RACE: City Council - 33rd Ward

About the Candidate

Name: Rossana Rodríguez-Sánchez
Date of Birth: Nov. 13, 1978
Occupation: Alderwoman, 33rd Ward
Political Experience: Alderwoman, 33rd Ward
Political Party: Democratic Socialist
Website: Rossanafor33.org
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Candidate Q&A

Why are you running?

I am running for re-election because I am proud of the work I have been able to accomplish in my first term and because I believe there is still more to do.

In my first term, I introduced and passed the Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary Ordinance in the months after Roe v Wade was overturned to protect those seeking and providing abortion and gender-affirming care in the City of Chicago. I have researched, introduced, and championed Treatment Not Trauma to reopen the closed mental health centers and establish new models for preventing and responding to mental health emergencies. I have worked to bring improvements to my neighborhood schools, and established democratic decision making structures to give residents a vote in how we spend our ward’s annual budget and what zoning changes are approved.

In my next term, I will work to pass Treatment Not Trauma - something that 92% of the voters in my ward are calling for. I am currently working to establish an Office of Neighborhood Safety and reopen the Department of the Environment and want to see this work through. I believe that our elected officials should have deep ties to the communities they serve. I have a long history of organizing in the 33rd ward, from supporting my neighbors facing deportations to the fight for more affordable housing. I was recruited to run by members of the community and will continue to serve my ward by working closely with the many community organizations and groups with whom I have established close ties.

What does this office do well, and what needs fixing?

In my first term, I established a number of initiatives to give residents a democratic vote in important ward decisions. We have instituted Participatory Budgeting and Community Driven Zoning processes that have engaged thousands of residents. We host a number of community working groups, including a volunteer senior group called the Sage Brigade that works to bring together seniors in our ward to have community building time. They bring artwork from students to senior buildings and nursing homes and do wellness calls to seniors. We helped to establish a food pantry and mutual aid network during the pandemic. We are 6th out of the 50 wards for speed in handling constituent service requests.

We do all this with very limited resources and budget. Ward offices have the budget for three full time staff to serve 55,000 residents. We need to expand budgets for ward offices and fund all of our vital city services that have been systematically defunded through years of austerity budgets.

What is the most pressing issue facing your constituents and how do you plan on addressing it?

The biggest issues facing the 33rd ward are public safety and housing. To be safe, people need access to healthcare, safe and affordable housing, and to live in a connected and caring community. I have introduced Treatment Not Trauma to reopen the public mental health clinics and create a new model to prevent, manage, and respond to mental health crises with clinicians and EMTs. I have brought new affordable housing to the ward, and introduced the Healthy Homes ordinance to protect renters. I’m a co-sponsor for the Bring Chicago Home bill as well. During the pandemic, I set up mutual aid networks, food pantries, and wellness checks with seniors.

What specific steps would you take to ensure your office is accessible and responsive to your constituents?

I have instituted both Participatory Budgeting and Community Driven Zoning in my ward to ensure that residents have a voice in how our ward’s menu money is spent and what zoning changes and developments come to the ward. As a result of these initiatives, we have brought affordable housing, school improvements, community gardens, bike lanes, and a food pantry to the 33rd ward. Also, a recent analysis shows that our ward is 6th in the city for speed in resolving constituent service requests. We host regular ward nights and have a number of volunteer working groups.

Do you believe in the tradition of aldermanic prerogative, which gives each City Council member the final say on issues in their ward?

I believe the tradition of aldermanic prerogative has been abused. When Aldermen take political contributions from developers and businesses looking for zoning changes, it guarantees a corrupt process. I do not take contributions from developers or anyone looking for a zoning change. While I believe that Aldermen should be able to make decisions about what zoning and development changes come to their ward, I believe they should only do so after a robust community process and in accordance with the wishes of the community. That is why I have established a Community Driven Zoning process which ensures substantive community meetings and gives ward residents a vote in what changes are approved.

Should the $1.9 billion budget for the Chicago Police Department increase, stay the same or decrease?

We must stop expecting the Chicago Police Department to address all the issues brought about by decades of disinvestment and exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic. We have been increasing the budget for the police department while cutting other services for decades and the issue of crime has not gotten better. A recent article in the Tribune discussed a report that estimates the yearly cost of operating the Chicago Police Department to be 3 billion. In my first four years, I have worked to research, introduce, and advocate for innovative public safety approaches. I am the chief sponsor of the Treatment Not Trauma Ordinance, which mirrors aspects of different models of mental health crisis response in Portland, Denver, Albuquerque and others and seeks to reopen the shuttered mental health centers and create community support teams and walk-in crisis centers to address public health and social services needs that have been delegated to CPD.. This model would free up 911 resources by shifting responsibility for mental health and quality of life calls to trained mental health professionals and away from police.

Should the city raise the Real Estate Transfer Tax on properties sold for more than $1 million to fund programs to help unhoused Chicagoans?

Yes. I am a co-sponsor of this ordinance and have worked closely with the Bring Chicago Home Coalition to advocate for its passage.

Should the city open and operate mental health clinics to provide free care to Chicagoans?

Yes. I am the chief sponsor of the Treatment Not Trauma initiative that seeks to reopen the closed mental health centers and establish a new emergency line to dispatch a trained clinician and EMT in cases of mental health emergencies. I work closely with the Collaborative for Community Wellness in the fight for more expansive mental health services and was able to win a 73% increase in staffing for Chicago’s remaining clinics in last year’s budget.

How should Chicago build the 120,000 homes it needs for low- and moderate-income Chicagoans?

The City Council needs to work to pass budgets that prioritize housing. I am a co-sponsor of the Bring Chicago Home ordinance, which would generate revenue and support the Development for All Ordinance, which would ensure that developers are building the required number of affordable units, rather than paying in lieu of fees. This week I am participating in hearings about the Chicago Housing Authority’s budget and how we can provide much needed housing through the agency.

What do you see as potential solutions to address the number of shootings in Chicago?

We desperately need new approaches. In addition to my work on Treatment Not Trauma, I am also a lead sponsor of establishing an Office of Neighborhood Safety (previously called the Office of Gun Violence Prevention) that would be tasked with further research and development of innovative and community-driven strategies for preventing crime and providing care to communities.

In my ward, I have established a strategic Task Force to address problem landlords and hold them accountable. Working in collaboration with the 35th Ward, the Chicago Police Department, the Chicago Department of Law, and the Chicago Department of Buildings, Department of Housing, CPD and CHA. Through this task force we have been able to take legal action against irresponsible landlords who are being held accountable. I have also worked alongside colleagues at different levels of government to bring street outreach workers who are developing relationships with the people at risk of causing harm. We are doing prevention work at our local high school to teach at risk youth and we work with survivor families after violent incidents because violence is a cycle that needs to be addressed. Finally, my office started a community-driven Public Safety Working Group that has hosted space activations over the last two years to build community and create free and accessible activities for the youth in our community.

How can the city better serve Spanish-speaking residents?

Everyone in my ward office is bilingual. The city should also commit to hiring more Spanish speaking staff and ensuring that all agencies have translation services.

Should the city do more to help undocumented immigrants?

Yes, absolutely. We need to invest in rebuilding direct service structures as part of our systems of care. As a city government, we need to be providing better city services to all residents, including undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers. I was proud to co-sponsor the Welcoming City Ordinance to make Chicago a sanctuary city and I worked extensively alongside my city and state colleagues to support new arrivals who were bused to our city. Now we need to fully fund our schools, expand affordable housing, and provide accessible services to ensure everyone has the resources they need.