Crossing city lines

By Vanessa Morton

As Chicago residents anxiously wait for officials to unveil a new map that will determine the city’s political boundaries for the next 10 years, a series of public hearings are being held so aldermen can gain perspective from their communities on the current re-districting process.

Alderman Danny Solis (25th Ward), chairman of the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus, led an open discussion at Velasquez Westside Technical Institute, 2800 S. Western Ave., on Nov.28, which gave residents of the Little Village and Pilsen communities an opportunity to address questions on re-mapping and a chance to express their concerns regarding the possible effect it could have in their neighborhoods.

The required process to redraw district boundary lines of the city’s 50 wards occurs every 10 years in order to reflect the population change recorded in the census.

However, population shifts can threaten political representation, which can create conflict between aldermen as they negotiate boundary lines.

“That’s part of the difficulty on trying to get 50 aldermen to agree on a map is that they all have particular communities of interests within their areas that they’re trying to maintain,” said Virginia Martinez, a committee attorney.

“It could be any group of people who have common goals and common interests [who] are trying to stay together. But then the numbers have changed, there have been population shifts, so some areas have grown and some areas have reduced in population—all of those factors get taken into account, so it becomes very difficult—it’s not a simple thing.”

According to census data, Chicago’s population has decreased approximately 6.9 percent during the last 10 years and as a result, each of the 50 wards is estimated to have 4,000 fewer residents than previously In determining the new map, each ward should consist of approximately 54,000 residents to keep them all even.

While Solis said the number of Latinos has increased by more than 25,000 during the past 10 years, he also explained to the residents that his ward has lost 10,000 Hispanic residents. However, he said it has gained other populations, including whites, African-Americans and Asians.

“In order to continue to be a Hispanic majority ward, I need to increase my population of Hispanics, but at the same time, I have to lose 2,000 people [and] it’s something that I have to wrestle with,” Solis said. “[But] the tension right now is nobody wants to lose representation, and it can’t be helped.”

Moises Moreno, an audience member, expressed his fear at seeing communities broken up in result of the ward redistricting. He said ultimately this could affect the representation of his community.

“I’m not trying to call out any other neighborhood, but I felt like with the previous redistricting, our neighborhood was kind of left out at the benefit of others,” Moreno said. “I don’t want to see my neighborhood split basically for political purposes, and I hope with this new process, we keep our community together and that we can invest and have the real representation that we need.”

Solis said the aldermen are feeling the pressure to finish the redistricting process as fast as they can.

By law, the city is required to produce a new map no later than Dec. 1, but aldermen can agree to push it later in the month. However, if any group of 10 or more aldermen proposes an

alternative map, then the proposals go to a referendum in the spring.

But according to Martinez, it is important that the aldermen come up with some type of negotiation to avoid litigation suits that would cost city taxpayers money.

“The whole purpose of the continuing effort of the aldermen to negotiate with each other is to avoid the cost to the taxpayers of litigation,” Martinez said. “[And] they’re working every day trying to negotiate the ward lines so there will not be a lawsuit and there can be an agreement to pass a map.”

Solis agreed with Martinez and cited a lawsuit involving the ward in 2000, resulting in the city expending an estimated $10 million to deal with the case.

“In this day and age, we don’t really have that money to go through litigation, so we’re really trying to compromise [and] it hasn’t been easy,” Solis said.