Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) on Tuesday survived what would have been the Chicago City Council’s first-ever censure of one of its own members, but only after Mayor Brandon Johnson cast the tie-breaking vote.
The vote followed an initial 25-24 roll call that included Ramirez-Rosa voting against his own censure. When Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) rose to say Ramirez-Rosa was not eligible to vote for or against his own censure, it resulted in a 24-24 tie — that Johnson broke by voting “no.”
The historic vote followed a cathartic debate during which some members demanded that Ramirez-Rosa pay a higher price than simply resigning from his leadership roles as Johnson’s floor leader and Zoning Committee chair for bullying, threatening and manhandling his colleagues in an attempt to prevent proponents of a sanctuary city referendum from achieving a quorum at last week’s special meeting.
Alderpersons Nicole Lee (11th) and Felix Cardona (31st) led the charge for the censure.
They described how intimidated and infuriated they felt after Ramirez-Rosa threatened to withhold zoning approval from projects in their wards after they both refused to leave the special meeting on the sanctuary city resolution.
“I’m not making this up. It’s on video. He grabs my shoulder. … I was hurt. My peace was gone. … I’m a victim here. Alderwoman Lee is a victim. Alderman [Chris] Taliaferro is a victim,” Cardona said.
“This is not the first time. He did it before. Alderwoman [Jeanette] Taylor was bullied by Carlos. … The difference [this time] is, he got caught,” Cardona told Johnson.
Lee said she was shaken to the core when Ramirez-Rosa made his zoning threat after she refused to leave the Council chambers.
“The resignation from both jobs is appropriate. Nobody should be able to abuse their position to gain what they want,” Lee said. But “the censure is one way that we can acknowledge that certain behavior is unacceptable. I am in support of this censure — not because I’m out for more blood but because this is the first step in the healing process for me.”
Before the censure debate, an emotional yet defiant and proud Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) took to the floor of the City Council to tell her version of the allegations that prompted Ramirez-Rosa’s ouster.
Mitts said she was so shaken by the threatening text messages from and physical confrontation with Ramirez-Rosa, she didn’t know whether she could continue as alderperson, let alone address the issue on the Council floor.
But days of prayer and an outpouring of support from her colleagues and constituents helped, she said.
“I prayed to the Lord to give me the strength to come here and tell you exactly what happened. … It was unbecoming of anyone elected to represent people. If it happened to me, who else could it happen to?” Mitts told her colleagues.
“I have been in this Council 24 years. I am 68 years old. I have seen a lot in my lifetime of struggle. … To have me put up under that strain — I felt like I was back in the South. I felt like everything in me was just shaking. … At that point, I really didn’t know if I could do my job again … if this is what … women have to put up with. Somebody got to stand up for not only me but for any young women who get abused. That’s the problem with Black women today. And I’m a strong Black woman who believes in fairness. To have faith to work out your differences, agree and disagree, but have respect.”
Mitts got a standing ovation from colleagues who stood in rapt attention during her emotional speech. She also got a personal apology and a hug from Ramirez-Rosa before he rose to publicly apologize to his colleagues and vow to earn back their respect.
After the meeting, Mitts said she voted against the measure to censure Ramirez-Rosa because “once I accept someone’s apology, I don’t throw stones for stones. I want to give him an opportunity to grow from that mistake. If I were to sanction him right now, I would be putting fire on top of what we already did. It doesn’t help this Council, and it won’t help the city of Chicago. It would only keep things more divided.”