Fioretti steps out
Since being mapped out of his own turf, the 2nd Ward's alderman marks his own path
07/11/2012 10:00 PM
During the first four years as an alderman of the 2nd Ward, Bob Fioretti’s voting record wasn’t particularly unusual. The Chicago City Council has been repeatedly criticized at the mayor’s rubber stamp. While Fioretti voted against some of then-Mayor Daley’s initiatives, he voted for some of the controversial ordinances in recent memory, including the proposal to move Chicago Children’s Museum under Grand Park and the parking meter and Midway privatization deals. The same pattern held after Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor.
That changed in the wake of the 2012 ward remap, which moved the 2nd Ward to the North Side. Not only did the remap effectively limit his constituents’ choices for the 2015 election, but it also complicated Fioretti’s current efforts to serve his constituents. The remap ordinance creates an ambiguity as to when the new boundaries take effect and how much authority Fioretti has over the changes in his ward.
Since the beginning of 2012, Fioretti emerged as the City Council’s most consistent voice of opposition, voting against Mayor Emanuel’s initiatives more times than any other alderman.
On Jan. 18, the City Council voted on a pair of controversial ordinances related to then-impending NATO summit. The first ordinance would amend the rules that regulate parades and public assemblies. In its final form, it increased permit application fees, raised fines for violating the ordinance and required the applicants to describe the size of signs, banners and sound equipment that would be used during the parade.
Fioretti expressed reservations about the ordinance since it was introduced. Before the final vote was taken, he asked the City Council to strike down the provision dealing with signs, banners and sound amplification equipment. The motion was voted down and Fioretti voted against the entire resolution.
The second resolution introduced on Jan. 18 gave Emanuel control over city contracts relating to the NATO summit. It also gave the Chicago Police Department authority to deputize policemen from outside the city. The resolution passed without debate, with Fioretti joining five other aldermen in voting no.
The next controversial legislation to come up before the City Council was the “Establishment of Children’s Safety Zones” ordinance — an ordinance that would allow the city to put up to a 300 speed cameras around parks and schools. The ordinance proved especially divisive, and 14 aldermen voted ‘no,’ including Fioretti.
But few ordinances have caused quite as much controversy as the Infrastructure Trust ordinance. It established a fund that would use private donations from various companies to finance infrastructure improvement and repairs. While the City Council would have a right to approve projects involving city money, assets or property, it would have little say over any other projects.
Several aldermen, including Fioretti, raised concerns about transparency, accountability, oversight and potential conflicts of interests, as well as how the Infrastructure Trust would affect the taxpayers.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) introduced his own version of the ordinance to address those concerns. Fioretti took a more modest approach. He introduced an amendment that would make the Infrastructure Trust a city program and, as such, subject to the full City Council authority.
It would also require the Trust to make all of its documents publicly available and follow established city procurement and contracting regulations. It altered the language of the ordinance to make the Infrastructure Trust clearly state that it falls under all city ethics laws and subject to the authority of the Inspector General.
Ultimately, both Waguespack’s ordinance and Fioretti’s amendment were tabled, and the original ordinance was passed 41-7.
That is not to say that Fioretti always votes against all of Emanuel’s initiatives. He voted for the cannabis ordinance, which reduced penalties for possessions of small amounts of marijuana. Nor do his ‘no’ votes always have to do with the controversial issues — he was the only alderman to vote against the Chicago bike-sharing program.
Fioretti’s record hasn’t gone unnoticed. NBC Chicago’s Ward Room blog chose listed him as one of Chicago’s “5 Most Independent Alderman.” And, in their annual Best of Chicago issue, Chicago Reader declared him the “Best Politician Guided by a What-the-[Expletive]-Do-I-Have-to-Lose Attitude.”
When asked about his record, Fioretti demurs. In his view, he is not doing anything any other alderman shouldn’t be doing.
“We have a duty to represent our constituents and Chicago at large,” he said, “when we face three important questions: how do we bring jobs [to our wards], improve education and create fiscally responsible budget?”
Fioretti emphasized the importance of doing the best they can with the resources they have
“I believe we live in difficult financial time,” he said. “But we should try to find resources to improve the quality of life of people”
One of Fioretti’s major objections to the speed camera ordinance is that there are cheaper, more efficient ways to ensure traffic safety. He cited speed bumps, stop signs and crosswalks near 2nd Ward parks and schools as examples.
Even though several controversial ordinances he opposed passed, Fioretti continues to call for transparency and accountability. When asked about the future of the Infrastructure Trust, he told the Chicago Journal that he remained skeptical, but he was waiting to see what the members of the recently appointed trust board will have to say.
Fioretti is currently trying to pass an ordinance that would clarify when the remapped ward boundaries would come into force. It was proposed three months ago, but the Committee of Committees, Rules and Ethics has yet to vote on it.
For now, Fioretti is also resisting unpopular ordinances in other ways. During the July 9 West Loop Town Hall community meeting, a constituent asked the alderman whether there will be any more parking meters in the ward. He talked about why he changed his mind about the vote. When the constituents pressed him for a direct answer, Fioretti’s response was short and to the point:
“I don’t want to put any more meters in the 2nd Ward, because the [Chicago Parking Meters LLC] is getting too much out it. I can’t support it.”