BACK OF THE YARDS — Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who was re-elected this week, is leaving the City Council’s Latino Caucus he helps lead.
In a letter to Latino Caucus Chairman Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) Friday, Lopez said he was resigning and could no longer be involved in “an organization that works against its members.” Lopez had served as the group’s treasurer.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), a fellow Latino Caucus member, actively campaigned against Lopez’s re-election bid. Lopez won a second term Tuesday with nearly 60 percent of the vote despite a runoff challenge from Chicago Police officer Rafael “Rafa” Yañez.
Ald.-elect Michael Rodriguez (22nd) also worked to elect Yañez, Lopez said. Rodriguez plans to join the Latino Caucus.
“We have to be supportive of each other and our communities,” Lopez told Block Club. “You have this type of political gamesmanship going on where members are attacking members while pretending to be working together for our community but dividing our community. … That is not something I support.”
“If all our efforts are in trying to undercut each other, we will never get ahead. Our communities will never prosper and we will continue to fall victim to our own machinations. And that’s not something I want to be a part of,” Lopez continued.
In March, Ramirez-Rosa led a “Canvass With Carlos To Change City Hall” event that aimed to elect Lopez’s challenger Yañez and Matt Martin in the 47th Ward, according to a Facebook post. Martin defeated Michael Negron, a former aide to Emanuel.
Ramirez-Rosa also publicized the #FueraLopez campaign, which described Lopez as a racist who served as a puppet to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
He also greeted voters with Yañez outside Shields Middle School on Election Day, according to another Facebook post.
The Daily Line could not immediately reach Ramirez-Rosa for comment.
In a phone call Friday afternoon, Chairman Villegas said he respects Lopez’s decision to leave the Latino Caucus. The caucus looks forward to swearing in new members next month when new aldermen are sworn in, he said.
Asked about the rift between Lopez and Ramirez-Rosa, Villegas said: “Politics is politics. It has nothing to do with the caucus or the foundation.”
Rodriguez, who won the 22nd Ward seat, says he looks forward to working with Lopez now that election is over.
“I hope to work together with Ald. Lopez and others to find common ground and advance an agenda to support and further empower the Latinx community,” Rodriguez said.
Lopez, who is completing his freshman term as alderman, said the last few years had been “strenuous” for the caucus as some members chose ideology over pragmatism. He declined to discuss specific tensions in the caucus further, opting not to “rehash old wounds,” he said.
Upon his ejection, Villegas said Ramirez-Rosa had “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.”
Progressive Caucus Chairman Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) told the Tribune this week that Ramirez-Rosa “hasn’t really been participating in the caucus anyway for quite a few years,” he said.
“I’m a big believer that our job isn’t just to talk and pontificate, our job is to act and produce,” Lopez said.
Ramirez-Rosa and Lopez have clashed several times on City Council business. In 2017, the two were on different sides over elimination of carve-outs in the city’s Welcoming Ordinance last year. Lopez said he did not want changes to hamper the police department’s efforts to catch criminals, while Ramirez-Rosa and immigrant right advocates said Lopez’s focus on immigrants as potential criminals, rather than victims of violence, sounded like language President Donald Trump would use.
After Lopez stalled an effort to include a question on the ballot raising taxes for homeless services in November, Ramirez-Rosa muttered “Vote Lopez out,” as he walked past reporters interviewing other aldermen. On Facebook later that day, Rosa wrote that Lopez should be ousted in 2019.
Despite his departure from the caucus, Lopez said he will continue to work on important issues that face the Latino community.
“I am a great-grandson of immigrants [and I’m] simply choosing to focus on results for the community, not political games,” he said.
Sonia Del Real, executive director of the Latino Caucus, declined to comment.
Lopez, who joined the Latino Caucus in 2015, is also a member of City Council’s LGBT Caucus and serves as the organization’s secretary. Ramirez-Rosa is also on the LGBT Caucus.
Prior to Lopez’s departure from the Latino Caucus, the caucus included 12 aldermen: Ald. Villegas (36th), Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd), Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).
Embattled Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) and Ald. Danny Solis (25th) — who has been missing from City Hall since January following a Sun-Times report that he was a mole for the FBI — as well as ousted Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Milly Santiago (31st) are also members of the caucus.
Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia is also a member.
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