City map debate persists

Evanston City Council’s Rules Committee on Monday again delayed recommending a map that would redraw Evanston’s nine wards as members entertained yet another method for calculating ward populations and decided to invite more residents to submit maps.

About 50 Northwestern students also came to the meeting, some accusing the City Council of proposing maps that would split the on-campus student vote among three wards.

Associated Student Government leaders initiated a petition campaign Sunday to show support for student interests in the redistricting process. By Monday’s meeting, the group had collected 559 student endorsements.

Jane Lee, ASG’s external relations chairwoman, said NU students are “vital members of the community,” and any redistricting map should not disrupt the traditional student voting bloc.

“Although students may remain transient, our concerns remain constant,” said Lee, a Weinberg junior. “We desire to remain a historically cohesive group.”

Supporters of maintaining a black majority in the city’s Second and Fifth wards came to speak in favor of proposals based on a method of estimating city population that could significantly change the way maps are drawn.

In earlier discussions of redistricting, most of the maps were drawn based on voting-age population. But Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) presented the possibility of drawing maps based on total population, not just those residents 18 and older.

The question was raised after Jean-Baptiste studied a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision issued in 1998 about redistricting Chicago’s wards.

The committee decided to hold another meeting in two weeks to give aldermen and residents time to read the court decision. At that meeting the committee will decide whether to consider maps using voting-age or total population as the basis for redrawing the ward boundaries.

Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) said he supported the submission of maps based on total population, but he said his primary interest is a resolution for the process.

“Ultimately I think we’re talking about a distinction without a difference,” Bernstein said. “We’re looking for the best map here.”

Up to this point, only one proposed map decided boundaries on the basis of total population. George Mitchell, president of the Evanston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, previously presented two maps — one based on voting-age population and one calculated from total population.

“We feel the interest of the community is best served by using total population,” Mitchell said. “The least amount of confusion and movement is done when using total population.”

Mitchell said using total population would create a map with the fewest and least-dramatic shifts in ward boundaries.

Jean-Baptiste said although nothing was decided Monday, the council now has some direction for the redistricting debate. He also said students made their goals clear at the meeting.

“I think number one, you guys came out in force and put your voice out there,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Number two, we were able to stop the trend and say, ‘Let’s look at the basis for this decision.'”

The next Rules Committee meeting will take place at 5 p.m. on Nov. 3 at the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave. The meeting is open to the public. If a map is selected, the council could consider the issue at its Nov. 24 meeting.