Nov 7, 2023 - Politics

Drama erupts at City Hall after alders try to censure Carlos Ramirez-Rosa

Photo of a man talking to reporters holding microphones

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) talks to reporters after the City Council meeting Tuesday. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

A wild Chicago City Council meeting ended in a showdown Tuesday — not in an effort to conduct city business, but to punish a colleague.

Driving the news: The council deadlocked over a motion to censure Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) for his behavior during last week's debate about Chicago's sanctuary city status.

Why it matters: The council has rarely censured alders in its 148-year history.

Catch up quick: After Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) called for the censure, Mayor Brandon Johnson intervened, ruling that the motion was improper.

  • Then, in a stunning move, the council overrode Johnson's decision and put it up for a vote.
  • Ultimately, council members were split, giving the mayor the deciding vote to deny the censure.

Context: Ramirez-Rosa resigned from his role as floor leader on Monday following allegations he physically and verbally accosted Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) during last week's sanctuary city debate.

  • He allegedly tried to keep her from entering the chamber to prevent the council from reaching a quorum. Other alders, including Nicole Lee and Felix Cardona Jr., say Ramirez-Rosa pressured them, too.
  • Johnson was quick to accept Ramirez-Rosa's resignation after talking to him over the weekend.

What they're saying: "We need to get back to decorum; we need to get back to discipline," Waguespack tells Axios. "That requires censure of a person who has gone beyond the bounds and whose conduct was unbecoming."

  • Mitts told the council Tuesday that "no one should over-exert their power or authority over anyone just because they can."

Afterward, Ramirez-Rosa publicly apologized to Mitts, who stood to hug him during the speech. Ramirez-Rosa then apologized to the mayor, saying he had "let him down."

The intrigue: Mitts voted against the censure. "I'm looking for peace in this council and peace in this city," Mitts tells Axios. "I don't think we get there by censuring him."

The other side: A group of 190 progressive political leaders released a statement in defense of Ramirez-Rosa, saying his actions, captured on video, were distorted. They accused Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) of lying about the incident, calling it a "politically motivated hit job."

  • "Carlos has been a dedicated public servant committed to social justice, coalition building between Black and Brown communities, and community empowerment," the group said.

What we're watching: Several alders have been mentioned as a possible successor as floor leader, including Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) and Ald. Matt Martin (47th).

Between the lines: Alders say the position is politically symbolic and not necessary for the council to do its job. "It's the mayor's decision," Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) tells Axios.

What's next: The council is scheduled to meet again Thursday.

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