Community groups up pressure to ensure city's 1st Asian American ward in new maps

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Community groups amp up pressure to keep Chicago's 1st Asian American ward
As negotiations and battles over Chicago's new ward map continue, community groups are upping the presure to ensure the city gets its 1st Asian-majority ward.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With Chicago poised to make history by creating the first Asian American majority ward, some community groups are amping up the pressure to make sure it happens.

The battle for the majority-Asian American ward has been in the making for decades. The ward will be centered around the city's Chinatown community.

RELATED: Caucuses still arguing over ward maps 2 days before city council vote

"And this time, this year, it must happen," said Paul Luu, CEO of the Chinese American Service League.

All three groups that have proposed maps - the Black caucus, the Latino Caucus and the group behind People's Map - have all carved out an Asian American majority ward. But despite that, and due to the nature of the back room dealings where the rules committee is hammering out a map to be voted on Wednesday, Asian American groups remain concerned.

"The redistricting process, as you may know is very chaotic at the moment. We're worried that if certain groups are not able to agree, and in that disagreement measurement Asian American Majority ward might get lost," said Justin Sia, redistricting counsel for Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

READ MORE: Black, Latino caucuses battle over new Chicago wards map

There is also a push to make sure to North Side neighborhoods are kept together in single wards: West Ridge, which has a significant Indian American population, and Albany Park, which has a large number of Asian American residents, are both currently split into multiple wards.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been pushing for a compromise between the Black and Latino caucuses' maps. Her allies said she has also been pressuring map makers to ensure indicted 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke is not protected in the new maps. But in a letter from Change Illinois, the mayor came under fire for failing to follow through with campaign promises to support independent maps and meaningful public engagement in the process.

"Everything we've seen from the Rules Committee, which hasn't been much, it would indicate that this is absolutely about protecting incumbents and allowing incumbents to pick their voters instead of the way it's supposed to be in a democracy," said Madeleine Doubek, executive director of Change Illinois.

Lightfoot's spokesperson responded, saying the mayor has repeatedly said the process requires transparency and public involvement. However, she's on her way to Washington, D.C., for a previously scheduled trip and will miss the city council meeting Wednesday where the yet unfinished map is scheduled to be voted on.