The Affirmative Action Map

Is the city practicing affirmative action with its ward re-map?

That’s what Crain’s Chicago Business’s ace political reporter Greg Hinz suggests in a column this week. Hinz points out that the “Map For A Better Chicago,” favored by Ald. Richard Mell, Rahm Emanuel and the black caucus, creates numerous underpopulated wards on the South and West sides in order to preserve the current number of black alderman.

The city’s African-American population dropped by 180,000 in the last decade. To account for that, the Map For A Better Chicago fudges the rule that every ward should have an equal population. The 3rd Ward, in Bronzeville, has only 51,613 residents. Meanwhile, the 44th Ward, in Lake View, has 55,888 residents. That’s an 8.2 percent difference.

“If that sounds like reverse discrimination, it may well be,” Hinz writes. “It certainly constitutes old-time, follow-the-mayor power politics. Whatever, there’s no other way to describe a map in which North Side lakefront wards will have nearly 56,000 residents each, but most predominantly black wards only 51,500 or so.”

The Latino Caucus’s map spreads the population much more evenly over the 50 wards. The least populous ward is the mostly-white 19th, with 52,647 residents. The most populous is the white-and-Latino 1st Ward, with 55,162 -- a difference of 4.8 percent.

The Latinos can definitely argue they drew a fairer map than Mell and the black caucus, but that’s no surprise. Their map was designed to reflect Chicago’s population changes over the last 10 years, while the Map For A Better Chicago was designed to pretend those changes never happened.

Some day, Chicago’s African-Americans are going to have to accept that they are no longer numerous enough to elect 19 aldermen. According to the 2010 Census, that day is now.

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