By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
In December 2021, former Mayor Tom Barrett vetoed the aldermanic maps previously approved by the Common Council in November. The maps included only two Latinx “influence districts” according to the organization Voces de la Frontera, which held a press conference calling on Barrett to veto the maps.
Following Barrett’s veto, the Common Council voted to sustain his veto and the Judiciary and Legislation Committee held a public hearing regarding the maps and redistricting on Monday, Jan. 10.
During the meeting, members of Milwaukee’s Latinx and Muslim communities expressed their opinions regarding the topic on hand. Some of the speakers included Darryl Morrin of League of United Latin American Citizens Regional; Wassin Malas of the Wisconsin Muslim Alliance; Nancy Hernandez of the Hispanic Collaborative; Janan Najeeb of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and more.
During his remarks, Morrin noted that the U.S. Census found that Milwaukee’s Latinx population has grown and now makes up 20.1% of Milwaukee’s population. During his presentation, Morrin suggested a map that would increase the Latinx population in District 13, which would make District 13 a Latinx majority-minority district.
In the map originally approved by the Common Council, the Hispanic population made up 29.2% of the population, the Black population 7.1% and the Asian 10.4%. In the map proposed by Morrin, the Hispanic population increases by 36.4%, the Black population remains unchanged, and the Asian population increase to 11%.
He acknowledged that one group cannot be favored over the other, but all must be fairly represented.
Najeeb is president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition. During her presentation, she explained her history with District 13. It is where the Muslim community lived, breathed, worked and played, she said, and it continues to do that to this day.
The 13th District is home to the Muslim community, and it too has aspirations, she said.
“As leaders of the entire city, we cannot, and must not, seek to assist one community in attaining its aspirations at the cost of another vulnerable community,” Ald. Scott Spiker, District 13, said according to CBS 58.
Following the meeting, Voces de la Frontera held the “Fair Maps for Latinxs in Milwaukee” press conference.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, the executive director of Voces de la Frontera, reflected on the committee hearing and the next steps.
“It is a disgrace that the Judiciary and Legislation Committee has failed to uphold democratic principles and not move forward with a map that accounts for the dramatic growth of Latinx residents in the city of Milwaukee and their ability to have greater representation as a community of interest,” Neumann-Ortiz said.
Roughly 1 in 5 Milwaukeeans are Latinx, she said, which means that 3 of the 15 alderpersons should be representing the Latinx vote and the issues that impact the Latinx community.
Voces de la Frontera received the opinion of the city’s attorney and is currently evaluating it. The group is working to get its own legal opinion and is considering legal options.
It is important that communities that have been marginalized and disenfranchised have a voice for their unique interests, Neumann-Ortiz, said.
“In a city with incredible racial disparities, we expected more from this committee,” she said.
The committee’s next aldermanic map proposal will go before the Common Council on Tuesday, Jan. 18.