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Ald. Fioretti cut off at the pass by Emanuel aides at press conference

Meeting Chicago Sun-Times editorial board Wednesday May 1 2013. Ald. Bob Fioretti 2nd Ward speaks. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Meeting at the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board on Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Ald. Bob Fioretti of the 2nd Ward speaks. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:34AM

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) tried to crash the party at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $114 million addition to Jones College Prep, but aides to Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut him off at the pass.

Instead, Fioretti was taken on a tour of the new building at 606-700 S. State that was so extensive, it was comical. The obvious intent, the alderman said, was to tie him up until the mayor’s news conference in the shiny new Jones gym was over.

“I was given a complete tour of the closets and refrigerators — every back room of Jones. It was funny. I knew exactly what they were doing,” the alderman said.

“It’s very unfortunate. He’s afraid to face the people of Chicago. These orchestrated press conferences are not the same as listening to people.”

Local aldermen are almost always asked to join the mayor at ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

But Fioretti wasn’t invited to join the mayor at Jones, undoubtedly because he led the campaign that Emanuel ignored: to convert the old Jones building into a neighborhood high school instead of doubling the number of students allowed to test in.

The alderman showed up, only after seeing a tweet about the mayor’s 10:45 a.m. appearance at the school.

“They were surprised. They wanted me to stand off to the side. I could tell everybody was texting back and forth trying to figure out what to do,” he said.

“The next thing I know the Public Building Commission [chief] is saying, `We want to give you a tour.’ They kept saying, `The mayor’s not here yet,’ while I’m looking down and seeing [Emanuel’s] two SUV’s on State Street.”

Asked why Fioretti was not invited to Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting, Emanuel laughed out loud.

“He can come if he wants,” the mayor said. “I’m pleased that this building is here. He and I talked about….what was gonna happen at Jones North. He had some visions. We had some [different] visions. And let me say this, given what I know about the alderman: Nobody’s ever gotten in his way…If he wants to talk, he’ll obviously have his opinion.”

Ignoring the wishes of Fioretti and many South Loop parents, Emanuel announced in January that the old Jones building would be used to double the number of students allowed to test in.

Parents in the footprint of the selective enrollment school had asked that the existing building be renovated into a high school open to any child living in the neighborhood, regardless of academic prowess.

Instead, Emanuel and Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett opted to double the capacity of Jones, a school that attracted 11,000 applications for 250 freshmen seats for the new school year that begins Monday.

By 2016, Jones will hold 1,700 high school students from across the city who make the academically competitive cut, with students housed in the current building and the new one. The old Jones had roughly 900 students.

If Tuesday’s snub was meant to silence Fioretti’s campaign for a neighborhood high school — or his demand that the mayor declare a tax-increment-financing (TIF) surplus to mitigate 3,000 school layoffs — it didn’t work.

“People are looking to move elsewhere because they don’t have a neighborhood school available in the South Loop, parts of the West Loop and Bronzeville,” Fioretti said.

If Emanuel shows up at Thursday night’s “community ribbon-cutting” at Jones, he’ll hear the same argument from local residents, the alderman said.


Twitter: @fspielman

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