About the Candidate
Name: José Rico
DOB: March 19, 1970
Family: Father to three wonderful children
Occupation: SVP Community Impact at United Way
Political Experience: For over 25 years, I’ve worked with schools, community-based organizations, and civic groups in defending our families, and providing services to improve their lives. As an undocumented student leader, I led the take-over at the University of Illinois in 1991 to protest racist policies and established the first Latina/o Studies program in Illinois. When I returned to Little Village, I became a teacher at Latino Youth Alternative High School. There I taught young people labeled dropouts, gang bangers, and unteachables, and was able to demonstrate to them that they are loved and have value. My students transformed me!
In 1997, I was compelled to organize against racist policies in the suburbs as a result of IIRaIRA (The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996). Students were not being allowed to enroll in Cicero due to their immigration status and motorists were being extorted by police officers in Arlington Heights for the same reason. I was the suburban organizer for ICIRR and collected enough testimonies from people to file and eventually get a consent decrees between the Department of Justice and the townships.
But, my most life-changing experience was when my oldest son, Tizoc, was born with Cerebral Palsy. This required him to attend a wheelchair accessible school. After attempting to work with CPS for years around the building of a new school, Tizoc’s mom led a Hunger Strike with 18 other community residents. After a long campaign, the hunger strikers won a $70M school. I supported the campaign by engaging hundreds of residents in the planning process for the school. I was then selected to be the founding principal of the Multicultural Arts school, and implemented a culturally integrated curriculum; We were successful in exceeding graduation rates for students in neighborhood schools and have a teacher-led school. I was then appointed by President Obama to serve in the Department of Education to increase the high school graduation rate for Latino students nationally. After I helped allocate an unprecedented amount of resources to students, schools and education organizations, the high school graduation rate and college enrollment rate for Latino students increased significantly.
Since my return home, I’ve worked in my community as a non profit leader creating collaborative partnerships and funding that have increased mental health services, jobs, afterschool programs, parent leaderships programs and violence prevention resources to thousands of families in Little Village, Brighton Park, McKinley Park.
I’m José Rico, an immigrant, educator and father. I'm running for 12th ward Alderman in Little Village, Brighton Park and McKinley Park.
I’m running to stem violence, improve city services for families, to create jobs in neighborhoods and to unite our neighbors so that our children can afford to live here for generations and have a place to call home.
Today’s shameless policies promote racism and segregation against Black and Brown Chicagoans instead of providing pathways to opportunity. Radical change in public investment is necessary to address the racial inequities imbedded in our city.
February is our chance to elect a brand new council where policies, resources, rights, and opportunities are understood, embraced, and applied equitably, justly, and transparently.
We need to elect officials willing to address the most important issues facing our neighbors, with our neighbors, across the street and across the city.
Our city’s budget should be created on values that provide every student a quality education they deserve, jobs with dignity and vibrant neighborhoods that families can call home.
Let’s create jobs and Neighborhood Economic Development.
Let’s fund schools every student deserve.
Let’s create Health and Human services networks in our neighborhoods.
Let’s stop the exodus and make living in the city affordable.
Let’s enforce Environmental protections- Protect the air, water and ground we live in.
And let’s stop balancing the budget on the backs of working people and require more from corporate community.
Let’s empower local organizations to tackle neighborhood problems across the ward.
Let’s bring change to City Council. Let’s do this together.
What is your vision for this office?
I am running for every one of my neighbors who calls the 12th Ward home. I am running to unite our neighborhoods, instead of tear them apart with top-down leadership that plagues so many of our city’s wards. As Alderman, I will fight for equity in education and quality neighborhood public schools, safe neighborhoods and a clean environment for 12th ward residents. I am running to help provide better healthcare, both physical and mental, for the 12th and to help build community power. I am running for a budget and city finances that reflect equality. Chicago must stop selling public interests to balance the budget and start requiring more from the corporate community.
What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?
The most pressing issue facing my ward and many others, is Chicago’s gun violence epidemic. Every year gun violence claims nearly 600 lives in the city, and solving systemic poverty from which it stems remains a daunting task. Warlike violence cripples public education and jeopardizes public health. The violence worsens Chicago’s extreme segregation, promotes the exodus of the black population and the declining of the population at large. It weakens home values and raises property taxes.
The root of this violence can be traced directly to widening historic and racialized gaps in opportunity, healthcare, education, and safety. Yet, a long-term, systemic answer requires funding. My vision is to allocate some of the current enforcement costs to economic justice programs that will bring good paying jobs into the 12th ward. This will reduce the current cost of violence, which is close to $5.3B annually.
Dismantling the Chicago Police Department’s gang database is also a way to help reduce the criminalization of black and brown communities in Chicago. The excessively violent “tough on crime” police tactics and behaviors that violence reduction encourages among Chicago’s police have alienated too many Chicagoans from the police who are sworn to serve and protect them. Today some 128,000 adults are listed in the gang database, with the total rising to an astounding 196,000 if juveniles are included. If that was true it would mean, that given Chicago’s population of 2.7 million, one of every 14 Chicagoans could be a member of one of Chicago’s heavily armed, drug dealing street gangs.
Effectively preventing and controlling violence requires a multi-faceted, collaborative, trauma-informed public health approach. It must addresses the complex factors underlying violence and build on the assets of youth, families, and communities.