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Ald. Fioretti Rips Rahm on Schools, Crime, Clinic Closures

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | April 14, 2014 2:22pm | Updated on April 14, 2014 2:24pm
 Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) slammed Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday, calling some of his decisions "inescusable" and saying his administration had "fumbled" many projects.
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) slammed Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday, calling some of his decisions "inescusable" and saying his administration had "fumbled" many projects.
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RIVER NORTH — Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) slammed Mayor Rahm Emanuel Monday, calling some of his decisions "inexcusable" and saying his administration had "fumbled" many projects.

He also said he's been mulling a mayoral run in next year's election while "meeting with people all across the city in every ward."

"I'm honored and I'm encouraged by the responses that I hear," he said at a City Club of Chicago luncheon Monday. The alderman promised he "will make the announcement at an appropriate time, in the appropriate place."

But in the meantime, he had some strong words about Emanuel and the sweeping closures of half the city's mental health clinics and 54 public schools last year.

Fioretti's speech was met with a standing ovation from the crowd of local business leaders. In his keynote speech, the 2nd Ward alderman reflected on his seven years in office — and especially on the Emanuel administration's last three years at the helm.

"There are the kind of problems that are preventable, the kind that those in the Emanuel administration either chose to create or stumbled into without thinking through the impacts," Fioretti said.

"For the smartest guys in the room, they certainly have fumbled on a lot of ... projects on the public's dime," the alderman said.

Fioretti called the mental health clinic closures "inexcusable" and added it to a long list of "ill-founded policy decisions" he said point to "a basic issue of competency" within the Emanuel administration.

"If you turn your back on communities, you shouldn't be mayor," he said. "If you close schools in communities when 20,000 people come out, you shouldn't be mayor. If all you're concerned about is raising the money to fend off anybody that's going to run against you, you have a problem as mayor.

Fioretti, a member of City Council's progressive caucus, also called for an elected school board, a higher minimum wage, and a commuter tax imposed on suburban residents who work in Chicago.

"It's time to get creative about generating new revenue," he said. "Every day, over 600,000 people wake up in the suburbs and travel to the city of Chicago to work. While here they rely on our streets, our police, our Fire Department and our first responders. ... Then they go home, pay their taxes and spend their money in their own towns.

"If those people who live outside the city but work here paid as little as 1 percent of their taxes, we could generate more than $300 million annually," he said.

Fioretti's condemnation of the record-breaking school closures drew the loudest applause from the audience, which included Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

The alderman condemned what he called the "disinvestment in our neighborhoods [and] the widening gap between children in our neighborhood schools ... and those in the elite schools."

He also brought up a recent Chicago magazine piece that questioned the city's crime rates, and said "statistics really don't tell the story."

"Even if the 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," Fioretti said. "Not when families are grieving and whole communities and neighborhoods and congregations are holding vigils and marches for the funerals of a young person."

In closing, Fioretti read an excerpt from poet Kevin Coval's response to a recent episode of CNN's "Chicagoland:"

"Rahm Emanuel is building a Second City," Fioretti read. "One white, one black. One for the rich, one for the poor. One for private schools, one for closed schools. A new Chicago for the saved and the damned. Gold Coast heavens and Low End hells."

The Mayor's Office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Fioretti's 2nd Ward faces considerable changes when the new ward map takes effect next year that could affect his efforts to keep his Council seat.

Last year he accused Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and other aldermen whose wards border his transforming district of "abrogating their responsibility" to current constituents.