A community redistricting meeting Thursday night discussed how to keep the 5th Ward one of the city’s three majority-minority wards.

The question arose because, to balance the overall population of the city’s wards, the 5th — which has lagged in population growth over the past decade compared to the citywide average — needs to expand geographically.

And the city’s Redistricting Committee has agreed to make keeping a third of the city’s nine wards majority-minority one of its goals for the redistricting process.

Since the white population of the ward has declined from 38% to 32% during the past decade that shouldn’t be a difficult challenge.

But the population of Black residents — the traditional majority in the ward — has also declined — from 41% to 36%.

Racial categories that have seen the most growth include residents who identify as being of two or more races, up from 4% to 11%, and those who identify as “some other race,” up from 6% to 9%. The Asian population has grown slightly, from 9% to 10%. The Native American population has also grown, but from a very low base of 0.3% to 0.9%.

Residents who identify ethnically as Hispanic have also increased, from 14% to 19%.

A ward map showing how above or below the 5th and neighboring wards are from the population average.

Several residents suggested moving at least part of the section of the 2nd Ward that is north of Church Street into the 5th Ward, although that neighborhood has a relatively high percentage of white residents.

Delores Holmes, a former 5th Ward alderman, suggested that a lot of people in that area collaborate across ward boundaries already — especially where the boundary line is now drawn at Lyons Street.

A few suggested adding a slice of the 6th and 7th wards lying west of the North Shore Channel to the 5th Ward, but that area is very heavily white and the idea received pushback for that reason.

Support was also voiced for moving the block bounded by Leonard Place, Ridge Avenue, Noyes Street and Asbury Avenue from the 7th to the 5th Ward — and perhaps extending the 5th Ward’s boundary even further north.

One resident living in the existing portion of the 5th Ward east of Green Bay Road suggested that section of the ward might better be moved into the 1st Ward — saying the issues affecting that area have more affinity with 1st Ward issues.

But Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) pushed back at that idea, and since both the 5th and 1st Wards are currently under-populated, it did not appear that idea would further the population balance goal.

The Redistricting Committee’s chair, Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th), said the committee has nearly completed its series of ward-specific meetings — one more is scheduled to address 2nd Ward boundaries.

Then by the end of February, Nieuwsma said, the committee is scheduled to develop several proposed new maps, hold a meeting in March to get public feedback on those and then in April select one map to recommend that the full City Council adopt in May.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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