The political website Aldertrack reported on Twitter this morning that we’re down to 217 candidates in the 50 aldermanic races (or, rather, in the 46 wards in which incumbents are actually being challenged).
In the 35th Ward, which includes parts of Avondale and Logan Square, the competition is down to just two: incumbent Rey Colon and progressive newcomer Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. (Republican committeeman Walter Zarnecki was apparently removed from the ballot for filing to run in more than one ward.)
Like many of the other candidates challenging incumbents in the 2015 election, Rosa is positioning himself as an alternative to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s loyalists on the current City Council. Rosa took a hiatus from his job as a community organizer with the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights to campaign full-time, and when he’s out knocking on doors he’s quick to point out that his opponent has voted with Emanuel 97 percent of the time. Rosa’s message is also heavy on public schools (he’s currently a community representative on Avondale-Logandale Elementary’s advisory council), TIF reform, and putting the community before “special interests” and wealthy campaign contributors. He says he won’t let Mark Fishman have the run of Logan Square development anymore.
On the phone Monday, Rosa said, “Rey Colon was an independent voice [on the council]—he’s moved on from that.”
Should anyone wish to accuse Rosa of youthful idealism they’ll have to their advantage that he is indeed young: at election time he’ll be 26 years old. But Rosa could benefit from a changing demographic in the ward, one that sent 27-year-old comparative literature major Will Guzzardi to the state house of representatives over six-term stalwart Toni Berrios. Guzzardi has endorsed Rosa, as have the Chicago Teachers Union and state senator William Delgado.
In fact, Rosa says it was Delgado who encouraged him to run: “While I was helping with deportation cases [with Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights] I was seeing how inequality was effecting my community. I saw how we couldn’t get petcoke out of Chicago. I saw how families were being evicted from their homes. I knew that Colon was not someone who was standing up for our families. I talked to my neighbors, and I said, ‘Who’s going to step up to make sure someone’s standing up for us?'”
He’d heard that state senator Willie Delgado was running, but Delgado had decided to stick around Springfield. Rosa says that during a meeting Delgado suggested that he run. “I have no law degree, but I do have a record of doing work for the community,” he says. “I thought maybe someone else out there wants to take it on, but by June or July I decided I was going to be the one to start making the effort.”
Here are some more tidbits from our conversation . . .
He wants to turn decisions on development back over to ward residents. Rosa says: “When [Colon] ran, he promised to turn over development to ward residents. When he first won he did, but then he backtracked and moved to an appointed advisory council.” Of particular concern to Rosa: Colon’s relationship with uberlandlord Mark Fishman. “I’m going to ask the local residents to tell me what to do,” he says, “the people who pay my salary.”
He’s Chicago bred and a product of CPS (Whitney Young, specifically). “I was born and raised in Chicago, right off of Wellington, and I grew up in a family that was always making sure that we were always taking on the Democratic machine, that we’d stand up for neighbors, not the elite. My parents were public school teachers, so quality schooling has always been important to me.”
Does he think reallocating TIF funds could help the public schools? “I think it’s a start. The issues that face our schools are issues of socioeconomic status, and a lack of resources in the home and in the neighborhood. I think we need community schools where parents and students are offered the opportunity to change their circumstances. I think that’s going to be critical to making sure schools address the root causes of inequality.”
Rosa would be the first openly gay Latino on City Council. Firsts are fun.
Rosa will be joined by the CTU and Will Guzzardi for a campaign event on January 10. There should be more details on his site soon.