Facing deadline of sorts, Chicago aldermen rush to craft ward map

November 29, 2011

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
The city council's Black Caucus proposed their own map in September.

Chicago aldermen are furiously trying to agree on new boundaries for the city's 50 wards, with a deadline of sorts quickly approaching.

The lines get redrawn every ten years using new Census data. Each time it's a big debate about race, ethnicity and incumbency, and this year's no different.

The chair of the city council's Black Caucus, Howard Brookins, said Tuesday that aldermen are "still meeting and negotiating...and trying to come up with a compromise that does not involve having the citizens having to vote on it."

A referendum would happen if ten or more aldermen propose a competing map.

By statute, the deadline to pass a map is December first - this Thursday - but Brookins notes there's a debate about how hard that deadline is.

A lawyer for the council's Hispanic Caucus who's involved in the negotiations, Amy Kurson, said it's her understanding that Rules Committte Chair Dick Mell will introduce a map by the deadline. It could still be "tweaked" in committee before the full council votes on it.

Before her clients decide whether they can support it, "we really do have to see the map" Kurson said. "The Latino Caucus has been very clear about their expectations."

Those expectations include 14 wards with Hispanic super-majorities, an increase from the ten agreed to a decade ago. Caucus leaders said such a change is needed to reflect Latino population growth over the last decade. But the drawing of those wards will have a ripple effect.

"Nobody’s happy. I think I can firmly say that," said Brookins, whose caucus is trying to maintain the 19 seats currently represented by African American aldermen. "Somebody may be the odd man out and how do you determine who that odd man out would be?"

Busy on Tuesday trying to avoid being that odd man out was Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato - elected last April against the wishes of Democratic leaders. Sposato was rushing between meetings, a furious effort to keep his ward from being chopped up.

Calls to the offices of Mell and another alderman key to the process, Finance Committee Chair Ed Burke, were not immediately returned.

Current Ward Map

Source: Map was created using KML data from the City of Chicago's data portal site