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Latino Activists Pushing New Ward Map As Compromise

Updated 01/04/12 - 3:03 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Another round has been fired in the City Council's battle to redraw its boundaries to reflect population shifts across Chicago.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports that Latino community activists hope their proposal will diffuse a racially charged struggle.

The council's Latino Caucus has proposed one map; the Black Caucus and old-guard white aldermen have proposed another. The dispute stems from the large drop in African American population in Chicago from 2000 to 2010, while the Latino population grew.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports


Black aldermen have been pushing for a map that maintains 19 wards they currently represent, despite a more than 181,000-person drop in black population in Chicago.

Now, Elisa Alfonzo, an official with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund said MALDEF is putting a map before the council that would keep the Chinatown and Back of the Yards communities intact and keep both sides happy.

"There's a loss of population, yet we're able to keep 18 Black districts; not losing anything. We have increased the Latino wards as numbers dictate and we just feel that this map should be an idea for the City Council to look at," Alfonzo said.

Although it's unlikely, Alfonzo said MALDEF's proposed ward map could be a compromise between those proposed by the Black and Latino caucuses.

"There's a way of doing … of drawing a map legally, but not sacrificing one community for another," Alfonzo said.

One of the competing maps, called the "Map for a Better Chicago," was filed by African-American and white aldermen. The other, the "Taxpayer Protection Plan," was filed by Hispanic aldermen.

Both include major changes to ward boundaries. Most significantly, the Map for a Better Chicago physically relocates the 2nd Ward, now represented by Ald. Robert Fioretti, from the South and West sides to the North Side, around the Roscoe Village neighborhood.

C.W. Chen, who chairs the Coalition for a Better Chinese-American Community, said his group backs the MALDEF map.

"This is one map that takes into consideration Chinatown as a community of interest, where including majority or most of the Chinese into one single ward," Chen said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is publicly keeping his hands off the remap debate, although he has said he doesn't want the fight to end up in an expensive court battle.

If a group of at least 41 aldermen cannot unite behind one map for the city's wards, voters would have to choose between two maps in a public referendum during the March primary elections. That could be followed by an expensive lawsuit.

Before he left for his family vacation to South America, Emanuel warned aldermen to avoid a protracted battle over who gets to keep his or her seat on the City Council.

The last remap fight cost some $30 million for a referendum and court fees. City Council hearings are set to begin soon on the competing map and the mayor is downplaying the conflicts.

Emanuel says he is focusing on more important things right now, like public safety and city services.

"I think it's kind of obvious I've been on vacation, and it's not the first thing I did when I got back," Emanuel said Wednesday. "The first thing I did when I got back was to see where we are in what I think are the most important things for the City of Chicago – public safety, stronger schools, stable finances, getting taxpayers the best services."

But the mayor's top allies are working hard behind the scenes.

The City Council Hispanic Caucus has also proposed a new ward map that reduces the city's 50 wards to 25.

The City Council is now composed of 22 whites, 19 African-Americans, eight Latinos and one Indian-American.

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