogression, a legal concept embodied in the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and subsequent case law.
It means that once a political sub-division – a congressional or state legislative district – elects somebody of a racial minority, it must forever protect and retain a majority-minority composition, even if that racial majority is dwindling.
That is usually done by extending a Black or a Hispanic minority-majority district into White areas, but still keeping a 45 to 50 percent super-majority so the primaries can be won.
Some deem that institutionalized racism, a permanent set-aside of political offices for non-Whites and others deem it equity.
Chicago is not only a Sanctuary City but also a non-non-retrogression city. Count on this: There will be more White aldermen and fewer Black aldermen after the 2023 municipal election.
What did he say? This is not supposed to happen.
What did happen is the 2020 Census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
It was supposed to have been completed by April 30, but no final figures have been released, although self-response data has been disseminated, which is the return of the 2020 Census questionnaire. In 6 Black- and Hispanic-majority wards (12, 15, 16, 20, 22 and 24) the response rate was 44-49 percent, while the highest response rate, more than 70 percent, occurred in eight White- majority wards (19, 38, 39, 41, 44, 45, 46 and 47).
The 2010 Census set Chicago’s population at 2,695,598, a 6.9 percent decline from 2000. The city’s demographic then was 44 percent White, 32 percent Black, 28 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian (which amounts to 109 percent because of overlaps). The 2010-2020 city annual growth rate was 0.09 percent, according to the census, which in 2019 estimated Chicago’s population to be 2,693,976, a decrease of 1,622. The final numbers won’t be much different.
But what WILL be different is the composition of the 50 wards.
There are definite trends:
(1) Areas like Near West Side, just west of the Loop, and West Town and Logan Square, northwest of the Loop, are gentrifying, with upscale Whites pushing out along the Eisenhower and beyond the United Center, affecting the 24th and 27th wards, from which low-income African-American residents are departing or being forced out. So, too, in Humboldt Park, which developers call West Bucktown. Upscale Whites are buying two/three-flat rentals and converting them into single-family dwellings, forcing out Puerto Rican Hispanics. Even Pilsen, a Mexican-American enclave along 18th Street, is seeing White incursion and gentrification.
(2) The Golden Corridor, that area between the North Branch of the Chicago River and the Lakefront, is exploding with development. Stretching from Lincoln Park to North Center to Lincoln Square, rents are creeping above $2,500 and affordable housing has vanished. The area encompasses 11 wards (1, 32, 47, 40, 50, 49, 48, 46, 44 and 43). Each has had 2010-2020 population growth of 5-10 percent. A new ward will be created there.
(3) The South Side has been losing population, as the more-affluent Blacks flee to the south and west suburbs, and into north Will County. Mexican-Americans are taking their place, but will likely be under-counted by the Census. The once Black 2nd and 15th Wards are now held, respectively, by White and Hispanic representation.
The council’s current racial composition is 19 Blacks, 18 Whites and 13 Hispanics. Percentage-wise, that’s 38/36/26, with no Asian aldermen, while citywide (with overlaps) it’s 32/44/26/5. One Hispanic ward, the 14th, has a White alderman (Ed Burke) and one so-called "white ward," the 47th, has a Black alderman (Matt Martin). So Blacks are over-represented and Whites and Hispanics under-represented.
Three key factors apply to a council remap: First, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) does not apply. Population does. If the city has roughly 2.7 million people, that’s 54,000 per ward, about the same as now. But the council must use two standards: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Baker v. Carr "one-man-one vote" and the Constitution’s contiguous mandate.
Every Chicago ward must be compact and have an equal population, with a variance of less than 0.05 percent. And that means the wards that gained or maintained their population, such as the Northwest Side White wards (38, 39, 41 and 45), will be 5-10 percent smaller. And every minority ward, like those around Engelwood, Gresham, Gage Park, Roseland and West Pullman on the South/Southwest Side, which lost population, will be 6-10 percent bigger. That means at least one fewer Black-majority ward, and a second "Fair Fight" Black/Hispanic ward around West Lawn/ Ashburn. That would pit aldermen Ray Lopez (15th) and Stephanie Coleman (16th) against each other.
Second, the council must vote on the ward remap by the end of 2021 (effective in 2023 and 2024), and do so as a committee-of-the-whole. The chair of the committee is Michelle Harris, who is Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader. So every alderman has some skin in the game and a 1/50th say in the game.
And third, coalitions will be determinative. The Black Caucus numbers 19 aldermen, the Hispanic Caucus numbers 13, of which 6 are members of the Democratic Socialists Caucus.
There is no "White Caucus." That would not go over well anywhere, especially in these times.
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) is trying to organize a "Fair Map" Caucus, composed of some or all of the 18 White aldermen.
"It will be all about which coalition unites with another coalition," Sposato said. There will be a bunch of maps and everyone will think they have the best one. The magic number is 26. That means whatever map best protects 26 aldermen will be the one that passes.
But Sposato has a different take.
"A lot of aldermen have told me they’re going to retire (in 2023)," he said. He noted that aldermen Carrie Austin (34th), who is under federal investigation and represents the far South Side Washington Heights/West Pullman area, is age 72, along with Emma Mitts, age 65, from the West Side east Austin/West Garfield Park 37th Ward, which is becoming increasingly Hispanic.
Also on the cusp is 29th Ward alderman Chris Taliaferro. Whose ward stretches from Roosevelt Road northward through east Austin to Montclare, at Harlem-Fullerton. It has a growing Hispanic population in the south, and a White population in the north, making the ward half non-Black. If Mitts bailed, her ward could be cannibalized and a new Hispanic-majority ward would be created.
As for Northwest Side aldermen Sposato, Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Samantha Nugent (39th), geography is their ally. All have populations close to 60,000.They’re at the city limits, and any 2021 remap must work inward from the borders, not outward from the city core.
"The Census will make them each shed 5,000-10,000," said political consultant Frank Calabrese.
That makes each Ward somewhat smaller, and those 15-25,000 voters could go into Alderman Jim Gardiner’s 45th Ward and be used to lop off the woke/Leftist south end in Portage Park, south of Lawrence, which was the political base of ex-alderman John Arena, who lost to Gardiner in 2019.
That area could be attached to the east end of Sposato’s 38th Ward to create a new ward, with parts of the south end of the 39th Ward (Albany Park) and the non-Hispanic north end of the 33rd Ward.
Gardiner resides one block from the ward’s north boundary, and the Gladstone Park/Jefferson Park precincts propelled his 2019 win and in 2020 for Democratic committeeperson.
His ward, meaning the north end, could readily be dismembered among the adjoining 39th and 41st wards.
That can likely happen.
"I’m running" for re-election, said Sposato.
"Somebody’s got to stand up to these Lefty loonies."
There is a historical irony.
In 1961 both the 34th and 45th wards were on the North Side. They were obliterated and their numbers assigned elsewhere.
Now 34th and 37th ward may be back east of the River.