Aldermen approve remap with majority vote

January 19, 2012 6:38:05 PM PST
After months of wrangling over boundaries, the Chicago City Council approved a new ward map, which could still face future legal challenges.

The aldermen who will probably lose their positions due to the map strongly objected, but the plan passed with a large majority so it will not go before the voters during an election. The ward re-map -- required every 10 years -- passed the city council by a 41-8 vote. The 80 plus one percent majority means there is no need at this point for an expensive public referendum on issue.

When the color-print copies of the new map arrived, most aldermen--worried for months about their job security--could rest easy.

"We were able to come up with something that satisfies all the legal requirements and most of the political requirements," Ald. Howard Brookins, 21 Ward, said.

They found a way to set new boundaries for Chicago's 50 wards that will hopefully increase the number of Latino aldermen to reflect the city's growing Hispanic population.

"I think it's a question of fairness. I think that was our point from the very beginning," Ald. Danny Solis, 25 Ward, said.

The new map includes 18 supermajority African-American wards; 13 supermajority Latino plus two so-called Latino "influence" wards; and 17 supermajority white and/or mixed race wards. The wards of two white aldermen will undergo some drastic changes:

"You'll have to ask the powers-that-be if I was singled out for politics or not," said Nick Sposato, who upset a reputed machine candidate in the 36th Ward last spring. He says he lost 80-percent of his current precincts in the remapping. "It's rather obvious. You beat the machine and all of a sudden they're taking 80% of your ward away from you."

Alderman Bob Fioretti -- who explored running for mayor in 2011-- will no longer live in his second ward. It was moved in its entirety to the North Side. He wanted the general public to see the final map before the council voted on it.

"But apparently, transparency and openness in this new administration, this new age of democracy is not going to be effect," Fioretti said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted final approval Thursday so competing maps would not be put to public vote, costing the cash-strapped city more than $20 million dollars. Rules Committee Chairman Dick Mell said Chicagoans could already have seen most of the map at any of four public hearings held before Thursday's vote.

"The only difference in the maps that everybody has actually had to see is just a small tweaking of a block here and a block there to satisfy the individual alderman's request," Ald. Dick Mell said.

The Illinois Campaign for political reform issued a statement Thursday calling the city re-map process "anything but" transparent and accountable. It contends the final map was not made public until after the aldermen voted.

Now, the city must brace itself for possible lawsuits from either aldermen or citizens groups. The council consulted with re-districting lawyers before it settled on a map. The majority believes this map can withstand any legal challenge.