UPDATED 01/19/12 3:57 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The City Council has approved a new map for Chicago’s 50 wards, as required following the 2010 Census.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, by a vote of 41-8, the aldermen approved the “Map for a Better Chicago,” which was drawn up by the Black Caucus and old-guard white aldermen.
The map is composed of 18 predominantly African-American wards, 13 predominantly Latino wards, two “influence wards” that will be 35 to 40 percent Latino, and 17 predominantly white or mixed-race wards.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports
The agreement follows several weeks of bitter argument between aldermen. The Latino Caucus challenged the white and African-American aldermen’s map with their own proposal, called the “Taxpayer Protection Plan.”
The 2010 Census showed Chicago’s Latino population grew dramatically from 2000 to 2010, by more than 25,000. Simultaneously, the city’s African-American population dropped by more than 181,000.
But published reports earlier this week said Latino Caucus Chairman Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said his caucus would sign off on the map if a consultant approved it. The consultant said the map would pass legal muster if it showed that population variances in wards were put in place to protect racial harmony and voters’ interests.
Solis said the decision to come to a final agreement will save taxpayers from having to spend up to $30 million for a public referendum.
“I think it’s a question of fairness. I think that was our point from the very beginning. It’s a fairness issue for everybody – not only the different ethnic groups in the city, but also the taxpayers,” Solis said Thursday before the final vote. “And so, I believe the agreement that we have today not only represents the ethnic groups that we have in the city of Chicago, but it also defends the taxpayers from not having to go through very costly litigation.”
But there’s no guarantee that Thursday’s vote will prevent those opposed to the new map from filing a lawsuit challenging its legitimacy. Such a lawsuit could cost taxpayers as much as $20 million to resolve.
“I’m mad because there’s no doubt in my mind the city’s going to be sued over this and we’re gonna have to be spending money we that we don’t have to defend a lawsuit,” Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th) said.
Sposato and Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) were poised to delay a vote on the new map using a common parliamentary maneuver, but they were blocked when Ald. Edward Burke (14th) threw a political curveball by using a parliamentary maneuver of his own to force a vote without delay.
Sposato, a rookie alderman, said the way the new map was approved in short order on Thursday was “borderline criminal. I mean, this is an embarrassment. They don’t give us a chance to defer and publish. So, I mean, they’ve had constant public meetings with people; obviously, they didn’t hear what the people had to say.”
Fioretti questioned why there was a need to avoid delaying a vote on the new map when it doesn’t go into effect for three more years.
Normally, any two aldermen can vote to push back a vote on any ordinance until the next City Council meeting, but Burke’s parliamentary maneuver made that impossible in this case.
“The fact that 41 people voted for this map should be today’s story, not the fact that two people didn’t get to derail it,” Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40th) said.
Fioretti’s 2nd Ward was hit hardest by the remap. The ward as it exists today will be absorbed by several other wards when the new map takes effect in 2015 and the 2nd Ward will be moved clear across the city.
“It is eliminated,” Fioretti said of the existing 2nd Ward. “No portion, no block, no alley, no street is in the new 2nd Ward. … None of it will remain. … Whether it’s the Bronzeville area to East Lawndale, East Garfield Park, West Loop, South Loop; all of it is outside of the current boundaries that will be drafted, that have been drafted for it.”
Now located on the Near South and West sides, the new map moves the 2nd Ward to the North Side to include parts of Lincoln Park, East Lakeview, Roscoe Village, Avondale and Logan Square.
Fioretti, one of eight aldermen to vote against the map, said the new map shows a lack of sensitivity and a lack of input from voters in his ward, saying officials only looked at the new map for a few minutes before it was put up for a committee vote.
“The problem is, again, this is a question of openness, transparency; neighborhoods being cut up and divided up, parishes being divided up and cut up,” Fioretti said.
The new map also might leave some aldermen vulnerable to losing their jobs at election time. Sposato, Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) and Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), will all find themselves in majority-Hispanic wards.
Sposato said his anger at the new map was about the process used to approve it, not the fact that the new map leaves him vulnerable in 2015 when a new City Council will be elected.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said the resistance to major alterations in the wards is not about politics or race.
“People want to continue to represent a community that they have been helping to build and grow, and develop, so I think it’s more of that than it is about politics. It’s more of what you’ve touched and helped to grow,” Burnett said. “It’s like somebody taking your garden that you’ve put all your work into and grew some beautiful flowers, and now all of a sudden, somebody would just come and take it, and do what they want to do.”
Still, several aldermen said the whole process was flawed.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said he voted against the new map because the boundaries of his ward were changed overnight without his input.
“I’m doing this based on principle because it was changed without my input, without my knowledge,” Sawyer said. “It’s been an unwritten rule in this map room that whenever changes were made, all those affected must be in the room. When I left the room yesterday afternoon, my map was one way. When I woke up this morning it was different. And for that reason alone, I cannot support a process that’s going to disrespect me and disrespect my ward that way.”
Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said the process still had a long way to go as recently as Wednesday night.
“There have been a gazillion changes and proposals, and at last night’s hearing, where over 200 people came to testify on behalf of or against different proposals, there were seven maps to be considered.”
The new map did avoid one other controversial change that would have divided Lincoln Park among several wards.
Originally, the map had been poised to split the Lincoln Park neighborhood into several pieces, instead of placing it entirely in the 43rd Ward as is now the case. The Park West area, located east of Clark Street between Diversey and Fullerton parkways, would have been in the 44th Ward with Lakeview, while other parts would have been in the 2nd, 27th and 32nd wards.
But the move to cut up Lincoln Park was reversed following efforts by its alderman, Michele Smith (43rd). The map as approved keeps almost all of Lincoln Park in the 43rd Ward, and only shifts small parts to the new 2nd Ward, Smith said in a news release.
“Without the hard work of residents, community leaders and organizations, the Lincoln Park community would have been divided into fragments that do not reflect traditional neighborhood boundaries. This is a victory for the residents of Lincoln Park,” she said in the release.
The remap will also shift the northeasternmost parts of Lakeview from the 46th Ward with Uptown to the north, to the 44th Ward with most of the rest of Lakeview.