In a recent interview, former 2nd Ward Ald. Robert "Bob" Fioretti told Windy City Times he wants to be "an ally in City Hall" if he becomes mayor of Chicago. Fioretti, a civil-rights attorney,- focused on how to make the city more accessible to its citizens using his experience and knowledge of how City Hall works.
Windy City Times: What made you decide to run for mayor again this year after your last campaign four years ago?
Bob Fioretti: The problems that led me to run for alderman in 2007 haven't been solved. Nobody is safer. The schools aren't better. Taxes continue to rise but the city's financial condition is worse. Many neighborhoods continue to suffer disinvestment. The other candidates are the people who've done nothing about these problems, or who created them in the first place. I feel I have to run, because I can get our city headed in the right direction.
WCT: How do you propose solving the city's pension problem? Is it as simple as the commuter tax you've proposed?
BF: First of all, we must keep our promise to current city workers and retirees. They will get the benefits coming to them. Doing otherwise is not only immoral, but it's also illegal. However, we may have to offer prospective city employees a lower level of retirement benefit, so that whatever taxes we impose to get over this hump can be reduced or repealed after a while. But it is a fact that we need $400 million in new revenue by mid-September of this year, and that number will rise to $1 billion by 2023.
A commuter tax would bring in most of that. It's not a tax on business, it's a tax on out-of-state and suburban residents who work in Chicago ... 800,000 of them. A 1-percent tax on their incomewhich would be deductible from their federal income taxis reasonable. They could avoid the tax by living here. If the tax stabilizes city finances, it'll attract business.
Other options, such as designating proceeds from legal marijuana sales or sports better, won't generate much money. A casino could help, but I'll believe it when I'm standing in it. A casino for Chicago has been talked about in Springfield for 25 years, and it seems further from reality than it's ever been. It's not something we can rely on.
Any shortfall can be backstopped by un-spent money in TIF accounts, which is estimated at $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion. This is money already paid by taxpayers, and it'll be at least partially replenished every year.
WCT: What is your vision for the LGBTQ community?
BF: Chicago's population is declining. People moving away always happens, but we need more people moving in. For decades, Chicago has been a place that gay and lesbian people move tofrom around the Midwest, around the country and even around the world. The gay and lesbian community here is an important part of our city. It's part of the foundation. Where would we be without it?
And we are finding now that gays and lesbians are comfortable living and being "out" all over the city, not just in a handful of neighborhoods. This is good for the gay community and it's good for Chicago. I want Chicago to continue to be a place that gays and lesbians find attractive, and I want that attractiveness and comfort to be citywide.
WCT: While Chicago has strong anti-discrimination protection laws, actual enforcement of those laws can be difficult. What would you do as mayor to ensure anti-discrimination laws are adequately enforced?
BF: I'm a civil-rights lawyer. I have a sensitive ear to these issues.
WCT: What do you see as the biggest problem( s ) facing the LGBTQ community? How would you work as mayor to help tackle that/those problem( s )?
BF: Some of the biggest problems are bullying in school, and discrimination in housing, public accommodation and employmentnot systematic and widespread the way it once was, but it still happens and it's inexcusable. Also, drug usesome people don't want to admit it, but there's a party drug subculture, and I've seen what it does to people over time. When users realize they have a problem and want to stop, we have to help them.
As far as city government directly goes, the people who deliver our city services cannot be prejudiced against any of the members of the pubic they encounter, including gays and lesbians and transgender people. This especially includes the police and fire departments, as well as public health and any social services, bureaucrats at City Hall, the auto pound, administrative hearing officers, CTA employees, and teachers and coaches in the schools and park district.
Also, city employees who are gay, lesbian and transgender should not have to tolerate bullying or ridicule from cave men who work in some city departments. This does happen, and we have to stop it.
For more information about Fioretti's campaign, visit www.bobforchicago.com .