Retiring Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) returned to City Hall on Friday for the first time since his wife accused him of domestic violence, but refused to talk about the incident or his latest battle with alcoholism.
Munoz only wanted to talk about the lucrative tax break he pushed through the City Council’s Committee on Economic and Capital Development for a controversial distribution center on the site of the shuttered Crawford coal-fired power plant in Little Village.
The so-called “Class B” tax incentive will pave the way for the massive property to be assessed at 10 percent of its market value for the first decade. That will rise to 15 percent in the eleventh year of the project and 20 percent by Year 12.
In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel brokered a deal with a corporate polluter to shut down coal-fired power plants in Pilsen and Little Village that had belched out lung-damaging pollution for decades.
Midwest Generation blinked in response to Emanuel’s threat to put his political muscle behind a long-stalled “Clean Power Ordinance” that would have given the Crawford and Fisk power plants more time to either clean up or shut down.
Community leaders who waged that 12-year battle have demanded a voice in the future of the 72-acre site that includes the Crawford plant, purchased by Northbrook-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners.
They fear that Hilco’s plan to demolish the plant and build a warehouse-style logistics and distribution center to process orders for items purchased online will bring a massive increase in dangerous toxic diesel pollution from trucks.
They have argued that the project replaces one source of toxic air pollution with another, putting the community at risk once again. They also fear gentrification and the history of low wages and poor treatment of employees at distribution centers.
None of that mattered to Munoz.
“The Stevenson is not quite 1,500 feet away from there. Diesel is everywhere. When you buy milk, you’re enabling a truck,” Munoz said.
Why make that pollution worse?
“It’s not making it worse. It’s just moving it to 35th and Pulaski,” Munoz said.
Munoz doesn’t have to worry about political fall-out from the Hilco warehouse project. He’s leaving office on May 20. He didn’t run for re-election.
“It’s a 70-acre site that’s been vacant for twelve years and ill-used for 90 that has the ability to create some jobs and be innovative in its use,” he said Friday.
“We’re installing well over 680 trees. Traffic patterns are designed so they go off the Stevenson and not into the traffic of the neighborhood. There is a community benefits agreement in place for the developer and there will be one for the tenant as soon as one is identified to make sure these jobs are good-paying jobs and long-term jobs.”
Munoz was also asked about the domestic battery charge against him that stemmed from a domestic violence incident involving his wife on New Year’s Eve.
But, he refused to discuss it.
“Nothing at all. I’m not having this conversation. … I am not talking about that,” he told reporters in the City Council chambers.
Earlier this week, a Cook County judge approved an agreement that allowed Munoz to return to his family’s home.
It happened after Betty Torres-Munoz said she wants to reconcile and asked for the order of protection to be modified so the pair could once again be together.
She even handed her husband belated birthday and Valentine’s Day cards and offered a different account of the night that caused her to call police.
“He got upset and he grabbed me and when he let me go I lost my balance and, based on where I was standing, I fell,” she said Wednesday.
“He is absolutely not a wife beater … never was. … In a fit of alcoholism that evening he got upset with me because I hid the car keys to prevent him from going out and getting into an accident…I don’t think there was anything malicious, that’s just the way it happened.”
Munoz is due back in court March 20.