Asiaha Butler stands on the southwest corner of 63rd and Halsted on a recent weekday, and scans her surroundings. From here, she can point to three different wards of Chicago, all within shouting distance: the 16th, the 20th and the 6th wards.
“This is 20,” Butler, CEO of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood said. “Actually that might be 20,” she corrects herself, pointing across the street. “But this is 16. And then if you walk, like, a block or two up, you’re in [Ward] 6.”
Those are just three of the six wards that snake and weave through Englewood and West Englewood, which Butler refers to as Greater Englewood, in the heart of Chicago’s South Side. Butler says the dissection of her community into so many wards has made it difficult to lobby for change in a neighborhood suffering from high rates of violence and economic despair due to decades of disinvestment.
Butler and others want the area to be consolidated into one or two city wards. They thought this decade would be their shot, as city council members undergo the decennial process to remap the city’s wards based on 2020 census data.
This has become a common refrain from residents across the city during public hearings on the remap process: keep our communities together. Residents from West Town, Logan Square, Chinatown, Lincoln Park, and more, have testified. A draft map released by the city earlier this month shows that the Asian American community may emerge a winner – with its first majority ward – but that some community efforts to consolidate Englewood have once again failed.
But one expert says that’s in part because of the competing issues map makers may be trying to solve.
“It is just not possible to keep all communities that have some form of integrity together when you’re trying to solve these other remap problems,” said Jim Lewis, a researcher at the Great Cities Institute within the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Lewis explains that while aldermen are tasked with creating wards that are roughly the same population – about 55,000 people in Chicago – many are attempting to draw a map that creates as many majority-Black or majority-Latino wards as possible, to maximize the chances of sending minority candidates to council.
“The problem so often comes back to the issue that we’re trying to get some form of racial equity in the City Cou
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