City Council factions finally agree on new ward map
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 16, 2012 4:24PM
Updated: February 18, 2012 8:13AM
Rival City Council factions have reached agreement on a new ward map that includes 18 majority black wards, 13 majority Hispanic wards and two Hispanic “influence” wards, but aldermen won’t ratify it until a special meeting Thursday at the earliest.
The Rules Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to take public testimony followed by a full Council meeting Wednesday.
But Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, said a final vote on the new map must wait until Hispanic voters have their say at a Wednesday night hearing and until the Hispanic Caucus is assured the compromise can pass legal muster.
“There’s no more debate on the number of wards Hispanics would get. It’s 13. And the number of [Hispanic] influence wards is two. The Black Caucus would get 18. The 20th Ward would stay on the South Side. They’d keep everything they’ve got except the 15th Ward, which would become a super-majority Hispanic ward,” Solis said.
“The only real issue now is will this map get struck down because of the deviation” from the benchmark that every ward have 52,900 residents.
Victor Reyes, a consultant to the Hispanic Caucus, said the original map filed by the Caucus included a deviation of four percent. The compromise raises it to ten percent.
Hispanic majority wards are at least 60 percent Latino, influence wards 35 percent to 40 percent, and super majority wards, at least 65 percent.
In a conference call Monday from Washington D.C., national remap expert Dr. Allan Lichtman assured aldermen that the compromise map could be defended.
But, Solis said, “We need a clear and coherent narrative that, not only we understand but the public can understand of how this map will be defensible to a legal challenge. We just want him to have a further conversation with our attorney, Mike Kasper, since he went through this” when legislative and congressional maps were drawn to coincide with the 2010 U.S. Census.
Burt Odelson, an attorney representing the Black Caucus, insisted the compromise is on solid legal ground.
“All the case law throughout the United States is that, if it’s below ten percent [deviation] with good reason, then it’s an acceptable map,” Odelson said.
“Good reason means pursuant to the Voting Rights Act and trying to make wards with a population that will be able to elect a minority — whether that be Latino or African-American.”
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, said the deal that could spare Chicago taxpayers a $30 million repeat of the 1990 remap fiasco could be ratified at a special City Council meeting as early as Thursday. If that’s not possible, the vote will take place next week.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that a last minute boost in the Hispanic population of the Southwest Side’s 23rd Ward — from 54 to over 60 percent — could seal a remap deal.
Incumbent Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd) remains adamantly opposed to the changes, but his vote may not be required. The compromise could attract the 41 votes needed to avoid a remap referendum — with or without Zalewski, sources said.
“I assume they’re just gonna go ahead and pass a map with as many votes as possible. But nothing has changed as far as my position,” Zalewski said Friday.
“Do I think I could win [in a majority Hispanic ward]? Yes, I do. Am I running again in 2015? My plan right now is to run, but that’s a long ways away.”
In addition to Zalewski, the new map would endanger incumbent Aldermen: Jim Balcer (11th); Nick Sposato (36th) and Bob Fioretti (2nd), whose home would not be located in his newly-redrawn ward.
Aldermen Toni Foulkes (15th) and Joann Thompson (16th) would be thrown into the same ward, meaning only one of the two incumbents could survive.