Council to review proposed new maps

Chris Kirkham

Evanston City Council’s Rules Committee tonight will view 15 proposed maps to reshape Evanston’s wards, capping off a summer of city-wide hearings and deliberations about redistricting.

Because 2000 U.S. Census information indicates that population distribution among the nine wards is unbalanced, Illinois law requires that the ward boundaries be redrawn before August 2004.

But balancing the population is only half the story.

Starting this summer, maps have been proposed by Northwestern’s Associated Student Government, minority groups and other residents who want to ensure their voices still will be heard.

One proposal, submitted by alds. Arthur Newman (1st) and Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd), seeks to address the concerns of the black majorities in the Second and Fifth Wards. Because the First Ward — which contains much of NU and downtown Evanston — is overpopulated, this proposal would shift some First Ward residents into the Second and Fifth wards.

Both Newman and Jean-Baptiste did not return repeated calls for comment Monday.

The National Association for the Advancement for Colored People is trying to address the black majorities in those two wards, said George Mitchell, president of the Evanston chapter.

Mitchell has submitted two maps for consideration at the meeting that would also consider the interests of blacks, he said.

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1964, the city must guarantee that minority groups are fairly represented. But a map drawn by ASG seeks to maintain on-campus students’ voting power as well.

Jane Lee, ASG’s external relations chairwoman, said on-campus student votes should remain where they are — in the First and Seventh wards.

“We wanted to make sure (the on-campus student distribution) was equal to what it is now,” said Lee, a Weinberg junior. “We are satisfied with the way the two-alderman system has worked, because our aldermen represent us very well.”

Lee’s map keeps the on-campus students in those two wards and instead moves much of downtown Evanston into the Fourth Ward.

The other map generated by the NU community belongs to Kellogg School of Management Professor Allan Drebin, who said his proposal is the only legal one on the table.

Drebin, who lost to Newman in the 2001 aldermanic election, said his map has the highest percentage of blacks in both the Second and Fifth wards. He said Newman’s maps were an “overt attempt” to dilute student votes in the First Ward.

Drebin’s map also proposes that the Eighth Ward — currently located in south Evanston — be moved to the downtown district. This move would mean incumbent Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) would no longer live in her ward.

Drebin said he considered this as a problem, but he said it was more important to balance minority and student votes.

“I think from a legal standpoint it’s nice to protect incumbents,” Drebin said. “but it’s more important to protect the African-Americans from dilution.”

One map even proposes that Evanston’s wards be completely reconfigured. Authored by Evanston resident Sue Brady and other members of a redistricting committee comprised of residents, this map would split Evanston into six wards with two aldermen in each ward.

“It’s really a concept map,” she said. “It would give people more of a citywide constituency, and I think it would be less divisive. It would almost toss things up in the air and have them begin all over again.”

The committee will meet at 7 p.m. at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave. The full City Council is scheduled to vote on the maps at the council meeting Oct. 20 or Oct. 27.