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The youngest member of the City Council when he first joined the body in 1993, Alderman Ricardo Muñoz has earned a reputation as one of the most serious and effective council members. His citywide leadership on education and labor issues has helped re-define the role of independents in the City Council.
"Alderman Ricardo Muñoz is one of the few independents on the City Coucil who isn't afraid to speak out against the mayor when he sees fit," wrote the Chicago Tribune in endorsing Muñoz for re-election in February 2003. "He has presented a number of innovative ideas… a terrific choice for voters."
As a junior member of the City Council, Muñoz put forward an innovative proposal to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new education spending without raising taxes. The heart of the Muñoz plan was a move to link the bonding capacity of city agencies with poor bond ratings to those agencies with higher ratings and allow for the issuing of new bonds at favorable rates for the city. The initiative was one of the first undertaken by the newly reconstructed Board of Education in 1995.
Muñoz has been able to leverage his leadership on education to create dramatic improvements at the schools in his community. Since Muñoz took office, more new schools have been built in the 22nd Ward than in any other ward in the City of Chicago. His agenda includes construction of the first new high school built in the Little Village community in over 90 years. Community members stood side by side with Alderman Muñoz when a courageous group of mothers, fathers and concerned community residents, went on a much publicized hunger strike demanding the construction of this school and dubbed their camp-site, "Camp Cesar Chavez".
True to his reputation for innovation, Muñoz has proposed making this new high school into the first-ever "dual language" academy in the city. The dual-language curriculum requires that all students become proficient in at least two languages, taking some of their classes in each language. The approach is an improvement over traditional methods, which segregate bilingual education students in their own classrooms. Construction of the new high school will begin Spring of 2003.
Known as a reformer within the City Council, Muñoz has challenged the city leadership to provide more educational opportunities for Chicago school children, to increase funding for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), to improve response times at the 911 call center and to end ethical abuses by city officials. During the last term of the City Council, the only major revision to the city's ethical code was an ordinance sponsored and passed by Alderman Ricardo Muñoz. The measure makes it illegal for high-ranking administration officials to receive favorable city contracts, while still on the city payroll.
Alderman Muñoz was one of the original City Council sponsors of the historic Chicago Living Wage legislation that requires city contractors pay employees a salary that is high enough to support a family. He helped lead a citywide, multi-racial coalition of labor, community, and religious organizations to victory when on July 29, 1998 the Chicago City Council finally passed the Living Wage Ordinance. On November 6, 2002 the City Council increased the living wage by 16% and in a historic amendment, indexed the living wage so it will get adjusted every year according to federal income guidelines.
In his neighborhood, Ricardo Muñoz is known as a committed public servant, who declined his 1995 and 1999 pay increases and instead has given more than $90,000 to charitable organizations throughout the ward. Alderman Muñoz is equally generous with his time, organizing block clubs and weekly clean-ups of streets, alleys and vacant lots. Muñoz also teaches classes on leadership at local schools.
Muñoz was first appointed by the Mayor to the City Council in 1993 to complete the term of Jesus Garcia, his former boss and a popular member of the coalition led by Mayor Washington. Since that time, Muñoz has won re-election by ever-increasing margins. Muñoz overcame four opponents and a serious challenge by Mayor Daley to win re-election with a stunning 66 percent of the vote in the 1999 election.
In the recent 2003 municipal election, Muñoz ran uncontested due largely to hard work and leadership on local and city-wide issues. In a Chicago Sun-Times February, 2003 article, Dr Juan Andrade Jr. tabs Alderman Muñoz as, "the standard for Hispanic alderman… the best Latino ward leader in the city!".
Ricardo Muñoz was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and is currently the ranking Mexican-American member of the City Council. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, he and his wife, Betty, own a home in the Little Village community. They are the proud parents of twelve-year-old Ricardo Alejandro and eight-year-old Angelica Maria Muñoz.