CHICAGO (CBS) — Several Chicago communities will be closely watching a special session of the City Council Thursday, as aldermen try to map out new ward boundaries.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, by the end of the week, an estimated 33 percent of Chicagoans could find themselves set to redistricted into new wards.
It started off when a group of prominent Latinos in Chicago demanded new boundaries for the city’s 50 wards to provide more representation for Latino residents.
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.
The City Council Latino Caucus proposed a new map, called the “Taxpayer Protection Plan.” But the Black Caucus and old-guard white aldermen came up with a separate map, called the “Map for a Better Chicago.”
Latino leaders represented by the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund came up with yet another map that they said would be a compromise. It would keep the Chinatown and Back of the Yards communities intact and keep both sides happy, MALDEF said.
“This is what we consider a fair map – an adequate map – and we’re asking the City Council to really study it and make their decision and make a decision on that,” Elisa Alfonso of MALDEF said Jan. 12.
“We ask for a unified Back of the Yards so our community will have access to city services and resources, as well as to increase alderman responsiveness and accountability,” added Mayra Lopez of Back of the Yards.
But the “Map for a Better Chicago,” the proposal by white and African-American aldermen, may be poised to prevail. 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.
In December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he wanted the City Council to agree on map, so the debate doesn’t lead to a very costly public referendum.
“I think the taxpayers will be surprised if they’re asked to spend $30 million on things that were just a few inches off from agreement,” Mayor Emanuel said on Dec. 15.
Regardless of the how the final map shakes out, some aldermen will be left vulnerable to losing their jobs at election time, the newspaper reported. Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd), Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) and Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), would all find themselves in majority-Hispanic wards, while Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) would see his ward moved clear across the city from the Near South and West sides to the Roscoe Village area on the North Side.
Residents of some wards are also complaining about the proposed changes, particularly in the 43rd Ward in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, which under the “Map for a Better Chicago” would be split between its current ward and the 44th, 32nd, 27th, and 2nd wards.
Mayor Emanuel hopes the debate will be resolved in a special vote Thursday, but objections from just two aldermen could push it off until next week.
If the map is approved Thursday, the new boundaries will not go into effect until after the city’s elections in 2015.