This is part of a series of interviews Windy City Times is running on LGBTQ+ candidates in the 2023 municipal elections taking place Feb. 28.
A life-long Chicagoan, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward) is running unopposed for a third term as alderperson.
Prior to being elected at age 26 in 2015, Ramirez-Rosa was an Avondale-Logandale Local School Council elected representative, Congressional caseworker for then U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez and deportation defense organizer for the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. His ward includes primarily the Avondale and Logan Square and portions of the Hermosa and Irving Park neighborhoods.
Ramirez-Rosa lives with his fiancée Bryan Bautista and their rescue pit named Itztli in Avondale.
Windy City Times: Why did you decide to run for re-election?
Carlos Ramirez-Rosa: I am running for re-election because I love Chicago and serving the communities that make up the 35th Ward. I know that our work of bringing neighbors together to address our shared concerns of prioritizing the most vulnerable is having an impact. I have seen the impact we have had on affordability. I have seen the positive impact of moving the needle on LGBTQ and more specifically trans protections. I want to continue that important work.
WCT: What are the most pressing issues right now for the 35th Ward and how will you address them should you win? Which issues did you hope would be addressed these past four years that you were unable to accomplish and how will you ensure they are dealt with over the next four years?
CRR: Since launching our re-election effort, we have knocked on thousands of doors and consistently the number one concern we hear from ward residents is housing affordability. We have seen property taxes go up primarily in areas like Logan Square. We have seen longtime residents face displacement as a result of rising property taxes and rents. We have been working to push forward a whole host of policies to make housing affordable and keep the communities in my ward diverse and integrated. I have opposed property tax increases. I have worked to pass policies to protect two and four flat apartment buildings. We have used local zoning power to help achieve greater affordability and protect our naturally occurring affordable housing. I want to continue to work on pushing forward policies that will help keep housing affordable.
I think it is a great travesty that our mayor broke her promise to re-open the shuttered mental health clinics. My colleague Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez and the Collaborative for Community Wellness have done a lot of research into what are the best practices that we as a city can implement to address the mental health crisis in our communities.
I am really committed to the Treatment, Not Trauma ordinance proposal that Rossana spearheaded and I am proud to have been the first co-signer to that ordinance. The Treatment, Not Trauma proposal will re-open our shuttered mental health clinics and use them as community anchors, including sending out non-law enforcement mental health professionals to help people who are unhoused and/or people who are dealing with a mental health crisis. I really look forward to working with whomever is elected mayor and my new colleagues on the city council to push for the passage of that proposal.
WCT: What public safety measures would you advocate for during City Council meetings to lessen the number of crimes (including assaults, shootings, car jackings and other thefts) occurring in your ward and across Chicago that do not include adding more funding for the Chicago Police Department?
CRR: It is no secret that we saw an increase in crime in 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic disrupted so many people's lives. We saw how so many societal ills came to the forefront. Violent crime is now trending downward in the 35th Ward and in the City of Chicago and we want to continue moving in that direction. To that end, we know the safest community is a well-resourced community. I am really proud of the work I did to make sure that the 2022 Chicago budget included record investments in violence prevention, mental health programs, programming for youth and to help our most vulnerable families. I want to continue to build upon that work including investing in youth programs, housing, education, mental health services and healthcare. All of those things are proven by decades of data and research to have the most positive impact in reducing violence.
WCT: With LGBTQ people under attack on multiple fronts across the United States how will you use your position as an out gay alderperson to ensure that anti-LGBTQ groups like AWAKE Illinois, Moms for Liberty and others who are responsible for those attacks do not gain a foothold in your Ward and Chicago writ-large?
CRR: I have already used my platform on social media to bring attention to anti-LGBTQ hate groups like AWAKE Illinois. Making people aware that these organizations exist and that we need to confront them and protect the entire LGBTQ community from their attacks.
When mayoral candidate Paul Vallas was scheduled to be on an AWAKE Illinois panel, I raised my voice in opposition. I made sure the media paid attention to the fact that someone who wanted to be mayor of Chicago was hanging out with this horrible hate group. I am interested in making sure our community is organized to defend ourselves. If we see fascist individuals or hate groups show up to an LGBTQ event in my community I want to make sure I am there, my neighbors are there and we are using our bodies to defend our community and neighborhood.
I also want to make sure we continue to pass ordinances to protect the LGBTQ community. In my first term, I worked with the LGBTQ caucus in the city council to make sure we had equal access to public facilities by passing the Bathroom Access Ordinance. This most recent term, I worked as a chief sponsor with the LGBTQ caucus to pass the Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance. What that ordinance says is the City of Chicago would not use its law enforcement resources to work with outside agencies whether they be in the state of Missouri or Indiana to prosecute individuals who were seeking, receiving or providing trans-affirming care. I think we need to be vigilant.
WCT: What will you do to address the growing numbers of Black and Brown trans women who are attacked, assaulted and murdered in Chicago?
