Members of the city’s Redistricting Committee, while making progress, still pushed back by one month the release of draft maps with new ward boundaries.
Committee members made the change, delaying release of the drafts until their March 28 meeting, with the hope of coming up with “three or four solid maps,” for the public to consider, said Council Member Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th Ward), committee chair, at the group’s Feb. 28 meeting.
During this extra month, committee members will give special consideration to maps proposed by Nieuwsma and Council Members Melissa Wynne (3rd Ward) and Bobby Burns (5th Ward).
The final maps would be made available on the committee’s online page some time prior to the March 28 meeting, giving the public a chance for review, said Nieuwsma.
Addressing the deviation
The committee has been meeting almost a year, engaging in the first remapping of the city’s political boundaries in 20 years. Evanston’s population increased by 3,624 residents between 2010 and 2020, according to 2020 census results.
The population of the city’s nine wards ranged from 7,920 in the Ninth Ward, located on the city’s far southwest side, to 9,691 in the Third, in central and southeast Evanston.
The average ward size is 8,679, according to the 2020 census, with a 16.4% deviation between the highest and lowest populated ward.
According to federal guidelines, a deviation of less than 10% is regarded as compliant with the “one person, one vote” standard.
At the Feb. 28 meeting, maps proposed by Council Member Melissa Wynne (3rd Ward) and Nieuwsma received the most interest from members as having the potential to move forward.
The maps, developed with a software program, stick closely to current ward boundaries. There are changes along some borders, potentially shifting some residents into different wards.
Under Wynne’s proposal, an area referred to the “panhandle,” just north of Dempster Street, would be shifted from the Third Ward to the undersized First Ward.
The area contains a number of multi-residential buildings. Council Member Clare Kelly (1st Ward) who did not attend the Feb. 28 meeting, had previously raised concerns about the switch.
Among changes in the Fourth Ward would be a shift of blocks around the Robert Crown Community Center west of Ashland Avenue to the Second Ward.
(Audio was poor in the room and no maps with overlays were released, making going into detail difficult.)
Bold suggestion for the 8th: lakefront
Council Members Bobby Burns (5th Ward) and Devon Reid (8th Ward) showed interest in moving forward with the Wynne and Nieuwsma proposals.
Though it was rejected, Reid made the boldest proposal of the night. His map would continue his far south Eighth Ward east, giving it a slice of the lakefront that is now in the Third Ward.
Right now, the First, Third and Seventh wards include the lakefront.
Just as committee members were conscious about having “multiple wards and diverse wards representing downtown,” there is also a value in “having multiple and diverse wards representing the lakefront,” Reid argued.
Further, if that move were made, he said, the Eighth would be the only majority minority ward that would have some lakefront area. Other committee members expressed concern, though, noting some alleys would have to be sliced through in drawing lines.
Wynne argued against the change, citing one of the guidelines committee members have adopted: “Keeping communities of interest together.”
This proposed change would affect people who live across the street from one another, rather than across the tracks, she said. Reid countered, “We’re talking about fewer than 100 people who would be affected by the boundary change.”
Further, the Eighth Ward currently has a strong border with Chicago (at Howard Street), he said, “and I think maintaining that border with Chicago all along helps create some synergies with the Eighth Ward and the council member in Chicago’s 49th Ward.”
Reid also expressed interest in some changes between the Eighth and Ninth Wards, noting, “There’s a strong single family residence of the Eighth that, I think, really matches the character,” suggesting border changes that reflect the similarity.
Also, he said, a portion of the Ninth Ward with a strong base of renters and condo owners shares a similarity with portions of the Eighth Ward.
No decisions were made. Nieuwsma and Wynne will keep working on their maps, perhaps seeing if they can fit them together into a single map, Nieuwsma said.
Council members Burns and Reid are expected to keep working on their maps as well, he said.
The group, making use of software programs now in existence, is still way ahead of expectations, said Wynne, a member of the council since 1997.
“It’s just kind of remarkable, at least initially, from having been here 20 years ago, how these maps are remarkably close [to meeting guidelines]. Whereas, 20 years ago there were so many maps and they were all over the place,” Wynne said.
Let us hope that the maps the public will see would be detailed with boundary-street labeling around every zig and zag. People who live at a boundary, or have family and friends who do, deserve the ability to see how they will be affected or afflicted. Across the tracks, across the street, or across the alley… matters. Some digital mapping sources do well on east-west streets or tracks, and dismally on north-south, curved, or diagonal lines.