Aldermanic remap could cost millions
By Fran Spielman City Hall Reporter email@example.com December 1, 2011 12:58AM
Updated: January 3, 2012 9:05AM
Chicago may be headed toward a repeat of the 1990 remap referendum that cost taxpayers $20 million.
Sources said a majority of the City Council’s 50 aldermen—but fewer than the 41 needed to avert a referendum—are uniting behind a new ward map that includes 17 black wards, 17 white wards, 13 Hispanic wards and three Hispanic “influence” wards where the Latino population tops 40 percent.
That would give Hispanics three more super-majority wards as a reward for their 25,218-person population gain in the 2010 U.S. Census.
African-Americans trying desperately to hold onto the 19 wards they already have despite a 181,453-person drop in Chicago’s black population would lose two wards. The city’s white population declined by 52,499.
If at least ten aldermen unite behind an alternate map, Chicago voters would choose between the two versions when they go to the polls next March. That could set the stage for a federal lawsuit.
“If a map is passed that has 17 African-American wards, there will be another map introduced by ten African-American aldermen. A 17-ward map is an insult,” said former Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th), an attorney hired to represent the Black Caucus who is about to step aside after being appointed a Circuit Court judge.
“It’s gonna be a tremendously costly endeavor to go to a referendum and three times as costly to finance litigation. There’ll be lawyers on all sides. It’s a cost the city can’t bear. And it just reopens [racial] scars of days gone by.”
The political version of musical chairs could leave several incumbent aldermen without seats when the music stops. Rookie Ald. Nick Sposato’s 36th Ward could go from 32 percent Hispanic to 67 percent.
“It’s gonna totally change my ward. I was all the way West. Now, you’re moving me all the way east. That’s not the people [who] elected me. It’s not fair to the people. It’s not fair to me,” Sposato said Wednesday.
Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th) could be remapped out of her South Side Ward, which would go from majority black to majority Hispanic. That would either force her to move and run for re-election in a Hispanic ward or stay put and challenge Ald. Joann Thompson (16th).
“They shouldn’t try to reduce it from 19 and try to put people out of jobs. That’s not good for the city. The city should not be divided,” Foulkes said.
The African-American ward currently represented by Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) could also be moved to the North Side, leaving Cochran without a seat.
“I’m hopeful and confident that the 20th will be where it needs to be. If not, we’ll be in court,” Cochran said.
Additional Hispanic wards could be created in the 10th, 23rd and 13th Wards now represented by whites. The 1st Ward would go from a Hispanic majority ward to Hispanic “influence” ward.
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.
The current City Council is comprised of 22 whites, 19 blacks, eight Latinos and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who is of Indian descent.