Possible deal on ward remap reported, as City Council looks to avoid referendum; Alderman Villegas says 36th Ward carved up ‘against my will’ as part of the deal ￼
by BRIAN NADIG
A referendum on the June 28 ballot to determine the city ward remap may be avoided following reports that more than 40 aldermen may be ready to support a revised map.
To reach a deal, it appears that the boundaries of the 36th Ward, where Alderman Gilbert Villages is running for U.S. Congress, were altered significantly.
“The 36th Ward was held up and sacrificed as part of a deal to get 41 votes … against my will,” Villegas said. “I was leading the charge for the referendum for the voters to decide, (and) I was punished for that.”
Villegas said that the “gerrymandered” ward map appears to be only a block or two wide in some parts and that along Grand Avenue it runs approximately from Harlem Avenue to Western Avenue.
The Black and Latino caucuses could not agree on a map earlier this year, with no proposal getting the support of at least 41 aldermen, the minimum number required for a map to be approved without a referendum. Ward boundaries are redrawn every 10:years, based on the new U.S. Census results.
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said Monday evening that he has not seen the details of the possible deal and that he is “only guessing” there also may have been some adjustments to the boundaries of the 30th and 31st wards from the Rules Committee map proposal presented several months ago. Last week Alderman Felix Cardona Jr. (31st) reportedly dropped his support for the Latino Caucus map — an indication that a deal was in the works.
Sposato said that he expects the 38th Ward map to remain as the committee previously determined. “I pick up a little more of Dunning … and lose a little of Portage Park (and) Jefferson Park,” Sposato said, comparing the current ward boundaries to the projected new ones.
Sposato added that he expects few, if any changes, in most other Far Northwest Side wards from the Rules Committee map from a few months ago. Under that proposal, the the most significant change comes in the 45th Ward, which would pick up Wildwood and parts of Edgebrook that currently are in the 41st Ward.
The 45th Ward also would lose portions of Old Irving Park and Independence Park. In the 2019 election then-candidate James Gardiner won several precincts north of Irving Park Road by large margins, defeating then-incumbent John Arena, who was seeking his third term as 45th Ward alderman. Arena performed much better south of Irving.
Arena’s Portage Park house is expected to fall into the 38th Ward under the remap. In recent months Arena has been active politically, receiving a $2,500 contribution from a Texas lawyer and co-hosting an upcoming fundraiser for a congressional candidate, but he has not announced any plans to run for office again.
If the City Council does not approve a map by May 19, the winning map is then chosen by voters in the June 28 election. The council is expected to vote next week on the new map.
NBC news reporter Mary Ann Ahern tweeted that unions have been pressuring aldermen to reach a deal that would avoid a referendum. The possible deal calls for 16 Black-majority wards, 14 Latino-majority wards and one 50/50 Black and Latino Ward, she reported.
Sposato said that he heard as many as 43 aldermen may be ready to support a possible deal. The number of aldermen supporting the Rules Committee map had been stuck in the mid-30s.
A third map was created by the nonprofit Change Illinois and was based in part on recommendations made at a series of community workshops throughout Chicago. About 15 aldermen have said they would support that map, but it was not expected to make the referendum, which would likely have only the maps put forth by the Rules Committee and the Latino Caucus.
Also in the area, the Rules Committee map from earlier this year calls for the site of an affordable housing development at Lawrence and Austin avenues to switch from the 38th Ward to the 41st Ward. The block would remain sandwiched between the 45th and 38th wards and connected to the 41st ward via a small section of land.