City Cast

What Does Censuring a Chicago Alder Even Do?

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on November 9   |   Updated on November 29
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward, at a downtown rally during the 2019 teachers strike

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th Ward, at a downtown rally during the 2019 teachers strike. (Scott Heins / Getty)

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City Council is set to meet again today after Tuesday’s meeting ended with the almost-censure of 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

Today, we dive into censure and how it’s rarely been used in Chicago.

What is Censure?

Censure is a way for City Council to formally and collectively express disapproval of a fellow alder’s conduct if they’re:

  • Acting in a “lewd or disgraceful” manner
  • Using “opprobrious, obscene, or insulting language” to or about colleagues
  • Disobeying the “order of the Chair”

It takes a majority council vote to censure a fellow alder. It takes a two-thirds majority to expel a fellow alder, according to council rules.

Why Was Ramirez-Rosa Almost Censured?

Mayor Brandon Johnson cast the tie-breaking vote against censuring his political ally Ramirez-Rosa, who was accused of intimidating colleagues and abusing power last week at a heated meeting over Chicago’s sanctuary city status. The call for a censure came after the Northwest Side alder gave up his leadership posts and issued a public apology.

Censuring is Rare in Chicago

The last time City Council censured an alder was almost 120 years ago when Ald. Hubert Butler attacked the integrity of his colleagues, Chicago History Museum research director Ellen King told WTTW.

More recently, some alders unsuccessfully called to censure 45th Ward Ald. Jim Gardiner in 2021 after his profane and derogatory text messages about City Hall colleagues surfaced, Block Club reported.

Meanwhile, Midwestern Lawmaker Was Censured in DC

While Ramirez-Rosa’s conduct was being discussed here Tuesday, the U.S. House voted to censure Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, for her rhetoric about the Israel–Hamas war.

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