Black caucus hires Freddrenna Lyle in ward fight
By Fran Spielman City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org August 2, 2011 12:06AM
6th Ward Ald. Freddrenna Lyle
Updated: November 14, 2011 12:17AM
Members of the City Council’s Black Caucus have agreed to hire former South Side Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) to represent them in an upcoming fight over new ward boundaries that’s expected to be among the most contentious in recent history.
Lyle is an attorney who spent 13 years in the City Council, only to lose to Roderick Sawyer, son of former Mayor Eugene Sawyer, by 104 votes.
Now, Lyle will go to war for her former colleagues in the high-stakes battle to hold onto the 19 City Council seats and 20 majority black wards they have, despite a dramatic decline in Chicago’s black population.
Chicago lost 182,000 black residents in the 2010 U.S. Census, in part because of the demolition of CHA high-rises. But Lyle argued that African-Americans, for the most part, remain in “compact, single-race neighborhoods.”
Chicago’s Hispanic population, which grew by 25,000 residents, is “more spread out,” the former alderman said.
“As opposed to having 19 wards with 80 or 90 percent black population, you may have some wards that have 65, 70 or 80 percent. But we’re going into the process anticipating that we will retain the same number of African-American wards,” Lyle said.
Noting that Chicago lost nearly 53,000 white residents, Lyle said, “If there is to be an increase in Latino wards, it should come at the expense of wards represented by white aldermen.”
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, said $1 million has been set aside for the remap process and Lyle’s legal fees should come out of that pot.
Brookins argued that Lyle is a logical choice to fend off a demand that at least four and as many as six new Hispanic wards be created at the expense of African-Americans.
“She went through it ten years ago. She’s an attorney. And she has an idea as to how City Council works and specific expertise with respect to drawing maps,” Brookins said.
Lyle was asked whether she’s helping her former colleagues or whether her former colleagues are helping her.
“It’s both,” the former alderman said. She added, “It’s not like they did this to give me money. They interviewed a couple of attorneys. The other person knew how to draw a map, but he didn’t know the inner-workings of City Hall.”
After the 1990 Census, Chicago taxpayers spent $20 million in legal fees—and tens of thousands more on a costly referendum—only to change a handful of blocks in the 18th Ward that resulted in the re-election of then-incumbent Ald. Tom Murphy (18th).
Ten years later, it was just the opposite.
With only one dissenting vote, 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 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.