Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward alderman
At one time or another over the years, the City Council's been inhabited by drunks, philanderers, cokeheads, bribe takers, wire wearers, and various other miscreants of every race, creed, and color. But in all those years no alderman's been exiled from his own brood—until now.
On Wednesday, without fanfare or warning, the council's Latino Caucus voted to boot Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa from its ranks. He still gets to represent the 35th Ward—hey, the caucus doesn't have that much clout. It's just its way of letting him know he's out of the club.
"The knives are out," says Ramirez-Rosa. "Without notice, they voted to expel me. Never even a warning."
There are two explanations for his removal. The members of the Latino Caucus say he was bounced because—well, you can read their statement: "We have repeatedly informed Aldermen [sic] Rosa that the mission of the caucus is representing the best interests of Latino community and that the only way to accomplish this is to have robust partners that participate in the caucus' initiatives. After two years in office, he refused to engage our caucus in a meaningful way so that we could do the important work of addressing the issues in our community together."
Refused how? Ramirez-Rosa says his attendance at caucus meetings is as good as that of most of the members who voted to remove him. He suspects the real reason the caucus ousted him is that they were sucking up to the mayor.
You didn't think we'd get through this without mentioning him, did you?
On Wednesday, shortly before the caucus exiled him, Ramirez-Rosa royally aggravated the mayor by joining with Alderman David Moore (17th) to use a parliamentary procedure to put off approving funding for the $95 million police training academy the mayor wants to build on the near west side. The mayor quickly set a special council meeting for Friday to approve the deal—so ha, ha, ha to you, aldermen.
According to Ramirez-Rosa, that wasn't enough. So after the council meeting, the Latino Caucus met and voted to bounce him from the group. They didn't even inform him of the news. Instead, they sent out a press release, and he learned about it when reporters called for comment. Not exactly Don Corleone dispatching his hit men to wipe out the opposition while he was in church watching his grandson's baptism. But, let's face it, gangsta moves just aren't what they used to be.
When Ramirez-Rosa got the word, he called Alderman Rick Muñoz, his old pal and ally. "I told Rick I was hurt—'I used to look up to you.' I was hoping we could have disagreements. Guess I was wrong."
I called Muñoz for comment today at 10 AM. He said, "I'm heading into a meeting. I'll call you back in an hour." I'm still waiting.
Man, I hope they're serving food at the meeting—otherwise those suckers will starve.
OK, time for the deep dive. Muñoz is a close ally of Cook County Board commissioner Jesús "Chuy" García. As you all know, García came close to defeating Rahm in the 2015 mayoral election and, as such, he was considered a strong opponent this time around. But then, in November, Congressman Luis Gutierrez suddenly announced he would not seek reelection. And García, with Gutierrez's blessing, announced he was running for the congressman's seat. Luis endorsed Chuy. Chuy won the Democratic primary. And, voila, just like that, Rahm's strongest challenger will almost certainly soon be leaving town. Pulling that off is a disappearing trick Houdini would envy.
Many people suspect that Rahm, Chuy, and Luis cut a deal. (OK, I'm the one who suspects that.) Luis and Chuy swear up and down that no deal was cut. I guess they'd know better than I would. As they, not I, were in the room when the deal that wasn't cut went down. But mightn't that put Chuy in debt to Rahm and Luis? Chuy the close ally of senior Latino Council member Rick Muñoz?
Think what you will, Ramirez-Rosa suspects that the Latino Caucus is doing Rahm's bidding by beating up on anyone who dares to disagree with him on his cop academy—especially with that mayoral election coming up.
Just so you know, the Latino Caucus is open to any alderman who identifies as Latino or represents a ward that is majority Latino. As such, Ramirez-Rosa qualifies on two fronts: he's of Latino heritage, and his ward is roughly 67 percent Latino.
Interestingly, City Council honcho Ed Burke (14th), who's Irish, is also eligible to be a member of the Latino Caucus, as his southwest-side ward is overwhelmingly Mexican-American. He's never attended a meeting (plus he's Donald Trump's local property tax lawyer). Could be they're taking bets in Vegas on what will happen first: Alderman Muñoz calls me back, or the caucus exiles Burke for bad attendance.
OK, not likely. And the caucus did invite Ramirez-Rosa to plead his case at its next meeting. My advice, Carlos, is to fall on your knees and pledge allegiance to the mayor. That's generally how aldermen—even the miscreants—rise to the top in the Chicago City Council.