What's up this week: New Cook County map could be up for vote; Burke talks Fort Dearborn after 'peace pipe' comments

What's up this week: New Cook County map could be up for vote; Burke talks Fort Dearborn after 'peace pipe' comments

Cook County Commissioners could vote on Tuesday to approve new district boundaries for the second most populous county in the U.S.

Cook’s redistricting committee–which is tasked with drawing up a new map every 10 years when new Census data become available–met on Friday and voted 14-1 to send the latest map to a vote before the entire county board.

The new boundaries will retain five predominantly African American districts, and add a third Latino district.

On Friday, commissioners voted in favor of the map that county staff drew up, albeit with some minor changes to a handful of black districts and a Latino one. One minor change was to redraw the South Side 3rd District so as not to cut in half the historic neighborhood of Avalon Park.

Earlean Collins, commissioner of the 1st District on the West Side and the lone dissenter, submitted her own map but mustered next to no support.

It too kept the five black districts and added a third Latino district. But Collins’ map also tried to incorporate more black and Latino constituents of voting age in each district.

She maintained that was necessary to ensure voters in these districts continue to be able to elect “their own” in election cycles to come.

“Today we have the opportunity to allow [black and Latino] constituents to elect their own,” Collins said. “For us to break them up infringes upon their right to elect their own.”

Larry Suffredin, the 13th District commissioner from Evanston, was the only one to vote for Collins’ map.

He explained his vote in a phone conversation with The Chicago Reporter:

“I supported Collins’ amendment mainly because I thought it was a better map for the protected minority classes. One of the things we needed to do is to follow the federal Voting Rights Act. That means we were to draw five African American districts and three Hispanic districts, so [minority candidates] have the best chance to win and have a say on the [board]. That’s proportional representation. Hers did a better job with those districts. Second, there is a 10 percent variance on the [population] districts that’s allowed under the Federal Voting Rights Act. I now have one of the largest populations. I represent 30,000 more people than some of the minority commissioners. Collins made it much closer, so every district was basically at 305,000. That’s important because the concept of one person one vote is an essential premise.”

Suffredin also noted that, for some incumbents, re-election under Collins’ map could prove tricky, which likely explains why no one else backed her map.

It’s also been reported that Collins’ map–which would have moved her district farther south, into more black areas and away from a larger white population in Oak Park–was drawn for her own self interest.

She denies that.

“This is not a Collins map,” she said Friday, adding she insists she’s not running for re-election so self-preservation was not her motivation.

In the past, Collins has said she’s retiring and has decided to run again.

Regardless of her motivations, Suffredin–who, in the end, also voted to send the staff map out of committee–said Collins’ map was a better one because it best represented the future of minority constituents in the county.

“When you’re drawing these maps, [experts] say you have to look at what the populations will be like in 10 years,” Suffredin said, backing Collins’ statement that population changes in the currently black districts could result in black commissioners losing their seats.

“People think she’s a little bit out there, but what she was saying [Friday] was not all that fanciful,” he added.

The county board is expected to approve the staff map at its Tuesday board meeting, which starts at 10 a.m., at 69 W. Washington Blvd.

Burke discusses Fort Dearborn on heels of ‘peace pipe’ comment

Fourteenth Ward Alderman Ed Burke is slated to appear before the City Club at noon on Monday to talk about the Battle of Fort Dearborn.

Earlier this month, he introduced a resolution commemorating the 200th anniversary of the battle between U.S. troops and Potawatomi natives, which occurred on land that is now 18th Street and Prarie Avenue. Burke’s resolution was initially criticized because some claimed it downplayed the role of Native Americans in the fight; he later changed it.

But, during a conversation with a Native American activist who complained about the original wording of the resolution, Burke suggested that everyone cool their jets and “smoke a peace pipe.”

Pipes are sacred in Native American culture, but there is no such thing as a “peace pipe”; the term is considered derogatory.

Burke apologized, but noted “the peace pipe is something that is commonly understood in North America to be a symbol of reconciliation and conciliation. That was my only intention … I viewed it as an opportunity, if that is a symbol of reconciliation and friendship, to incorporate that into the commemoration ceremonies.”

© Community Renewal Society 2012


Leave a comment