New ward boundaries that could cut one African-American seat out of the City Council received enough votes by the entire Council last week to avoid a citywide vote in March.
The big winner on the West Side, however, is 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett, who will add even more West Side territory once the new ward map takes effect in 2015. On the outside, literally, is 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti, who not only lost territory but will soon no longer live in his own ward now that it’s been redrawn.
The 41-8 vote came in a special session called by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Jan. 19. The new wards will take effect in 2015, the next citywide election. Changes were still being made to the map just hours before the meeting.
Fioretti was among the handful voting against the map. His mostly South Loop/Near West Side ward now snakes as far north as Wrightwood Avenue. Fioretti’s request to delay the vote was denied by councilmen. He, along with Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th), another alderman who was drawn out of his ward, wanted the map to be released to the public for further review before the council voted.
The process, Fioretti argued, needed more openness and transparency.
“I wanted the people to comment on the map. Their voices are not heard,” he said. “It was only made public for one hour before the vote.”
Burnett’s 27th Ward takes over most of Fioretti’s turf, with Ald. Danny Solis (25th) also taking a small chunk. Fioretti’s home on Jackson Boulevard just east of Ashland Avenue has been added to the new 28th Ward, which has been gerrymandered to include his home on that block by mere feet. The 28th, governed by Ald. Jason Ervin that includes Garfield Park and a portion of Austin, now includes much of University Village.
Austin’s two primary wards – the 29th and 37th – are mostly untouched. The new ward boundaries also hands over 15 seats to Hispanics.
When last week’s council meeting began, soon after copies of the new map were passed out, it was clear that Fioretti was outflanked. Joined by Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) from the Northwest Side – whose mostly white ward was being turned into a mostly Hispanic one – Fioretti tried to delay the vote.
They were promptly rejected, though, and the council approved the new map by overwhelming majority. Also voting no were aldermen Scott Waguespack (32nd), Rey Colon (35th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Michael Zalewski (23rd), Michael Chandler (24th) and John Arena (45th). Toni Foulkes (15th) was absent.
After the vote, Fioretti said he was considering a lawsuit but that he would continue to serve the current 2nd Ward until 2015. The 41 yes votes will result in no referendum going to voters in March. A lawsuit also can’t be filed against the city, which could nullify the map.
The new ward map was approved in light of efforts by both the Black Caucus and Latino Caucus to offer their own remap proposals. The council currently has 19 black aldermen, 22 white, one of Indian decent and eight Latinos. Those who fought against the new map were fearful of losing their population or were at-risk incumbents.
During last week’s session, Emanuel asked the aldermen to put their priorities in place and shift their minds to issues such as crime that affect their constituents more than politics.
“Let’s focus on things that matter the most,” he said.