As the deadline approaches for the Chicago City Council to approve a new ward map, community leaders are pushing for an Asian majority ward to reflect the 2020 census.
"For the first time, we have enough population over 30,000 on the Southwest Side that we can draw a compact, contiguous ward that includes at least 50% of Asian Americans in the ward," said Grace Chan McKibben.
McKibben, the executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, said having an Asian majority ward would be the first in Chicago’s history.
"What we’re asking for is fair representation -- both fair representation in terms of being represented politically in the city,” she said, "but also fair representation, fairly representing what the current reality is."
The Latino Caucus discussed its coalition map at the council meeting on Monday. The map shows 35 majority minority wards, including one ward that unifies the Asian community with 49% Asian representation. Right now it’s the only proposed map on the table.
"Unfortunately we don’t have a voice at the table within the City Council," said Chan McKibben. "There isn’t an Asian American alderperson, but the advocacy has not stopped."
An independent group led by Chicago residents released its version of the ward map after receiving community feedback. The Chicago Advisory Redistricting Commission’s people’s map supports a majority Asian ward with more than 50% percent Asian representation.
"We’ve largely been endorsed for our transparency process and we’re currently in the process of seeing if there are any alders that are willing to endorse our map and trigger that referendum," said Commissioner Gracie Covarrubias.
Ten aldermen can push the process to a referendum, letting the voters decide between two proposed maps. If not, 26 alderman voting yes will approve the map for the next 10 years. The deadline is Dec. 1.
McKibben said her group and other partners will reach out and meet with alderpersons in the coming weeks hoping to drum up enough support for the Asian majority ward.
"We’re the only growing Chinatown in North America, and then with so many other Chinatowns dwindling in population because of gentrification and other economic factors," she said. "I think it will be a shining example for the rest of the country if we can do this."