CRR: Chicago has an ugly history of trans femicide. Our trans siblings have faced so much violence which is why we need to provide more resources to trans serving organizations and directly to the trans community to make sure they are safe and have the things they need to survive and thrive.
WCT: What about addressing the needs of the unhoused population as a whole, some of whom are LGBTQ youth?
CRR: We need to make sure that LGBTQ neighborhoods in Chicago are safe and welcoming spaces for everyone. This extends to ensuring there are spaces throughout Chicago, not just on the north side, where LGBTQ youth feel welcome and can access resources, particularly if they are unhoused because they have been kicked out of their home, or had to flee their home because of anti-LGBTQ family members hateful comments and/or violence. The city as a whole has to do a better job of funding shelters and providing other resources.
Internally, as a community, we have some work to do. In the past there have been tensions in Lake View around the presences of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. That is a travesty because you should not just be a person who has the ability to spend money at Sidetrack to feel welcome in the gayborhood. Particularly those who are the most vulnerable.
WCT: Are there any other LGBTQ issues that you feel should be also prioritized and why?
CRR: Focusing on protecting our trans sibling's writ-large, because there is an all-out assault right now on the trans community. Our trans siblings and their issues are not disposable. Any LGBTQ agenda must center the rights and dignity of our trans siblings.
My hope is with a bigger, reinvigorated LGBTQ caucus with a wider representation we can really be a powerful coalition within city hall that works with LGBTQ activists on the ground to make sure that we are pushing forward with a bold agenda to protect everyone in our community.
WCT: Your campaign website states that you are "a model of good governance." Talk about that a little bit more.
CRR: For me it means being responsive, bringing people together to address shared concerns and creating systems of participatory governance where residents are invited to be at the decision-making table. That decisions are made in an inclusive and transparent and democratic manner in the best interests of everyone. Where residents can be rest-assured that if a major decision is being made in their community, it is not being made because there was a back-room deal or because someone is getting a campaign contribution or bribe.
We have worked since 2015 to implement processes in the 35th Ward that are inclusive, transparent and democratic. We started with community-driven zoning and development. That is a process wherein that, when zoning and development decisions are made in the neighborhood, they are made by the community with the assistance of longtime community organizations that have a base in the neighborhood that they represent. We invite everyone to those meetings, which are bilingual, and for bigger meetings we offer childcare. I am really proud of the process we have developed. The Shriver Center for Poverty and Law actually called our community-driven zoning process the antidote to Aldermanic prerogative. We invite other communities to emulate what we have done. People across the nation, including advocacy groups, have studied what we have done and said this is something good that can be replicated in other neighborhoods.
Participatory budgeting is another way in which we approach governance, to make sure the limited infrastructure dollars we have are being allocated in a way that is equitable and prioritizes the greatest needs in the community as identified by the community.
Every single day we make sure we are responsive. When Donald Trump was elected and he began attacking our immigrant community, we mobilized in the 35th Ward ,including creating a Community Defense Committee where we brought hundreds of neighbors together to go door-to-door to inform our neighbors about their rights should an ICE agent show up. We trained and prepared in what we would do if ICE agents did a raid in our neighborhood.
Good governance means all the work we do consistentlyto make sure we have responsive ordinances, make sure we are listening to community members, and are working with everyone to advance an agenda that is in the best interests of our neighborhoods and our families, but primarily the most vulnerable.
WCT: Are you currently endorsing anyone for Mayor and if so, who is it and why?
CRR: I have endorsed Brandon Johnson for mayor. The reason for this is because the people who have been on the front lines of progressive issues in my community and across Chicago have endorsed Brandon Johnson. Collectively we have been looking for a mayor that will work collaboratively with everyone to deliver for our all of our neighborhoods and families.
We hosted a northwest side progressive mayoral forum with a whole host of independent political organizations and grassroots community groups. We invited all the progressive candidates to attend and what we heard is Brandon Johnson was our candidate. He had the best answers to the questions and the best track record of working collaboratively to address progressive policy concerns particularly at the local level.
I want to see a mayor who will work with everyone. Most recently, at the Trans Day of Remembrance event on the west side, Brandon Johnson was the only mayoral candidate who attended.
WCT: Why should voters re-elect you as alderperson?
CRR: My track record shows that I am committed to working across neighborhoods, racial lines and everyone to advance a progressive agenda to deliver the change Chicago so desperately needs. I have seen the positive impact that my time in office has had including passing the Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance, removing the carve-outs for the Welcoming City Ordinance to make sure that Chicagoans are protected from deportations, delivering resources for our neighborhood and delivering affordable housing developments in Logan Square. I want to continue to have that positive impact. I am really proud of the work I have done and most importantly I am proud that we have done that work together by building coalitions. I think I am effective in what I do, and there is so much more work that needs to be done. I look forward to moving the city in a more progressive direction and deliver for our families and neighborhoods, particularly the most vulnerable and those with the most needs.
See carlosrosa.org/ .
NOTE: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.