Aldermen still hammering out details of new ward map

December 14, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Some aldermen have worked 12-16 hours a day for the past week, including Saturday and Sunday, trying to draw boundaries for the city's 50 wards. In Chicago, it's familiar ground where race meets politics.

"There are no real winners. Everybody has to give," said Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd Ward.

If City Council members appeared lethargic Wednesday, they had good reason. Many were up to nearly midnight, hammering out details of a new ward map.

"If you really look at the whole map, all 50 wards, nobody is 100% happy with the ward that they're going to get," said Ald. Danny Solis, 25th Ward.

The 2010 census reported the city's Latino population increased while the African-American population decreased dramatically. The Caucasian population also fell but to a lesser extent.

"To accomplish the goals that we tried to accomplish was to satisfy the burgeoning Hispanic community and maintain the African-American community the best we possibly could," said Mell.

Mell told reporters the tentative map includes 18 African-American majority wards, 16 white majority and 13 Latino majority wards. There also are three so-called Latino-influence wards. Negotiators -- who early on in the process reportedly were screaming at each other -- all now concede that Hispanics are Chicago's fastest growing population and deserve more representation.

"But that doesn't mean that there could be a blowup at any one given point because I think that the coalition is still kind of fragile," said Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st Ward.

Freshman alderman Nick Sposato says the proposed map changes 80% of his 36th ward precincts.

"It had to be somebody, they had to create another Hispanic ward. Just nobody can explain to me why it's me," Sposato told ABC7.

Outspoken 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti, who earlier this year considered running for mayor, would see his ward drastically redrawn in the map's latest version.

"Until I see the final map, I won't speculate on the conspiracies which may be true here in this city of Chicago," said Fioretti.

If the council cannot approve a new ward map with 41 of 50 votes before the end of the year, the issue would have to go before the voters in a citywide referendum. An election would cost Chicago about $20 million. That's money the mayor says is needed elsewhere in the city budget.

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