On Saturday, September 10, 2022, nearly 100 campaign volunteers gathered outside the United Neighbors of the 35th Ward office in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood to kick off our re-election effort for alderperson of the 35th Ward. As prepared for delivery, the following are my remarks, which explain what we’ve accomplished and what more we will do by continuing to unite to transform Chicago for the better.
Good morning! Good morning! It is so great to be with you here today. To be surrounded by beloved community. Family. Friends. Neighbors. Neighborhood leaders, public servants, freedom fighters, and freedom makers.
As we embark on this re-election effort, I took some time last night to reflect on my tenure in office, and one of the first things I thought was – what the hell were you all thinking electing a 26-year-old in 2015?
But in all seriousness, I thought about my family. My family who raised me. Who instilled in me the values of compassion, empathy, and solidarity – gracias mama.
I thought about my time attending our Chicago Public Schools, seeing my parents work as educators and public servants, and looking forward to the day that I could serve my community as well.
I reflected on my time working as a congressional caseworker helping families. And my brief time as a union staffer working to protect workers’ rights. I thought about my time working as a deportation defense organizer – meeting the spouse of a detained man late at night at Dunk’n Donuts after she got off her shift and trying to convince her that we could mount a righteous struggle to stop the deportation of her loved one and, in so doing, build a movement to protect every immigrant family like hers.
I thought about all the people that I met on the road to serving as our alderman, all the people that I worked with, and all the experiences and moments that brought us to this moment in time.
And I thought about how privileged I am to be able to wake up every day and earn a living by engaging in a labor of love – serving as the organizer-in-chief for our community, bringing neighbors together to tackle our shared concerns.
But I don’t want to tell you a story about me today. You’ve heard many stories about me many times. Today I want to share with you a story about us, about our community. A story many of you are familiar with because you’ve been an author of it as well.
It starts in the early 2010s in a community where neighbors had come together to fight displacement and fight for diversity and integration. A community that was tired of seeing their elected officials sell them out to the highest bidder. Tired of the interest of a rich and powerful few dictating what would happen in our neighborhoods.
In 2015, that community saw fit to replace a twelve-year incumbent with a 26-year-old deportation defense organizer.
And what that community and that 26-year-old didn’t realize at that time is that they were planting a seed. They were planting a tree.
They planted a seed for a more responsive City Hall and local government that put the needs of working people first.
The community and the alderman watered that seed. First, by creating a community-driven development process to ensure local land use and zoning decisions were made in an inclusive, democratic, and transparent manner.
Then they watered that seed by initiating a struggle, a campaign to replace a city-owned parking lot with 100 dignified, affordable homes.
We didn’t know in 2015 if the seed we planted would grow, but we kept at it, we kept watering it; we kept coming together and doing the work. At rallies and marches in our ward’s neighborhoods. At press conferences at City Hall. At community meetings, big and small.
And thanks to our collective efforts, the seed we planted sprouted roots. Those roots grew deeper and deeper, and up came a tree that grew bigger and bigger and started to give fruit.
It gave fruit with the Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments.
It gave fruit with the passage of strong immigrant protections – amending our city’s sanctuary city ordinance to ensure no one is afraid to call 9-1-1 because of their immigration status.
It gave fruit with the passage of the Empowering Communities for Public Safety Ordinance, giving Chicagoans a real say on how their communities are policed and bringing us closer to community control of the police.
It gave fruit in ways big and small.
And people across the City of Chicago saw the tree we had grown here in our 35th Ward and saw the fruit and said: “we want a fruit tree too! We want a tree that is big and strong and rooted in our neighborhoods.”
And people took seeds from our tree, they took ideas of what it could mean to have an organizing alderman, a truly democratic ward office, and they planted trees in their communities as well.
But not everyone was happy to see our tree grow, deepen its roots, and help other communities plant trees as well. There were those with moneyed interests at odds with the public interest who wanted to kill our tree, to cut our tree down.
And in 2019, they came with hundreds of thousands of dollars and tried to poison the soil in which we planted our tree, funding one of the most vile misinformation campaigns our community ever saw. And they lost.
Sisters and brothers, the people who tried to cut down our tree in 2019 are at it again. The moneyed interests who have an interest at odds with the public good may have failed in 2019, but in 2023 they’re going to try to cut down our tree again.
Sisters and brothers, are we going to let them?
Are we going to defend what we’ve grown? Are we going to continue to water our tree, deepen our roots, and make our movement for good government big and strong?
Yes, sisters and brothers, yes. Because we know the stakes are high – because we know that continuing the work we’re doing in our community is critical to helping our neighbors in need and transforming our city for the better.
The other day I was at the Avondale-Logandale Back to School Fair passing out backpacks to Avondale students, and a father of three children came up to me and asked me if I was the alderman. I said yes. And he said, “I want to thank you. My three children, my wife, and I just moved into the new affordable apartments just down the street, and they told me you fought for them.” I said, “Thank you. It was a whole community effort. Our entire community fought very long and hard to build them.” And he said, “Well, then I want to thank the entire community because, for the first time in my children’s lives, my wife and I can allow our kids to play outside. Where we lived before, there were daily gunshots.”
Sisters and brothers, that is why we must continue to plant trees, that is why we must continue to water and grow our progressive movement because we have delivered dignified and safe housing to 100 families, but we know that is not enough – we know that Chicago doesn’t just need 100 affordable homes, we need at least 120,000. And we know that no Chicagoan should have to leave their community to let their children play on the block!
Sisters and brothers, our work is not done until every single Chicagoan, every single one of our neighbors – whether they’re Black, or white, or Latine, or Asian, whether they’re trans, or gay, undocumented, or documented is guaranteed all that we know this country and city can offer – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.
We live in the richest country in the history of the world, and it is unacceptable, unacceptable that our schools are underfunded, that more and more of our neighbors cannot find housing and must seek refuge under an expressway, that families struggle for the basic necessities we all need to live.
Here, in the 35th Ward, we have seen what is possible when we bring people together to tackle our shared concerns. We’ve provided resources and help to our neighbors in need, and we have served as a model of good governance.
The tree that we planted, the rooted movement we’ve built, is bearing fruit, and in the next four years, it’s going to bear more.
We will – We will build all-affordable housing in Logan Square at 2525 N. Kedzie. We will. We will pass the Bring Chicago Home and raise hundreds of millions of dollars to take people off the streets and get them into homes. We will. We will implement the Empowering Communities for Public Safety Ordinance and pass the referendum and legislation necessary to implement community control of the police. We will. We will bring a Green New Deal to Chicago and put people to work while addressing the existential threat of climate change. We will, and we will pass just cause for eviction and rent control, and we will keep families in their homes.
We will. And in communities across Chicago, our neighbors will continue to plant and grow their own fruit trees – and we will turn Chicago into a veritable city in a garden. A city where we care for each other, a city of shared plenty – where compassion, empathy, and solidarity aren’t just words but a lived reality for every man, woman, and child.
Sisters and brothers, my name is Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. I’m running for re-election as alderman of the 35th Ward because I know that if we continue to come together we can continue to help our neighbors and transform this city for the better.
Thank you! Thank you for your continued support. Let’s win this re-election and continue to transform our city for the better from the bottom-up.