New 11th Ward Alder Supports Ward Map that Divides Neighborhood

Published May 2, 2022

Chicago 11th Ward Alderwoman Nicole Lee portraitChicago 11th Ward Alderwoman Nicole LeeNicole Lee, Chicago’s newest city council member representing the 11th Ward, has said she supports a ward remap that keeps more of the Bridgeport neighborhood within one ward. However, the redistricting map she supports would split the McKinley Park neighborhood into two wards, between the 11th and 12th.

 
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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot confirmed Lee in March 2022 as the new alderwoman for the 11th Ward, replacing Patrick Daley-Thompson, who resigned in February following conviction on federal tax fraud charges.

Lee's appointment signaled a new era for Asian-American Chicagoans in a ward formerly dominated by the Daley family and Irish-American politicians. Both potential versions of Chicago's ward redistricting map would make the 11th Ward an Asian-American majority ward — a first for Chicago — and Lee its first Asian-American woman representative on the Chicago City Council.

 
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Two Competing Maps

As previously reported here in the McKinley Park News, multiple competing ward maps may result in a voter referendum in the June 28, 2022, primary election. The city council has failed to unify around a map, a process that requires support of at least 41 out of 50 alderwomen and aldermen.

McKinley Park Chicago ward redistricting City of Chicago map 202112A screen snapshot of the proposed map from the City of Chicago’s Committee on Committees and Rules shows the McKinley Park neighborhood irregularly divided between the 12th Ward (green overlay) and the 11th Ward (brown overlay).Two competing ward maps may be presented to voters: one map from Chicago city hall that has the support of Chicago's Black Caucus, and another map supported by the Latino Caucus. The former, which Lee supports, places land east of South Ashland Avenue, plus an irregular chunk of the McKinley Park neighborhood's northeast side and a tendril to encompass an affluent block of single family homes, into the 11th Ward.

 
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The map supported by the Latino Caucus, also called the Coalition Map, keeps all of McKinley Park within the 12th Ward. Currently, the historic Original East District of McKinley Park's Central Manufacturing District resides in the 11th Ward, south of West 35th Street and east of South Ashland Avenue.

Chinatown Background

Lee, who was born and raised in Chicago's Chinatown neighborhood, has most recently worked for United Airlines as director of social impact and community engagement, as well as pursued longtime engagement with Chinatown community groups.

A screen capture of a ward redistricting map shows prospective ward boundaries for Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood as proposed by the city council's Latino Caucus.A screen capture of a proposed ward redistricting map shows prospective ward boundaries for Chicago's McKinley Park neighborhood as supported by the city council's Latino Caucus.Lee has worked as a consultant for the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, served on the Asian American Advisory Council at the University of Illinois - Chicago and has been president of the Chicago Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans. She is fluent in Cantonese.

Mah Supports Lee

“It is exciting and historic that the Mayor has appointed the first Alderman from the Chinese American community,” Illinois 1st District State Representative Theresa Mah, who represents McKinley Park, Chinatown and other surrounding neighborhoods, wrote in a news release from the state’s Asian-American Caucus.

 
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“I know Nicole, and I am confident that she has the right skill set to represent all 11th Ward residents well in the City Council,” Mah said.

Lee’s appointment was not without controversy. Lee’s father, Gene, once served as deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley. In 2014, Gene Lee was convicted of stealing $100,000 from a Chinatown charity and spending at least part of it on himself, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.

 
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IPO Says No

A screen capture from the City of Chicago's interactive ward map shows how the 12th Ward (in pink), the 11th Ward (in orange) and the 25th Ward (in blue) currently overlay the McKinley Park neighborhood.A screen capture from the City of Chicago's interactive ward map shows how the 12th Ward (in pink), the 11th Ward (in orange) and the 25th Ward (in blue) currently overlay the McKinley Park neighborhood.The 11th Ward Independent Political Organization released a statement opposing Lee’s nomination as alderman.

"The appointment of Nicole Lee triggers several red flags," the organization wrote. "Lee’s professional history, and presumably personal network, is connected with banks and oil interests, the same interests that have driven climate change and exacerbated the affordable housing crisis and housing segregation in our communities.”

Neither Lee nor her office replied to requests from this publication to inform reporting.


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