Chicago voters might not have to weigh in on a new City Council ward map this year after a national expert on Monday blessed a compromise plan put forth by dueling groups of aldermen.
But council members plan to press forward with more public hearings before taking any votes to seal the deal on new boundaries for the city’s 50 wards.
For weeks, the council’s Black Caucus and its allies and the Latino Caucus have pushed their own versions of a new ward map. On Monday, aldermen heard from Allan Lichtman, a consultant the council hired for the remap process.
Lichtman told council leaders that a modified proposal first submitted by the Black Caucus and its allies could withstand a legal challenge. But the American University professor and redistricting expert witness said aldermen would need to show that population variances among wards were designed to protect African-American and Latino voters and preserve racial harmony, aldermen said.
Approval by Lichtman was the key condition set last week by Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, Latino Caucus chairman. If Lichtman also can find legal justification for other map quirks — including the odd shaped of the proposed 11th Ward — the Latino Caucus would sign off on the plan, Solis said.
Also evaluating the map is Michael Kasper, an election lawyer with ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The mayor repeatedly has urged aldermen to reach a compromise, noting the high cost to taxpayers of litigation to defend previous remaps, including the post 1990 census remap that went to referendum.
The compromise version of a new map will include changes to Ald. Michael Zalewski’s 23rd Ward on the Southwest Side. The new lines would make the ward 60 percent Hispanic.
That move would increase the number of Hispanic-majority wards to 13, satisfying a Latino Caucus demand. The map also would maintain 18 wards with African-American majorities, one more than under the Latino map.
But first, there will be remap hearings at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the North-Grand High School auditorium, 4338 W. Wabansia Ave. The Wednesday is expected to focus on the potential effects of the maps on the city’s growing and increasingly influential Latino community.
Ald. Richard Mell has scheduled a Rules Committee meeting for Thursday, and the agenda lists changes to the Black Caucus map. A full council vote could come later Thursday, before Emanuel leaves the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting he is scheduled to address Friday in Washington, D.C..
Solis and Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, chairman of the Black Caucus, explained the compromise analysis after taking part in a telephone conference call that included Lichtman, Mell, 33rd, who is heading up the remap negotiations, and two other powerful council leaders: Ald. Patrick O’Connor, 40th, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s floor leader, and Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, longtime chairman of the Finance Committee.
The Black Caucus and its allies have drawn up the Map for a Better Chicago, while a coalition that includes the Latino Caucus has crafted the Taxpayer Protection Map. Absent approval of a single plan by 41 of the city’s 50 aldermen, the possibility remains that competing proposals could be put before voters in a referendum.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun