Anger, frustration follow Common Council rejection of aldermanic maps aimed at bolstering Latino representation

NOW: Anger, frustration follow Common Council rejection of aldermanic maps aimed at bolstering Latino representation

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Common Council approved aldermanic maps which maintain two Latino-majority districts during its Jan. 18 meeting, rejecting other maps drawn up by groups aimed at bolstering Latino representation in the city with a third Latino-majority district.

The vote follows weeks of developments over the future of the maps, which will be in place for the next decade.

The Common Council originally approved Map A late last year, which kept two districts where Latinos are the majority. But a push from Latino groups and alders like JoCasta Zamarripa led then-Mayor Tom Barrett to veto Map A. Barrett cited the growth of the Latino population on the city's south side as the reason to consider other maps. 2020 census data showed Milwaukee's white and Black populations dropped, but those who identified as Hispanic grew.

The new maps, with one known as Map B, were drawn with input from groups like Forward Latino, Voces de la Frontera, Hispanic Collaborative and others.

But in a committee meeting earlier this month, alders were told by the city attorney's office the maps pushed forward by Latino groups were unlawful because they were designed with race as their dominant factor. Latino groups disagreed.

With the city attorney's advice in hand, a majority of alders voted to reject the maps by Latino groups and approved the original Map A.

"Colleagues, I want you to know what a slap in the face this redistricting process has been to Milwaukee's Latino community," Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa said. "This is infuriating and absolutely disappointing. Mr. Chair, words cannot convey to you my frustration, and I ask, where is the outrage in this grave injustice?"

Alders who voted down the maps drawn by Latino groups said they made a sincere effort to engage with the Latino community, but ultimately their hands were tied.

"We're confined with the advice that was given to us by the city attorney's office," Ald. Ashanti Hamilton said.

"We are angered and saddened that an open and transparent process did not occur in the recent redistricting decisions rendered by this council," Latino groups Voces de la Frontera, Mexican Fiesta, Forward Latino and Hispanic Collaborative said in a joint statement. The statement concluded by saying, "we cannot, and will not, accept their positions and actions related to this matter and vow to continue our fight for a fair, truly representative democracy."

The Latino groups previously said they would consider legal options if available.

Acting Mayor Cavalier Johnson released a statement where he said he was signing the aldermanic maps into law with "mixed feelings."

"I am disappointed that legal direction from the city attorney has limited our ability to align our aldermanic districts in a way that fully and equitably addresses Milwaukee's growing Hispanic population," Johnson said. "With the statutory deadline upon us, we have been left without options."

Johnson concluded by saying, "I know this outcome leaves many dissatisfied, especially those in the Hispanic community, and I look forward to continued dialogue to ensure everyone is fully represented in our city's decision-making going forward.”

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