On International Workers’ Day, May 1, two Logan Square aldermen helped create the first Democratic Socialist caucus in the Chicago City Council. Another founding alderman represents neighboring Avondale, making this a Northwest Side institution currently.
The five founding members are Aldermen Daniel La Spata (first ward), Jeanette B. Taylor (20th ward), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th ward), Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd ward) and Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th ward). Ramirez-Rosa will serve as the founding caucus chair. A sixth alderman originally endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Andre Vasquez (40th ward), is not in the caucus, after getting kicked out of the DSA for voting in support of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pandemic budget.
In a statement, the group said, “We are forming the Democratic Socialist Caucus to center working class Chicagoans and their movements for justice in our legislative efforts. We know that it is through bringing together working class communities from across Chicago that we can achieve the power needed to defeat rich and powerful special interests at City Hall. After all, bringing together working class Chicagoans to defeat special interests is how we all got elected.” The caucus marks the first formal socialist caucus in the city’s history, though the members have been meeting informally since the 2019 city council election.
The Logan Square area has outsized representation in the new caucus. Two of the five members of the caucus – La Spata and Ramirez-Rosa – represent parts of Logan Square, while Rodriguez-Sanchez’s 33rd ward includes bordering Avondale. “Just like most Chicagoans, Logan Square residents want local good government committed to democracy, equity and justice,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “Democratic socialist values align with needs of working and middle class families on Chicago’s Northwest Side: affordable housing, diverse and integrated neighborhoods, equitable and accessible public transit, racial and immigrant justice, and progressive revenue to fully fund our public schools, libraries and parks.”
Indeed, the Chicago branch of the DSA is headquartered in Logan Square (3411 W. Diversey Ave., Suite 7). A 2019 Chicago magazine piece titled “How Lakefront Liberals Became Milwaukee Avenue Progressives” quoted Ramirez-Rosa on our area’s politics. On the North Side, Ramirez-Rosa said, “if you’re looking for more working-class progressives, you’re going to go to the Milwaukee corridor. If you’re looking for a more coastal progressive, that’s just a little bit more elite, you’re going to go closer to the lake.”
The founding aldermen appeared on the podcast The Ben Joravsky Show on May 5 to discuss the caucus. Asked if she feared controversy or backlash from forming this caucus, Taylor said, “We all believe in public power. We all believe in making sure that our communities are well-educated and taken care of. Who wouldn’t want to join a caucus that does that? Who wouldn’t want to join a caucus that’s honest and doesn’t take corporation money and stands up for the people? I don’t feel like I belong in a bunch of other caucuses. I feel like I belong here.”
Rodriguez-Sanchez said the caucus will collaborate with other groups, including the city council’s Progressive Caucus, Latino Caucus and Black Caucus. Echoing Rodriguez-Sanchez, Ramirez-Rosa said the “caucus is open to anyone who identifies as socialist, who abides by the principles that we have identified as socialist, including things like being anti-racist, centering a feminist analysis, working collectively, not acting individually.”
The core values of the caucus’s policy platform are care, solidarity and democracy. The caucus’s policy website includes goals like reopening and investing in mental health clinics; unionizing charter schools; providing universal preschool, free internet and laptops for all students; and creating a public bank. “We know what stands in the way of making such change possible,” the platform reads. “It is capitalist interests in the form of real estate developers that are pricing us out of our neighborhoods, Wall Street bankers that claim our city is broke, and large corporations like Amazon that don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes or pay their workers living wages and benefits.”
Featured photo: Aldermen Rodriguez-Sanchez and Ramirez-Rosa of the new Chicago Democratic Socialist Caucus speak about the city budget. Photo: Michael Dhar