April 15, 2014. Chicago. If Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti isn’t running for Mayor, somebody forgot to tell him. During his speech at the City Club of Chicago yesterday, the embattled Alderman all but declared war on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Democratic Machine. He slammed their positions on everything from schools and taxes to crime and corruption. And most indicative of all, thanks to his fellow Democrats, Fioretti has nothing left to lose.
Chicago Alderman and potential 2015 Mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti. Image courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times.
You know you’re a reform Alderman in Chicago when the Mayor and City Council get together and remap you completely out of your own Ward. That’s what the establishment Democrats who’ve ruled the city for the past 145 years did during the latest census remap to get rid of Alderman Bob Fioretti. That undemocratic tactic may have backfired on them however. Rather than run against a fellow Alderman in a new Ward with new constituents, the popular progressive reformer looks like he may challenge Rahm Emanuel for Mayor next year.
Slamming Mayor Emanuel and the Machine
With Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis showing her energetic support for him from the audience yesterday, Alderman Fioretti slammed Mayor Emanuel’s recent pension fix that was widely rejected by fellow party members as soon as it was introduced. Then the rebellious Alderman shocked the gathered audience and media by doing something Chicago politicians never do - he offered credible solutions to serious problems. First on his list was the billions in missing money from Chicago’s government employee pension funds.
While Mayor Emanuel’s plan to fix the pensions put 100% of the burden on the citizens of Chicago - mainly homeowners - Fioretti is looking to the tens of millions of tourists and suburbanites who use Chicago’s amazing resources, attractions and jobs, but pay no more than Chicagoans do for the pleasure. Many reformers have long argued that the suburbs charge Chicagoans money to use their pools and parks. But Chicagoans pay extra taxes so suburbanites can come use Chicago’s beaches, pools and parks absolutely free. Fioretti is digging out that long-argued reform measure to help solve the pension crisis.
Another popular and recurring suggestion Alderman Fioretti is supporting is the opening of a casino in downtown Chicago. Those two remedies, along with expanding the city’s sales tax to include services instead of just merchandise, would fund the city’s pensions. And the longtime reformer’s proposals don’t raise property taxes or force city employees to lose benefits to pay for it. That seemed to gel with both voter groups.
While Emanuel goes right, Fioretti goes left
Taking a play from newly elected New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s political playbook, Alderman Fioretti is moving far to the left of Chicago’s current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who himself has drifted considerably to the right. Whether it’s busting unions, lunching with Fox News’ Rupert Murdoch, suspending civil rights for summits, or being old buddies with Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has led many impartial Chicagoans to believe he is either a secret Republican or he’s already running for President, or both.
Mayor Emanuel has shown his affinity for Hollywood where his family makes its millions, Wall Street where he’s made his millions, and world governments that flocked to Chicago the instant he was elected Mayor. But potential challenger Bob Fioretti is staking his political future on the everyday people of Chicago.
Again putting substance behind his talking points, Fioretti confirms that he supports raising the minimum wage, requiring paid sick leave, an elected school board, Aldermanic term limits, cutting the Chicago City Council from 50 to 25 Wards, reopening the mental health clinics shuttered by Emanuel, and hiring 500 more police officers. Fioretti even invoked his New York counterpart by name.
“At its root, we are seeing the widening of Chicago into two cities,” he told the audience at the City Club yesterday, “We need one Chicago, not two. One humanity, not two. Rising together, as New York’s new Mayor Bill de Blasio says, ‘not from the top down, but from the middle out.’”
At various points throughout his speech, Alderman Fioretti leveled veiled but devastating accusations at the Emanuel administration. The most startling one was calling out City Hall for possibly falsifying Chicago’s crime statistics to make it appear crime in the city is dropping when it’s really still going up. Only days ago, it was revealed that when two or more people are shot or hurt in a violent incident such as a drive-by shooting, the Chicago Police Department has only been counting those multiple victims as one victim.
“Even if the data is not being outrageously tampered with, as it appears to have been,” Fioretti told the press, “a slight statistical drop in fatalities is hardly an occasion for celebration, not when families are grieving.” The ‘slight statistical drop in fatalities’ he refers to is the drop in murders in Chicago so far in 2014. Mayor Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy have refused to give the credit to the third coldest Chicago winter in recorded history, instead crediting better policing and Mayoral leadership for the lull. This past weekend however, the first warm weekend in 6 months, 36 people were shot in Chicago. It seems the city is still the murder capitol of America.
Alderman Fioretti was one of the perceived front-runners in the Mayoral race three years ago. But he, along with most of the other credible challengers, opted not to run when it became obvious Chicago’s TV news networks had already anointed Rahm Emanuel Mayor a full year before he ever moved here from Washington DC. Next year’s Mayoral election may be a bit different. And with his Ward taken from him by the Machine remap, Alderman Bob Fioretti is positioning himself to be the people’s candidate in next year’s race.
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