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Fioretti rips Emanuel, sounds like a candidate for mayor

2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti speaks City Club Chicago Maggiano’s Monday. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti speaks to the City Club of Chicago at Maggiano’s on Monday. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

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Updated: May 16, 2014 6:27AM

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) on Monday accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of presiding over the “widening of Chicago into two cities” and hinted strongly at a race for mayor.

With Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis cheering him on from the City Club audience, Fioretti unveiled a liberal, pro-union agenda that would make newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proud.

To solve Chicago’s $20 billion pension crisis, Fioretti favors a one percent commuter tax on 620,000 suburbanities who earn their paychecks in Chicago, a broadening of the sales tax to include services and a land-based casino that has been on the city’s wish list for 25 years.

But unlike Emanuel, who favors a mix of reform and revenue, Fioretti does not support either increased employee contributions or reductions in employee benefits.

Fioretti’s agenda also includes: an elected school board; an increase in the minimum wage; paid sick leave; cutting the City Council in half; aldermanic term limits; reopening the mental health clinics that Emanuel closed and hiring at least 500 additional police officers.

“Still, more police officers will not solve the challenges that we face. At its root, we are seeing the widening of Chicago into two cities. 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,” Fioretti said.

“Now, I’m not suggesting it is easy. But, we must prioritize human need. When you’re running a city, your job is to find ways to solve budgetary problems without sacrificing human need.”

Fioretti homed in on the schools closings, charter openings and persistent crime that have caused Emanuel’s popularity to decline among African-American voters who helped put him in office.

“Even if the [crime] data is not being outrageously tampered with, as it appears to have been, a slight statistical drop in fatalities is hardly an occasion for celebration. Not when families are grieving and whole communities . . . are holding vigils and marches for the funerals for the young that die,” Fioretti said, giving Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy a mediocre grade of C for his performance.

The alderman then turned to Emanuel’s decision to close more schools at once than any big city in the nation.

“What happened to the hundreds of children from closed schools who never made it the welcoming schools on the West and South Sides?” Fioretti said.

“The administration made assurances that this gigantic transition would take place safely and with minimal negative impact. They were wrong. They ended up overcrowding some schools and classrooms while emptying others. They created learning conditions for these kids that they would never tolerate for their own children.”

After the speech, Lewis said she was delighted to hear Fioretti sound so much like a candidate for mayor and said she’s rooting for him to forge ahead with the campaign. That is, if Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the mayoral challenger City Hall fears most, decides not to run.

“Clearly, the polls support her. There have been quite a few serious polls that have been done that say that Toni could beat him,” Lewis said.

And why is she so determined to defeat Emanuel?

“50 [schools] closing. Mental health clinics closed. This whole notion of taking pensions away. It’s like he’s had a heat-seeking mode on the people who have the least amount of voice in this city so he can sort of run roughshod over them. I just don’t think that’s an effective way to govern,” Lewis said.

Four years ago, Fioretti flirted with a race for mayor, only to decide against it. This time, he has nothing to lose after being remapped out of his ward.

After Monday’s speech, Fioretti said he talked to Preckwinkle in December — and has maintained a “continuing dialogue” with her ever since.

The aldermen did not answer directly when asked whether he would step aside if Preckwinkle does decide to jump in.

John Kupper, the mayor’s longtime political strategist, could not be reached for comment on Fioretti’s attack.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, refused to discuss the merits of Fioretti’s arguments.

“It’s really a good group. They’re well-informed. You’re talking to the people who shape Chicago. I did it once myself,” O’Connor said of the City Club.

“I congratulate him on his appearance. It was his forum. He can say what he wants to say. It’s like a speaker’s corner. It’s not up to me to get into a debate with Ald. Fioretti.”

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