City Council battle over ward remap continues

January 4, 2012 4:29:43 PM PST
Chicago aldermen are battling over proposed remaps for city wards. So far, worries about the loss of political power bases have blocked any compromise.

Wednesday, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, MALDEF, presented its proposal.

MALDEF is the first outside group that has formally filed a remap proposal. While the plan has yet to get any aldermanic support, MALDEF hopes its map will spark some discussion during the negotiation process. MALDEF's proposal follows two different City Council plans.

It's another option. The Latino civil rights group MALDEF filed its own proposed ward map that it hopes will at least get some play at City Hall. MALDEF says it is time to have some influence on a remapping process that has been behind closed doors.

"Part of it is to have a dialogue about how we can create a map that better represents the diversity of the city and that recognizes the political power and the aspirations of communities that have been left out," said MALDEF's Jorge Sanchez.

The MALDEF'S equity map calls for 14 majority Latino wards, preserving 18 African-American wards, and keeping the communities of Chinatown and Back-of-the-Yards together.

The group says its map is solely based on the Federal Voting Rights Act, which mandates fair and equal representation of minority residents.

"You can put all the maps you want out there, but MALDEF unfortunately can't vote. They are not members of City Council," said 33rd Ward Alderman Dick Mell.

Mell is the chairman of the rules committee. While he took a look at MALDEF's proposal, his goal is to get the black and Latino caucuses to compromise on their two remap proposals.

After a closed door City Hall meeting Wednesday, neither side would budge.

"The perception that we are close--we still have some work to do," said Latino Caucus Chairman Alderman Danny Solis.

Work that Alderman Nicholas Sposato knows leaves him out in the cold. All proposals significantly redraw the new Northwest Side alderman's 36th Ward.

"They basically brutalized me with this remap. They took about 80 percent of my ward away from me and left me with about 20 percent," said Sposato. "They put me in a totally different neighborhood from where I've been living my whole life, born and raised there."

Reflecting a growth in the Latino community during the past decade, the Latino Caucus remap would add Hispanic majority wards. While the African-Amercian population has dropped, the plan put forth by the Black Caucus would maintain its wards, but some North Side aldermen say at the cost of splitting up their wards.

If City Council cannot come up with the votes on a plan, it could go to the voters.