Ald. Robert Fioretti on Monday sounded every bit the candidate for Chicago’s top office with his public dissection of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure, but he stopped short of saying he would take on the incumbent in next year’s election.
During a 20-minute speech at a City Club of Chicago luncheon, the 2nd Ward alderman harshly criticized Emanuel’s administration, decrying last year’s school closings and persistent crime and unemployment in low-income neighborhoods. He blamed policies designed for “the elite few. … So we continue down this road, degrading low-income neighborhoods, removing options for low-income families, sending a message of pessimism.”
“Deals are being cut at our expense,” said Fioretti, 61, a second-term alderman whose ward boundaries were radically shifted in the city’s early 2012 remap. “This is not responsible stewardship.”
Just as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did during his successful run for office last year, Fioretti painted a “tale of two cities” picture, depicting Chicago as one city for the wealth and another for the poor.
“At its root, we are seeing the widening of Chicago into two cities,” Fioretti said. “We need one Chicago. 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 then listed proposed initiatives sure to please the unions that have backed him in his previous aldermanic races.
He called for requiring businesses making more than $50 million a year to pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour, instead of $8.25; imposing a 1 percent “commuter tax” on the incomes of suburban residents who work in the city; and pumping more money into city worker pensions without cutting benefits to restore the health of the city’s pension funds. Fioretti also called for putting more cops on the streets; an elected rather than appointed school board; and restoring cuts made to mental health services.
“We are at a crossroads,” Fioretti said. “We have a choice to make. What kind of city do we want it to be?”
But when asked later by an audience member if he intended to run for mayor, Fioretti would say only that he’s traveled the city and was “encouraged by the responses that I’ve heard.”
Running against Emanuel, a seasoned politician with more than $6.2 million in the bank, would be a formidable task. Also mentioned as a potential candidate is Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is running unopposed for re-election but has not ruled out a mayoral run after that.
Four years ago, Fioretti made moves toward a mayoral run before he was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsils. He said today he was “100 percent cancer free.”
One Fioretti fan in attendance who was enthusiastic about a potential mayoral run was Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who has clashed repeatedly with Emanuel.
“He certainly is a progressive candidate, and he hit all the right notes, so I hope he decides to run,” Lewis said after the speech. “...I just think the mayor we have right now needs to go somewhere else and do something else.”
John Kupper, a political spokesman for the mayor, said via email that he had “no interest in responding to an alderman spouting off,” but would “be happy to respond if (Fioretti) actually gets in the race.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun