Ward remap debate

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There is much to gain and a lot to lose in the ongoing remap debate as City Council members attempt to hammer out an agreement on new boundaries for the city’s 50 wards.

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There is much to gain and a lot to lose in the ongoing remap debate as City Council members attempt to hammer out an agreement on new boundaries for the city’s 50 wards.

The inability to come compromise could end up costing area taxpayers millions when a decision is finally reached.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus and his colleagues recently filed a proposed map in hopes of preserving 19 African-American wards.

This was after council’s Latino Caucus submitted a plan that would feature 13 Hispanic wards, 17 African-American wards and 17 white wards. The group, led by Ald. Danny Solis (25th), said their map reflects the dramatic change in population.

Currently, 19 of the wards are predominately Black, 10 are made up of Hispanics, 20 are white and one ward is represented by the Asian population.

“What stands to be lost is the influence of the African-American community,” Brookins told the Defender. “Nobody is fighting for individual gain. We are fighting for everyone. Most people support the fight we are fighting.

The current remap is due to population changes within the city according to the 2010 U.S. Census, revealing the loss of 180,000 African-Americans and 52,000 whites. From 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic population grew by more than 25,000 people.

According to estimates, the 3rd Ward has lost 1,300 black people, the 17th Ward 7,900 and the 21st Ward saw a drop in 3,000 residents to the suburbs where employment opportunities, better schools and less crimes were some of the reasons for the population decrease.

As it stands, the 2nd Ward, 15th Ward and 20th Ward could be dramatically changed in this latest round of boundary changes. The changes to the wards could have political affects as to who would represent the areas on the City Council in the future.

Brookins said the 2nd Ward, governed by Ald. Robert Fioretti, has seen the white population increase extending to the South Loop, and that even without a remapping effort has been “a no majority minority ward.”

The 15th Ward, led by Ald.Toni Foulkes, and the 20th Ward, held by Ald. Willie Cochran, has experienced significant Hispanic population surge.

However Raymond Lopez, candidate for 15th Ward Democratic Committeeman expressed his disenchantment in the City Council’s map proposals, saying both maps fail the ethnic neighborhoods of the Southwest Side.

“Dividing the city is never easy,” said Lopez. “However both maps leave much to be desired.”

Some 41 aldermen are required to approve any map before the end of the year. If no such consensus occurs, all filed possibilities will be placed on the March ballot in a citywide referendum for the voters to choose.

It is also possible that the city could find itself having to settle the matter in court as it happened two decades ago, which could cost taxpayers and estimated $30 million.

“We are willing to listen to the proposals,” said Brookins about those that have been submitted by the Latino Caucus. “There is a line in the sand we are not willing to go past. We want to keep African-American wards.”

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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