CHICAGO (AP) – A Chicago alderman announced Saturday he'll challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, saying the city deserves a leader who looks out for everyday people and not just downtown businesses and the wealthy.
Bob Fioretti, a frequent critic of Emanuel, ripped the former White House chief of staff for closing some 50 neighborhood schools in predominantly minority neighborhoods and cutting public-employee pensions. He also said Emanuel is not doing enough to stop city violence that has left too many families grieving.
"I love Chicago and I can't stand by while the current mayor looks out for some of us, but ignores the real struggles some families face — for good jobs, for good schools, for safe streets," Fioretti, a civil rights attorney and member of the City Council's progressive caucus, told several hundred cheering supporters at a downtown college.
A spokesman for Emanuel shot back, saying Fioretti has "shown no backbone for making tough choices and little respect for Chicago taxpayers' pocketbooks."
"Chicago can't tax itself out of its problems," Steve Mayberry said in an emailed statement. "Chicago needs, and has, a strong leader who has shown that he is willing to make tough decisions."
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Emanuel inherited huge financial problems when he was elected in 2011. He said schools had to be closed as a cost-cutting measure, and pension cuts were necessary to ensure employee retirement funds remain solvent. With a combined shortfall of nearly $20 billion, Chicago has the worst-funded public pension systems of any major U.S. city.
Fioretti said he'd impose a 1 percent tax on commuters who travel to Chicago for work, which he said could generate $300 million per year. He also said he'd require businesses making more than $50 million per year to pay employees at least $15 per hour, and that he'll find new ways to fund schools so class sizes can be reduced — though he didn't say what those new funding sources would be.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who tangled with Emanuel during a 2012 teacher strike, also is circulating petitions and raising money for a bid, but hasn't yet announced whether she'll run.
Candidates have until November to turn in petitions to be on the February ballot. If Lewis runs, she and Fioretti could split the anti-Emanuel vote, forcing a runoff election.
Any challenge to Emanuel is expected to be costly. He already has banked more than $8 million, while campaign finance filings show Fioretti had about $325,000 in his campaign fund as of June, the last filing deadline. Lewis has given her campaign $40,000, though the leader of the American Federation of Teachers has said the national union is prepared to contribute $1 million if Lewis jumps in the race.
Angel Correa, a retiree who's supporting Fioretti, said he's organizing a group of Hispanic residents to campaign for the alderman because he believes Emanuel has catered to wealthy businessmen and that not enough city contracts have gone to minorities.
"We want the doors of City Hall open for everybody not just for certain groups — the insiders," Correa said.