Former HDO chief enlisted to help Hispanic aldermen boost Council seats
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com September 8, 2011 4:52PM
11-10-03, CTA Board member Victor Reyes. Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
Updated: November 9, 2011 1:53PM
The City Council’s Hispanic Caucus has hired former Hispanic Democratic Organization chieftain Victor Reyes to represent them in what could be a contentious battle for four to six more Hispanic wards to coincide with Latino population gains.
Reyes will lead a high-powered legal team that also includes the city’s former Human Resources Commissioner Homero Tristan and Virginia Martinez, former staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund.
While Chicago lost 182,000 black residents and nearly 53,000 whites over the last decade, the city’s Hispanic population grew by 25,000. The City Council has until a Dec. 1 deadline to redraw ward boundaries to coincide with the 2010 U.S. Census.
On Thursday, the Hispanic Caucus held a City Hall news conference to kick off the remap process by showcasing its legal team, distributing maps of Hispanic population gains and scheduling a pair of public hearings Sept. 21 and 30.
Reyes hedged when asked how many new Hispanic wards there should be.
“There’s been talk of four and talk of six. But, until the numbers get analyzed completely, it’s hard to give any specific numbers,” he said.
Asked whether Hispanic gains would come at the expense of blacks, Reyes noted that African-Americans are also a “protected class” according to the Voting Rights Act.
“They’re gonna argue that there shouldn’t be any retrogression. So, it’s not a simple answer,” Reyes said.
He added, “They made a commitment to work together with the common goal of not fighting. Maybe there’s a solution that doesn’t require there to be losers.”
Former Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) is representing her former African American colleagues in the high-stakes battle to hold onto the 19 City Council seats and 20 majority black wards they already have.
She has argued that African-Americans, for the most part, remain in “compact, single-race neighborhoods,” while Hispanics are “more spread out.”
In a statement distributed Thursday, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the Black Caucus, promised to push that position “without infringing upon the rights of other protected classes.”
“We have met with members of the Latino Caucus to share mutual concerns and will continue to dialogue with them as we go forward,” Brookins said.
Ten years ago, the City Council wrapped up the most tranquil remap process in recent history by approving a “coalition” ward map that protected incumbents, preserved black representation and offered Hispanics a small reward for their then impressive population gains.
That map included 20 black wards, 13 white wards, 11 Hispanic wards and six wards with a “majority minority” mix of Hispanics, blacks and Asians: the 11th, 39th, 40th, 46th, 48th and 49th.
Only two of the new Hispanic wards — the 14th and 30th— had “super-majorities” of more than 65 percent. Incumbent powerhouse Edward M. Burke has been unopposed for re-election in the 14th Ward ever since.
Reyes last surfaced as top a campaign strategist for mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun, who finished in fourth place with less than nine percent of the vote.
The Hispanic Democratic Organization was at the center of the scandal that culminated in the 2006 conviction of Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s former patronage chief on charges of rigging city hiring, promotions and overtime to benefit pro-Daley armies of political workers.
Reyes was implicated first as an unidentified “co-schemer” in the alleged conspiracy to reward soldiers in the mayor’s political army, then by name in a court filing.
The document described allegations that Reyes continued to exercise substantial influence in personnel decisions, even after he left City Hall in 2000; held meetings in his City Hall office to arrange promotions for politically active employees, and gave marching orders to pro-Daley armies made up of city employees.
He was never indicted and has attempted to put the scandal behind him.
The city’s 2011 budget authorizes $1 million for the entire remap process. That sets the stage for another battle if, as expected, legal fees for the different caucuses exceed that amount.