Chicago ward map compromise deal may have fractured city council's Latino Caucus, alderman says

Craig Wall Image
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Chicago ward map compromise deal may have fractured Latino Caucus
Backroom deals made to get to the tentative compromise deal for Chicago's ward maps may have left the city's Latino Caucus fractured.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The contentious battle over the new Chicago ward maps appears over, with a compromise deal in place to avoid a costly referendum. But backroom deals may have left the Latino Caucus fractured.

The city is now poised to move ahead with the ward remap that's been dragging for months.

RELATED: Chicago City Council reaches tentative deal on new ward map

"In mapping, it's all about the numbers," said 8th Ward Alderman Michelle Harris, chair of the Rules Committee who engineered the compromise. "Nobody gets everything that they want, so we're gonna have people that are not happy."

Among them is 36th Ward Alderman Gil Villegas, chairman of the Latino Caucus, who fought for 15 Latino majority wards, but had to settle for 14 as members of his caucus began brokering their own deals in the map room at City Hall over the course of the last week.

"I think the compromise came because you had people that were feeling a lot of pressure and decided to preserve themselves," he said. "Self-preservation is what you saw."

City Hall sources said two weeks ago Villegas sensed his was a losing cause, and he asked the mayor to broker a deal to avoid a referendum that would have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. But multiple aldermen say Villegas, who is in a tight race for the new 3rd congressional district, was himself being pressured by union groups.

"He was threatened with some negative mailers, supporters of the Chicago United Map said they were going to spend millions of dollars sending out negative mailers against Alderman Gil Villegas and he's running for Congress," said 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. "And that's not what he wanted."

"That's just not accurate," Villegas responded. "The reality is, we've always been trying to find a compromise."

"I think there were losses on both sides. I won't call them losses, there were compromises on both sides," said Ald. Harris.

"Is it everything we wanted? No, it's not. But it is a lot better than we were set to get? Absolutely, it is," said Ald. Ramirez-Rosa.

Harris contends the friction over the new ward boundaries is now water under the bridge, but Villegas said it has left the Latino Caucus fractured.

"Our community is not ready to stand up and fight on issues that are important to the community," he said.

The Rules Committee will hold a subject matter hearing Friday to let the public see what the new map looks like, but there will be no vote taken. The vote is expected next week during a special Chicago City Council meeting.