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1991 remap war for power:
New term for 'minorities'?

Manuel Galvan


Chicago just finished an election a couple of months ago. But politicians, armed with fresh census data, are already choosing sides for yet another battle, this one to be fought in the courts, as well as in the precincts.

As in the past, this new war is all about power. And just as before, white Democratic regulars have found themselves struggling for survival at the possible cost of losing the very minority support which has kept the old guard in office. However, this time African Americans and Hispanics are getting strong support from the Republicans. And this time, a minority victory is not a question of "if" but simply "when."

Democratic regulars are fighting to keep power on three legislative fronts: Congress, the General Assembly and the Chicago City Council. A Vegas odds maker might give minorities a narrow spread on new seats in Washington and Illinois, but as for gaining control of the council, it's a "sure thing" and could come as early as 1992. Hispanics are looking at four additional wards and blacks at two, which would increase minority seats in the 50-member council to 28.

The 1990 census data shows that Chicago's Hispanic population increased during the last decade by 29 percent, to account for 20 percent of the city's population. The number of blacks decreased by 10 percent, to represent 39 percent of city residents, and the white population decreased by 19 percent to make up 38 percent.

Hispanics are arguing that they merit additional districts. Blacks argue that despite stagnant figures, the Voting Rights Act prevents reducing the number of districts in which a minority has become a majority. Republicans, including Gov. Jim Edgar and Illinois House Minority Leader Lee A. Daniels (46-Elmhurst), are siding with Hispanics and blacks, saying that white Democrats must give up some seats.

However, despite heavy, white urban population losses, white Democratic regulars are using various strategies to argue that they should stay in power. Key players are leaning toward different sides, depending on which of the regulars will be a victim.

Mayor Richard M. Daley has backed the creation of a Hispanic congressional district. But closer to his Bridgeport home, he has not taken sides on the creation of wards where white aldermen could be replaced by minorities. The mayor's justification for the silence has been that the City Council, and not Daley, is charged with drawing the map. However, he, as other mayors, has frequently been persuasive in getting the council to follow his wishes.

Daley also argues that whatever the council draws, the final map will be determined in court. He's absolutely right there. It was the federal court that redrew parts of the Chicago ward boundaries, after determining that the original lines were gerrymandered against blacks and Hispanics.

After the court determined that the ward map was illegal, it required the plaintiffs to file a new one. By this time, the plaintiffs included Mayor Harold Wahington, who was challenging the improper map drawn by Jane Byrne's City Council. The court ordered immediate special elections, but by then it was already December 1985, and the earliest that elections could be held was March of 1986.

That delay won't happen again, according to Ruben Castillo, formerly Midwest regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). "In those days, they

40/June 1991/Illinois Issues

used pads of paper and calculators to draw and redraw the boundaries," Castillo said of the 1980 ward map plaintiffs. "What used to take months, now takes days."

Faster maps come from new software programs, developed over the last decade. But much of the swiftness in preparing the 1990 case comes from the experience of having done it before. MALDEF was a previous plaintiff, as was attorney Judson Miner, who later became Mayor Washington's corporation counsel. This time, he has filed a lawsuit that seeks to have special elections held in wards where the boundaries will be affected by the council's redistricting. Miner joined MALDEF to represent black and Hispanic plaintiffs.

The City Council faces a December 1 deadline for a new ward map, but the attorneys are already preparing to challenge it. Because the new census shows minorities with more than 60 percent of the population, it would seem logical that nonwhites should control the council. Political reality, however, dictates that incumbents will fight and stall to hold onto their wards.

But the attorneys not only expect a victory, they expect the federal court to order a special election by next year, with the contest held as early as November 1992.

The key targeted Hispanic wards are those of northwest side Aldermen Theris Gabinski (32nd) and Richard Mell (33rd). Another ward could be created from the southwest side wards of Aldermen Patrick Huels (llth), Mark Fary (12th) and Edward Burke (14th). The fourth could be drawn from the far south side wards of Aldermen William Beavers (7th) and John Buchanan (10th).

Blacks are looking at the southwest side 18th Ward currently held by Alderman Thomas Murphy and possibly Alderman Larry Bloom's south side 5th Ward. Although Bloom won big this year, new boundaries would mean new residents to the ward and new voters to Bloom.

While six wards would be the maximum, my combination of four would give minorities the majority. It could also require reporters and pundits to seek a term other than "minority" for the people who make up 60 percent of Chicago and the majority of its City Council.

Manuel Galvan is manager of special projects for the Chicago Tribune and, as a reporter for newspaper, covered the political aftermath 1980 census.

June 1991/Illinois Issues/41

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