A look at the West Side wards in the new ward map approved by the Chicago City Council this week. | Screenshot

The new ward map that got approved by the Chicago City Council during the May 16 special meeting largely kept the existing West Side wards intact, even as the city’s Black population declined, and it’s Hispanic and Asian populations increased.

The ward boundaries are adjusted after every census to ensure that each ward has similar populations. During the 2012 remap, the City Council’s Latino Caucus pushed for more majority-Hispanic wards, while the Black Caucus wanted to keep as many majority-Black wards as possible.

A similar dynamic emerged this year, with the Latino Caucus pushing for at least 15 Hispanic wards and the Black Caucus supporting the Rules Committee map. Both maps would have been subject to a voter referendum if the City Council did not approve a map by May 19.

The City Council voted 43-7 to approve a modified version of the Rules Committee map that creates 16 majority-Black wards, a “Black influence” 27th Ward, 14 majority-Latino wards and the majority-Asian American 11th Ward. Although it keeps the majority-Black West Side wards largely intact, it significantly changes several South Side wards and majority-Hispanic wards — most notably the 36th Ward, which includes portions of Belmont-Cragin, Montclare and Hermosa and is represented by Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who chairs the Latino Caucus.

A chart showing the population breakdowns of West Side communities. | Austin Weekly News

While the West Side wards didn’t change much, the neighborhood demographics did. According to census data analyzed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Austin’s Hispanic population more than doubled in 2020, going from 8,722 (8.85% of the community population) to 18,590 (19.25% of the population). Conversely, Austin’s Black population went from 85% to 74.58%.

The Hispanic population more than doubled in North Lawndale as well, going from 5.9% to 11.63%, while its Black population dropped from 91.43% to 83.67%. Even West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park, where the Hispanic population accounted for less than 2% and a little more than 4%, saw those figures triple and double, respectively. West Garfield Park’s Black population went from 96% to 89.5%, while East Garfield Park’s Black population dropped from 90.9% to 83.4%.

The census data includes both the majority-Black West Humboldt Park and the majority-Hispanic eastern half, but the community overall lost nearly half of its Black population, going from 40.89% to 29.8%. Its overall Hispanic population increased from 53% to 58.6%.

While Austin’s white population dropped from 4.4% to 3.9%, it increased in the other community areas, nearly doubling from 1.37% to 2.4% in North Lawndale and from 4.4% to 8.8% in Humboldt Park.

The final version of the Latino Caucus proposal would’ve split Austin between the 29th and 37th wards along Iowa Street, with the 29th ward getting much of West Humboldt Park and the 37th ward including the rest of Austin and a section of West Humboldt Park that includes the controversial Joint Public Safety Training Center, also known as the “Cop Academy.”

During the May 21 meeting of the Coalition Of African-American Leaders (COAL), which was held virtually over Zoom, Black Caucus chair Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) described the final map as a win for Chicago’s Black community. If ward boundaries didn’t change, he said, Chicago would have 15 majority-Black wards, 12 majority-Hispanic wards and 37 majority-minority wards.

“[Throughout the negotiations], we continued down the path of presenting as many wards as possible for the African-American community,” Ervin said, adding that he didn’t support the “byzantine process of the referendum, where people don’t know what’s left or right. I’m not sure direct election is the best way to handle this, because the media can manipulate us into [believing] something that’s not true.”

Throughout the remap process, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) argued that, since his ward hasn’t seen much population change, he would prefer to keep it intact. During his May 18 monthly community meeting, which was held over Zoom, he said that he was pleased with the final map.

“The 29th ward didn’t have to change any, but to help other aldermen out, [Ald. Michael Scott] needed several thousand people in the 24th ward,” he said.

During the April 20 community meeting, Taliaferro said he opposed the Latino Caucus map, because he felt that stretching the 29th ward east would dilute Black voting power. He reiterated his position during the May meeting.

“That could’ve easily become a Latino-controlled ward, because of the Latino residents in Humboldt Park and the growing number [of Latino residents] in West Humboldt Park,” Taliaferro said.

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...