LOGAN SQUARE — Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and other Logan Square leaders are accusing Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) of “misleading the public” in campaign mailers touting the congressional candidate’s support for a massive affordable housing development near the Blue Line.
But Villegas dismissed the criticism as “nothing more than a political stunt” from neighborhood leaders who back State Rep. Delia Ramirez, whom Villegas is hoping to oust in the race for Illinois’ predominately Hispanic 3rd Congressional District seat.
In his bid for Congress, Villegas recently sent out campaign mailers promoting his efforts to support affordable housing in Chicago.
The mailer shows Villegas standing in front of the 100-unit, all affordable Emmett Street Apartments at 2602-38 N. Emmett St., next to the Logan Square Blue Line station. The development in Ramirez-Rosa’s ward recently wrapped construction after years of debate and a legal battle.
“On City Council, Gil Villegas worked to expand affordable housing units like the new development in Logan Square pictured here and the efforts that put more money directly in the pockets of working people,” the mailer reads.
Ramirez-Rosa said he and other Logan Square leaders were “shocked” to receive the mailer because Villegas had “nothing to do with” the Logan Square project.
Villegas’ ward covers parts of Belmont Cragin, Hermosa, Portage Park, Galewood and Montclare.
“We’re very upset as community leaders, as individuals who fought for many years to get this building built, we’re very upset that Ald. Gil Villegas is misrepresenting his record when it comes to this building,” Ramirez-Rosa said at a press conference Thursday morning next to Emmett Street Apartments.
Ramirez-Rosa added: “In the meetings that were held, in the marches that were held, in the protests that were held, Gil Villegas was a no-show.”
More than 15 community leaders, including State Rep. Will Guzzardi, Logan Square Preservation president Andrew Schneider and Paula Cripps-Vallejo of the Humboldt Park United Methodist Church, joined Ramirez-Rosa to castigate Villegas, calling into question his affordable housing record.
The Logan Square leaders ripped Villegas for “blocking” an affordable housing project from being built in his ward several years ago.
Developer Full Circle Communities wanted to build a 55-unit affordable housing building on a long-vacant lot in Portage Park in 2016, but Villegas shot down the proposal after community pushback.
“We need politicians to be honest and straightforward with our communities. We should be able to expect that individuals who seek higher office are telling the truth,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
“And the truth about Ald. Villegas is not only that he had nothing to do with this development, but in his own ward, when given the opportunity to move forward affordable housing in Portage Park for veterans, for people who needed a safe place for people to say, he said, ‘No.'”
Guzzardi said he attended a community meeting for the Portage Park project back in 2016 and was “shocked” Villegas swiftly dismissed the development proposal.
“He told these folks he wouldn’t build this project — 55 units of affordable housing in a community that desperately needed it and the alderman vetoed it on the spot, caved to the loud, angry minority of voices in our community who are spewing disinformation about affordable housing,” Guzzardi said.
“What it takes to bring affordable housing to a neighborhood that needs it is backbone. You have to be willing to stand up to the loud and angry minority. … We had that kind of courage from our alderman in the 35th Ward, and that’s why this building is here today. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that kind of courage from our alderman in the 36th Ward when that building was proposed.”
Villegas defended the use of the Logan Square project in his campaign mailers, telling Block Club he enthusiastically green-lit the development as a member of the Plan Commission and two City Council committees.
More broadly, he said affordable housing is an important issue for him, having grown up in Lathrop Homes, the largest public housing campus on the North Side for many years.
“Quite frankly, this is nothing more than a political stunt to try to tarnish my record on affordable housing,” Villegas said. “I voted on [Emmett Street Apartments] not once, not twice, but three times — and I’m a product of affordable housing. So it’s just political.”
As for the Portage Park affordable housing project, Villegas said there were two proposals for the site — one for an affordable housing building and another for a senior memory care center — and neighbors preferred the memory care facility. Nevertheless, the project didn’t get built.
Villegas added that developers haven’t proposed much affordable housing in his ward because the area lacks vacant lots, but he’d welcome low-cost units for working families and he’s voted in favor of similar projects across the city since he was elected alderman in 2015.
“You have to take into account that [Ramirez-Rosa and Guzzardi] are supporting my opponent, so basically this is just a political stunt because my record reflects that I have voted 100 percent with affordable housing projects,” he said.
Ramirez is an assistant Democratic leader in the Illinois House and an ally of progressive leaders across the state and in the Logan Square area, including organizations like Logan Square Neighborhood Association. She has the support of ex-Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Villegas, the head of the City Council Latino Caucus, is a centrist candidate who recently won the endorsement of ex-Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.
Ramirez-Rosa, who is a Democratic Socialist, said Ramirez has his full support for Congress, adding, “I’m proud she’s not telling lies. She’s running a truthful and honest campaign.”
In an emailed statement, Ramirez said: “It’s a shame that Alderman Villegas has chosen to fabricate lies about his less than stellar record on affordable housing, proven by his obstruction of an affordable housing project for Veterans in his own ward.”
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