Chicago ward remap may shift boundaries

July 22, 2011 2:51:04 PM PDT
Every 10 years the political landscape shifts in Chicago's City Council: The city's political leaders are involved in redrawing Chicago's ward boundaries to better reflect population changes over the last decade.

In the remap based on the 2010 census, the City Council must once again divide Chicago into 50 wards, each with about 52,000 residents. The effort will be historic as mappers count the city's newcomers.

Fueled by a steady stream of immigrants from Mexico, Latinos are Chicago's fastest-growing minority, but their representation on the City Council lags. The 11 Latino-majority wards are represented by only eight Hispanic aldermen.

"Latinos are one-third of the city, yet they're only one-fifth of the City Council. That's totally unfair," said Alderman Ricardo Munoz, 22nd Ward.

The caucus leader for the 19 African-American aldermen, whose wards lost as many as 200,000 residents in the census, doubts that new Latino-majority wards can be formed legally.

"They're all spread out throughout the city," said 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins. "The boundaries of an individual ward will still have to be compact and contiguous."

The 2010 census counted 2.6 million Chicagoans, down from 2.8 million 10 years ago. Much of the African-American loss occurred on the South Side, especially in the 15th, 16th and 17th wards.

Blacks are leaving Chicago for reasons including the foreclosure crisis, the demolition of public housing, and for safer neighborhoods outside the city limits.

"They've also migrated to the southern suburbs of Cook County, and I think that's another reason why you've seen a loss of population," said Brookins.

Twenty-fifth Ward Alderman Danny Solis says additional Latino-majority wards could be mapped on the South and Southwest sides, winding their way through predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods.

"We're gonna have to really study the map, because there's gonna be some configurations that people might think look a little odd," Solis said.

Remappers also must consider a new ward for downtown. Tens of thousands have moved into the West and South Loop neighborhoods. Both the current 42nd and 2nd wards are populated well beyond the new 52,000 resident limit.

"The influx of citizens and residents that have come to the downtown area clearly are crying out that we need another ward number here," said 2nd Ward Alderman Robert Fioretti.

On the sitting Council, 22 of its members are Caucasian, 19 African-American, eight are Latino, and one is Asian-American.

Alderman Munoz says the Council could be a better reflection of who actually lives in Chicago.

"This isn't about me versus him or her versus him, or blacks versus Latinos, or whites versus Latinos. This is a civil rights issue, a fairness issue," Munoz said.

State law requires the re-mapping process to be completed by December 1 of this year.

The conventional wisdom among the politicians is that whites, blacks and Latinos each comprise between 30 and 35 percent of the city's population, with Asians between 5 and 10 percent, but if the current population trends continue Latinos would be a definite plurality in Chicago by the next census in 2020.

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