Leaders of the City Council’s Latino Caucus today said they expect more majority-Hispanic wards to emerge from the ward remap process that is just getting underway.
The group put forth its argument as new census data showed large drops in the number of African-American and white Chicago residents as Latinos increased their numbers.
“The caucus . . . will ensure it takes the necessary action to preserve the voting rights of Chicago’s Latino population,” said Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, chairman of the caucus.
But Solis declined to say how many more wards the Latinos hope to get.
“We’re looking to increase our representation. Right now we just know the numbers speak for themselves,” Solis said. “Naturally, we think by law, we deserve more seats.”
Solis also pledged to work with all members of the council and “all distinctive groups of the city of Chicago to ensure that fair and representative map is created.”
Ald. Ray Suarez, 31st, made a similar pledge, but also stressed the numbers indicate Latinos deserve more seats.
“We are just working to make sure that the Latino community is properly represented according to the census numbers we have seen,” Suarez said. “We’re looking at the numbers, and working with the numbers, to make sure the Latino community has proper representation.”
The Latino Caucus plans to hold two public hearings, on Sept. 21 and 30, to discuss the remap effort, he said.
The council has until Dec. 1 to approve a new map. But if any group of 10 or more aldermen endorse an alternative, the competing maps go to referendum next March.
The city’s new ward map will have to reflect the changing demographic makeup of Chicago, where the population dropped by about 200,000 to just under 2.7 million, according to the 2010 census.
Latinos, whose population rose by about 25,000, are pushing for more wards with strong Latino majorities, saying they have long been under-represented on the council.
There now are eight Latinos on the 50-member council, even though they account for nearly 29 percent of the city’s population. At least four wards with strong Latino majorities are represented by white aldermen.
“If Latinos are one-third of the city, why are we only one-fifth of the City Council. Someone didn’t do the math right ten years ago,” asked Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd. “We’re hoping to fairly and equitably distribute the seats and avoid a lawsuit.”
The African-American population fell by about 181,000, but black aldermen say they don’t want to lose any of their 19 seats on the council.
Although many observers have suggested African Americans could come out on the losing end of the process, others note that the white population also has dropped and doesn’t enjoy the kinds of legal protections afforded blacks and Latinos under the law.
The council has 22 members who are white. Census data shows that the city’s white population declined by about 52,000, and less than 32 percent of the city’s residents are white.
The Latino Caucus has hired a trio of attorneys to work on the remap effort.
They include Victor Reyes, who was a top aide to Daley and headed up the defunct, pro-Daley Hispanic Democratic Organization, and Homero Tristan, a onetime Daley human relations commissioner who resigned after being accused of lying to the inspector general in a hiring probe.
The Black Caucus, meanwhile, has hired former 6th Ward Ald. Freddrenna Lyle, who lost her re-election effort earlier this year.
Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, who is chairman of the Black Caucus, issued a statement saying he has met with his Latino counterparts shares “mutual concerns and will continue to dialogue with them as we go forward.”
Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, who as chairman of the Committee on Rules and Ethics will lead the council redistricting effort, said the ward remap room in an aldermanic conference room at City Hall is nearly set up. About $1 million has been budgeted for the effort, he said.