News of two competing ward maps proposed in City Council last week brought confusion among area residents and elected officials as everyone tried to figure out what comes next for the ward remap process. Although nobody can say for sure, it seems highly likely that Roscoe Village and West Lakeview will be getting not only a new alderman but also a whole new ward. But when that will happen and in what fashion it is hard to say.
In addition, the creation of a proposed new ward in Roscoe Village and Lakeview has created confusion about which ward committeeman election voters will be voting in for the March 20, 2012 primary.
Making it even more confusing is that this is the first time in memory that ward committeeman have not been elected before the remap process has begun.
This article tries to answer some of those questions.
The Remap’s Next Steps
The 1992 ward remap process sheds some light on what to expect.
In the spring of 1991, Mayor Richard M. Daley had just been elected to his first full term in office and City Council, still kicking with energy after the previous decade’s Council Wars, launched into a contentious ward remap process. As with today’s two remap proposals, the Council divided into two parties: The Black Caucus’ “Equity Map” and white aldermen’s “Fairness Map”. Neither of the two maps could garner the 41 votes needed to pass out of City Council so the two maps were sent into a March 1992 referendum.
That year Mayor Daley lined up behind the white aldermen map and raised large sums to promote the map to voters. On Election Day, voters were asked to choose “Equity” or “Fairness” on their ballots and chose the white aldermen’s “Fairness Map” in a 2-1 margin.
Soon thereafter the new map was enacted, but the Black Caucus later sued in federal court to make changes to the map. The case cost taxpayers $18.7 million and was not fully decided by until 1996 but changed enough boundaries to create one more majority Black ward.
Today, the City Council Committee on Rules, chaired by Ald. Dick Mell (33rd), who also chaired the fateful ward remap process in 1992, is scheduled to meet, and likely vote on two proposed maps on January 18, 2012. Last week Mell said that he planned to hold at least three hearings on the proposed maps.
Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, told the Sun Times Monday that in order to satisfy ballot printing requirements for the March 20 primary, a referendum would have to be approved by City Council by January 20. That means Mell’s planned hearings are not likely to be conducted if a referendum is to be held this spring.
But, there’s still plenty of time between now and January 18 for political horse-trading and a new map, says former alderman and University of Illinois-Chicago professor Dick Simpson. “I still expect a Mell compromise. It’s not done until the vote is taken.”
Simpson, who served as an expert witness in the 1992 federal ward remap case, says this year’s process is especially messy. “Ideally City Council would have acted six months ago and it would have all been clear. I expect a referendum and a court case,” Simpson told Center Square Journal.
Which Committeemen Can You Vote For?
Despite its messy complexity, the ward remap process should have no impact on the March 20 Ward Committeeman races, says veteran election law attorney Jim Nally. Candidates will just run under the old boundaries, he says.
“They collected petition signatures under the old boundaries because nobody knew what the boundaries would be,” said Nally.
Everyone will run under the old map, then when a new map is approved, committeeman and alderman will have to adjust accordingly later. But not until aldermen prepare for their next election in 2015.
“To [run for] alderman, you have to be in the ward for one year,” says Nally. Although there is some dispute as to when that clock begins ticking. ”You’d be filing your statement of candidacy…a year prior to filing for candidacy,” which would mean 2013. “But there is some grey area, since some say it is one year before the election,” says Nally, which would be 2014.
Either way, some aldermen and committeemen are going to have to move in a couple of years to be eligible for reelection.
What About The New Proposed Ward?
More than anything else City Council does, remapping is a political process. For weeks now rumors have circulated about the creation of a new ward between Addison St. and Diversey Ave. On Friday we finally saw such a proposed ward and both proposed maps included the same basic outlines of such a new ward that would include South Lakeview, parts of West Lakeview, all of Roscoe Village and most of the white parts of Logan and Palmer Squares.
Under those circumstances, it only stands to reason that that new ward is going to be created one way or another.
Depending on which ward is remapped to the North Side, the existing alderman will exist in a grey netherworld, where their home community will be miles to the south of the constituency they are legally representing. The unfortunate losing alderman will need to choose to either make new friends up North, or ride out the remaining three years of their term just ignoring their new ward area.
“It is a grand mess, there’s no doubt about that,” says Simpson.