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Three 22nd Ward aldermanic candidates keep the heat on Munoz to resign

By Fran Spielman

Three candidates for 22nd Ward alderman on Monday renewed their demand for the resignation of Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and said the ward needs an immediate replacement for the 25-year veteran accused of domestic violence, even if a mayoral appointment undermines their own campaigns.

“Domestic violence should not be tolerated under any circumstances. A public servant should be a positive role model to the community and Ald. Munoz, with his actions, is far from it. He should resign immediately,” candidate Neftalie Gonzalez told a City Hall news conference.

Candidate Richard Juarez said the 22nd Ward remains “under siege from a host of outside development” forces, with “scant information and opportunity for community input” on projects ranging from the massive Hilco warehouse development and the future of the Little Village industrial corridor to implementation of an affordable housing plan for Pilsen and Little Village.

“The fact that these endeavors have been allowed to advance as far as they have without community input speaks to the longstanding negligence that the 22nd Ward has endured under Munoz and his enablers,” Juarez said.

“We believe in justice. But we do require representation. We have been under-represented,” Juarez said, point to a recent study that showed that, from 2015 to 2017, Munoz “only attended City Council meetings 43 percent of the time. This lack of representation has hurt our community then and it’s hurting us now.”

Last summer, Munoz became the latest in a string of City Council veterans to announce his political retirement. As his replacement, he endorsed 22nd Ward Democratic Committeeman Mike Rodriguez.

If Munoz were to resign before a new City Council is inaugurated in May, Mayor Rahm Emanuel would appoint his replacement. Rodriguez would be the odds-on favorite. That would give him a leg up on his three competitors.

“If he is the person … appointed by the mayor and the Council, we would support that. … It would be far better” than leaving Munoz in office, Juarez said Monday.

“We need someone who is in office who has the decency to take care of this community. Would we tolerate such an incident from the mayor? Would we tolerate such an incident from any other alderman? Would we tolerate it from a congressman or a senator? We would not.”

Munoz has checked into an Indiana rehab center, where he plans to spend the next four weeks. He could not be reached for comment.

Already, Rodriquez and newly-elected U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a longtime Munoz friend and political mentor, have joined in urging the City Council’s longest-serving Hispanic alderman to cut short a term that will end in May.

Last week, Munoz refused to respond to his wife’s explosive allegations during a brief phone conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times between classes.

But, in a text message, Munoz made it clear that he has no intention of leaving the Council early.

“My office is functioning. My staff are serving the residents of the 22nd Ward. And I’m going to continue my life in public service,” Munoz wrote then.

“I love helping people and I love building stuff. Operative word is continue.”

Munoz has been charged with a misdemeanor count of domestic battery after a New Year’s Eve argument with his wife.

The alderman has pleaded not guilty and is free on bond. He is accused of pushing and striking his wife “throughout the body.”

In a petition seeking an order of protection, subsequently granted by a Cook County judge, Betty Torres-Munoz claims she feared not only physical abuse at the hands of her husband but also threats from gang members connected to him.

“Ricardo has connections (with) local gangs (and) individuals with criminal pasts who … have threatened my family in the past,” Betty Torres-Munoz wrote on the form she filled out seeking a court order barring Munoz from having contact with her, the couple’s 16-year-old dog, or visiting the Little Village home they shared.

In her petition, Torres-Munoz said she and her husband “engaged in a [heated] argument” and that Munoz “forcibly” grabbed her and pushed her backward, causing her to hit her back and head, and twist her arm.

In the filing, and later in response to questions from reporters who surrounded her as she left the courthouse, Torres-Munoz said her husband had been abusive previously, and she accused him of being an “addict” and a “womanizer.”

Read the original article at Chicago Sun-Times