Too often we think about politicians as separate from than the average person. Over the past year, as organizations line Run for Something and She Should Run have shown, the lines we’ve drawn between the governed and those that govern are largely artificial.
All this is to say that The Frunchroom has often been a place where we’ve heard politicians like Alderwoman Susan Garza and Commissioner Bridget Gainer tell the stories of how they came to elected office by starting as lunch ladies or banquet hall servers on the South Side. It’s not as rare a path as others might make it seem.
A storyteller at our third anniversary show this week has a similar tale of working in the South Side from the ground-up.
Ricardo “Rick” Muñoz has become a dominant voice for reform in Chicago, earning his leadership role through innovation and determination. Muñoz put forward a proposal to generate millions in education spending without raising taxes, while overseeing the construction of more new schools in his neighborhood. He worked to make one of the schools in his community into the first-ever “dual language” academy in the City of Chicago.
Rick is also a progressive leader within the national Democratic Party and assisted then Senator Obama during his 2008 Presidential election. One of the original City Council sponsors of the Chicago Living Wage legislation, he helped lead a citywide, multi-racial coalition of labor, community, and religious organizations to victory on July 29, 1998. He is also notable for following through with major ethics legislations, like making it illegal for high-ranking administration officials to receive favorable city contracts, while still on the city payroll.
In his neighborhood, Little Village, Rick is known as a committed public servant, who twice declined his City Council pay increases and instead gave more than $90,000 to charitable organizations throughout the community. Muñoz is equally generous with his time, organizing block clubs and weekly clean-ups of streets, alleys and vacant lots. He also teaches classes on leadership at local schools, including serving as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Rick was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and is currently the ranking Mexican-American member of the City Council and a graduate of Northern Illinois University. He’ll tell the story of how his ward became a place where schools get built, not closed.
Join Rick and the rest of our readers this Thursday, April 19th at 730pm at Beverly Arts Center – presented by the Beverly Area Arts Alliance.