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‘Strange situation’: Rookie aldermen locked in battle — against each other

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) are at loggerheads. | Chicago Sun-Times file photos

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) (left) and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) are at loggerheads. | Chicago Sun-Times file photos

Aldermen Raymond Lopez (15th) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) have a few things in common: both are young City Council members elected in upset bids in 2015 and both are members of the council’s LGBTQ and Latino caucuses.

But despite their similarities, and the fact they both face tough re-election bids in wards miles apart, they are going after unusual opponents: each other.

The two accuse each other of being out of touch with their constituents on issues including public safety — and both compare each other to President Donald Trump.

Lopez’s views are “unacceptable,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

“He’s a keyboard warrior,” Lopez said.

RELATED: Read the Sun-Times voter guide to the 2019 municipal elections

The dispute started earlier this week after a group of activists launched a campaign to stop Lopez’s bid for re-election against a half-dozen challengers in his Southwest Side ward representing parts of Brighton Park and West Englewood. The group has dubbed the effort “Fuera Lopez” (“Lopez Out”). 

The activists, who hope to mimic a successful effort to oust former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez following the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, protested outside a Lopez fundraiser at Moe’s Cantina in River North Tuesday.

They say Lopez is too close with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and they cite his vote to build a $95 million police training academy in West Garfield Park. They say he spend $400,000 on speed bumps and traffic circles, money that could have been used to fight violence in other ways.

They also were upset about his controversial comments about a shooting of gang members in his neighborhood last year. After that incident, when Lopez said he “was thankful today that no innocent lives were lost,” he received threats and police protection. 

They also say Lopez hasn’t done enough to criticize federal immigration raids by ICE agents under President Trump. 

“The main purpose of this campaign is to continue to highlight the ways in which Lopez has not been an effective leader, showing the harm he’s caused communities,” said one of the campaign’s organizers, Ryan Wences, 27. “People in the Latinx community believe having representatives in office that are Latinx does not mean our community will be represented. An example is Ald. Lopez.”

Enter Rosa

Ramirez-Rosa said he noticed the “FueraLopez” campaign on Facebook and Twitter — and began to promote the posts, which are complete with caricature depictions of Lopez being kicked out of a door and included the hashtags “#RahmHatesUs,” “#AskAnita,” and “#RacistRay.” He wrote his own post in support and retweeted several posts from the @FueraLopez2019 Twitter handle.

While he didn’t play a role in organizing the protest, he said he stands with the campaign because of his own opposition to the police academy and other concerns about law enforcement in Chicago.

“This isn’t about me versus Raymond Lopez, this is about where you stand on the police,” Rosa said.

Lopez fires back

To Lopez, Rosa jumping on the bandwagon amounts to a personal attack.

“Ald. Rosa’s childlike attempts to bully me with name calling and racial taunts is insulting and offensive not only to me personally but also to the voters and residents of the 15th Ward,” Lopez said.

Lopez also dug into Ramirez-Rosa’s record, bringing up his ouster after just six days as Daniel Biss’s gubernatorial running mate in the Democratic primary which Lopez said was because of Ramirez-Rosa’s “unrelenting need for the spotlight.” Ramirez-Rosa was dropped over remarks he made saying the U.S. should consider divesting in Israel — which Lopez referred to as “anti-Semitic.”

Lopez went as far as to compare Rosa to Trump.

“Like Trump, Ald. Rosa is a keyboard warrior who’s more concerned about being popular on social media than defending the homeowners and taxpayers of the 35th Ward,” he said.

He said he agrees with activists that changes should be made to a police database of gang members which he has called “deeply flawed.” But Lopez disagrees with the notion he isn’t advocating for his ward when he has been critical of the gang lifestyle in the past, and said Ramirez-Rosa should be more outspoken on the issue.

“The day Ald. Rosa stands up to gangbangers terrorizing his residents to the point that he’s placed under guard for speaking the truth is the day I’ll even consider him a real advocate for the people of this city,” Lopez said.

He added: “Last I checked, Rosa wasn’t elected to represent a ward that’s 65 percent latino and 30 percent African American — that was me. As disturbing as all this is, I feel for the residents of the 35th Ward,” Lopez said.

Ramirez-Rosa, whose North Side ward includes parts of Logan Square, Hermosa, Irving Park and Albany Park, said aldermen should look beyond the borders of their districts.

“We have to think of Chicago as a whole city not just the lines that were drawn by aldermen. The issues affecting black and Latinx residents of the 15th Ward also affect us in the 35th Ward,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

Rosa also likened his City Council colleague to the president, calling Lopez’s strong comments against gangs “the same as Donald Trump, calling immigrants criminals and saying they should be deported.

“That’s unacceptable to me as someone that stands with the working class and undocumented communities,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

At odds over police academy

Ramirez-Rosa has run afoul of other aldermen before.

Divisions heightened earlier this year when he was one of two votes against the police academy. Aldermen typically defer to the alderman who represents the ward where the proposed project will be located in such situations. In this case, Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) supports the plan and several council members said they would vote for it even though they agreed with criticism that the money could be spent on other priorities.

Ramirez-Rosa also found himself removed from the Latino Caucus after other members said he wasn’t engaged enough in issues they supported. He has since been reinstated on the caucus.

Wences, the organizer, acknowledged the whole thing is a little bizarre considering Rosa is not involved in their campaign, which hasn’t endorsed any of Lopez’s opponents in the February election, either.

“Ald. Rosa has nothing to do with this. He was not at the protest,” Wences said. “I think it’s important for other representatives like Rosa, like other representatives in the Progressive Caucus, to come out in support of efforts that hold [Lopez] accountable, but that’s actually a strange situation.”