Ricardo Munoz was appointed by Mayor Daley, and in the 17 years since he's earned a reputation as one of the few aldermen willing to oppose him.
In an interview at Langostino’s, one of his favorite Mexican seafood restaurants, Munoz talked about his plans to run for Congress, his ward’s environmental issues, and the unfortunate YouTube video in which he ordered a protestor to “get the f--- out of my office.”
Ward Room: You've toyed with running for Congress in the past. Are you still harboring that ambition?
Munoz: I was running in the entire 4th Congressional District, specifically because my congressman, Luis Gutierrez, said he was going to retire. But Luis is a friend of ours, and so I wouldn't run against him. If he were to retire next year, I'm running. If we create a new district on the South Side, where the incumbents are me and Lipinski, I'm running.
The first thing you'd have to do is go after his vote against the health care bill.
Oh, of course. If that's the case, he's wearing that jacket.
If you were to run in the 4th District as it's constituted now, do you think you'd end up running against Manny Flores?
I'll be running to win. Who else runs is up to them. Manny, I was the only alderman who supported him against Jesse Granato. I invested my time and effort into supporting him for the city council, because I thought he was a good kid.
Why do you think he got the new job he got, and why do you think he took it?
He was bored in City Council.
Do you think Mayor Daley wanted to shuffle a rival off?
That, too. There's a variety of reasons why stuff happens in City Hall.
You come off the highway, you come into the ward, and you go past the Midwest Generation plant. I've read some stories about environmental problems there.
There have been a couple, 'cause Joe's been making noise. [Ald. Joe Moore champions a Clean Air Ordinance that would force coal-fired plants to clean up emissions.] My position with Midwest Generation, and the plant, is that it should be regulated at the state and federal level. There just needs to be more. Local regulation just puts the city at a disadvantage, and that's why I've taken the positions that I have. There's some minor local regulation, but what's being proposed, with this clean air ordinance, is beyond that, and I'm actually meeting with the advocates for the clean air ordinance to see what I might be able to do to support them or not support them.
There have been articles claiming there are higher rates of asthma or lung disorders here because of the Midwest Generation plant.
(Pauses) That claim has been made. How can I put this? They haven't made their case that it's because of the plant. There are many other contributing factors. If you really want to deal with what causes asthma, you should deal with all these highways, all these trucks going through the neighborhood.
How many people does Midwest Generation employ?
180, 200. I'm actually meeting with them also, to hear their side.
I have to ask you about your YouTube video.
Unfortunate incident that I regret. However, he was in the private part of the office, and he was told that he didn't have an appointment and he was accompanied by about seven or eight other thuggish-looking characters. I figured pushing him beyond the threshold, closing the door and waiting for the cops to come was my best option. He's a constant community gadfly, and that particular visit I believe had to do with his disagreement with us on a TIF project we were proposing. I regret losing my temper. Even if I knew it was on YouTube, I wouldn't have done it differently, because I honestly feared for my safety.
What do you think of the Berrios/Claypool fight?
That one's gonna get interesting. I'm the Democratic committeeman, so I'll be supporting the Democratic ticket. I have to.
Do you feel it's important to have Latinos in countywide office?
It's important to have progressive Latinos in countywide office, which is why I supported [Ray] Figueroa [in the primary.] But Berrios won, so I'm supporting the Democrat.