Finger-pointing, cliques and a new City Council map – 2001 in Review – Chicago

Finger-pointing, cliques and a new City Council map – 2001 in Review – Chicago – Brief Article

Pamela A. Lewis

As the state’s legislative remap was tied up in court, with no resolution in sight, Chicago City Council members seemed uncharacteristically unified.

All but two aldermen signed off on the proposed city map filed Nov. 29 with the city clerk–perhaps a step toward avoiding a repeat of the seven-year, $20 million legal battle over the last remap.

The good behavior came just days after aldermen were reduced to schoolyard antics–including finger-pointing, name-calling and clique-forming that attempted to topple alliances.

The decennial battles began in March. New census data showed enough Latino growth to warrant as many as six more Hispanic wards, 13 altogether. The Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus agreed, and decided to work with the Hispanic Caucus to make sure these new wards would not come at their expense.

Third Ward Alderman Dorothy J. Tillman had a lot at stake: Her ward lost more than 15,000 people, including thousands from the Robert Taylor Homes public housing development, where demolition continues.

The mastermind of the caucus’ proposed map, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, stretched her own South Side 4th Ward north to include prime lakefront property. Burton F. Natarus, the area’s white alderman, referred to the strip as the “Preckwinkle Finger.”

Finally, council members surprised everyone when 48 signed off on yet another map presented by 33rd Ward Alderman Richard Mell. His ward would become majority Latino, as would the 14th, led by one of the council’s most powerful members, Edward M. Burke. Both Mell and Burke are white.

The map would preserve the 20 black wards while increasing Hispanic wards to 11 and decreasing white wards from 23 to 13. Six wards would have no racial majority.

The two holdouts were 30th Ward Alderman Michael Wojcik and 12th Ward Alderman Ray Frias, who would lose a chunk of the predominantly Latino Back of the Yards neighborhood to Tillman.

Leaders of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund have suggested they will challenge the map in court.

But Tillman, who had threatened to sue, concluded the new proposal was “soundproof in terms of a court challenge” and something “Chicago should be proud of.”

COPYRIGHT 2002 Community Renewal Society

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group