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Hispanic Aldermen Propose City Council Map With Only 25 Wards

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A Chicago City Council meeting. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — In the feud over the Chicago ward remap, a familiar, but oft-dismissed push to cut the City Council in half is resurfacing.

The City Council Hispanic Caucus has put together a new proposed ward map that reduces the city’s 50 wards to 25. The wards are almost evenly divided between African-Americans, whites and Latinos, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The Sun-Times did not publish the map or go into detail about which wards would be eliminated or consolidated.

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) told the Sun-Times the map would more accurately reflect the demographics of the city, which is 32.9 percent black, 31.7 percent white and 28.9 percent Hispanic.

The City Council is now composed of 22 whites, 19 African-Americans, eight Latinos and one Indian-American.

Back in March before he took office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel denied a published report claiming he supported a move to cut the City Council in half. Emanuel reportedly discussed the idea with aldermen who were asked to come up with ways to cut the city’s budget.

City Council floor leader Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) said earlier this week that Mayor Emanuel might issue a non-binding referendum that would poll Chicagoans on whether the City Council should be halved, if aldermen don’t agree on a remap, the Sun-Times reported.

Currently, Chicago taxpayers spend $19.5 million per year to maintain the 50 aldermen, and another $4.7 million to pay for 19 standing committees, the Sun-Times reported back in March.

Chicago has one of the largest city councils in the country.

The only city with a larger city council is New York, which has 51 City Council members. But they are spread across five boroughs, all but one of which has an individual population of more than 1 million people. Manhattan has 10 aldermen, Brooklyn 16, Queens 14, the Bronx eight, and Staten Island three.

Los Angeles, which has a larger population than Chicago, has only 15 City Council members. Detroit, one of the largest cities in the Midwest region beyond Chicago, has only nine.

At one time, the Chicago City Council was actually larger than it is now. From 1901 to 1923, there were 70 aldermen, with two aldermen per ward for each of 35 wards. The two aldermen in each ward served alternating terms so that one of them would be up for reelection every year, the Better Government Association recalls.

The idea of reducing the number of aldermen further has been bandied about for years.

An analysis last year by the Better Government Association called for reducing the number of aldermen to 25 for a savings of $2.7 million in salaries for aldermen, and another $4.4 million by cutting the three staffers each alderman employs.

Any change in the Council structure would have to be made by the Illinois General Assembly, or by Chicago voters through a binding referendum.

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