CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – The Latino population explosion coupled with the decrease in the numbers of Blacks and Whites in Chicago have caused some to wonder if the redrawing of ward voting districts in the city will ultimately lead to a contentious showdown.
Representatives from the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus held two town hall meetings, Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 on the city’s West and South Sides respectively to roll out their new proposed ward map. Some are already questioning the Black Caucus’ proposal which would keep 19 majority Black wards in all of the districts currently represented by Black city council members.
Chicago has a total of 50 wards, each represented by an alderman on city council. There are currently 20 Black wards, 13 White wards, 11 Latino wards and six wards with a mix of Blacks, Latinos and Asians.
Of the 50 alderman there are 22 White, 19 Black, 8 Latino and one Asian. In many cases an alderman is of the same race/ethnicity of the majority population in their particular district though not always.
Redistricting or “redrawing” of the ward map occurs every 10 years in conjunction with the population count results from the U.S. Census as mandated by Illinois state law.
The 2010 figures state over 180,000 Black residents left Chicago since 2000 although there is some disputing that figure. The White population decreased by over 50,000. The number of Latinos grew by approximately 25,000, making the group now 29 percent of the city population.
Latino aldermen have been vocal in their desire for an increase in their numbers on city council.
The plan proposed by the Black Caucus keeps the representative number of Black aldermen at 19 while reducing the number of Black wards from 20 to 19, effectively keeping a strong representation on the city council.
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. representing the 27th ward told The Final Call at the first town hall meeting conducted by the Black Caucus regarding the proposal that it is important for Blacks in Chicago to understand why the caucus is fighting to continue having a strong representative presence on the council.
It’s important that the residents “understand why we do what we do, understand the legality that’s involved. Understand that getting counted and being strategic is very important in our community because there’s always plans going on,” he said.
Local media is already anticipating conflict among alderman as the Latino population increased yet their population is not currently representative by their numbers on city council or by the number of Latino-majority wards.
Analysts say based on the population shift, a reduction in majority–Black and majority–White wards is necessary to increase the number of Latino wards. The draft presented by the Black Caucus proposes 13 majority-Latino wards.
According to reports, the Hispanic Caucus is looking for upwards to eight additional wards, which would bring their number to 19.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times one Latino alderman called the Black Caucus proposed map “laughable” while another is quoted as saying, “I don’t think it’s an insult. It’s a first draft on their part. We don’t think it’s their final offer.”
The Hispanic Caucus also held two town hall meetings on the remapping process in September.
“This is a draft. This is in no way the map that is going to be voted on at the Chicago city council … because it has to have input from all of the other people. There have (to be) 50 persons involved in drawing the city of Chicago map because there are 50 legislative districts,” Freddrenna Lyle, former alderman and the attorney for the Black Caucus, told the audience at the Sept. 29 town hall. Twenty-six votes will be required to pass the finalized map, she explained.
“One of the benefits of us maintaining our representation is that we best know our issues. The Asians are fighting for a seat, Hispanics are fighting to strengthen their position, so we’re trying to maintain our position as African-American aldermen representing African-American people in our specific wards,” said Ald. Deborah Graham, responding to a question from the audience on the benefits of redistricting at the West Side town hall.
Reports say members of the Black and Latino Caucuses are “talking to each other.”
Many council members are hoping the process is finalized by this November. The agreed upon finalized map must be approved by city council by Dec. 1 to avoid the possibility of the decision being made by Chicago voters in March of 2012 as part of a referendum.