This interview is presented as part of the Gate’s ongoing coverage of the 2015 Chicago mayoral race On January 5, 2nd Ward Alderman and mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti visited the Institute of Politics. After his talk, Chicago editor Patrick Reilly asked him about his campaign promises and vision for the city.
The Gate: What role do you currently see the University of Chicago playing in the city?
Fioretti: I think it has a very important role in terms of education. We have a lot of great educational institutions here. The downtown area has sixteen institutions of higher education. They’ve all become incubators of thought [and] help small businesses create and design. They’re really molding the future of our city, and that’s what’s essential for all of us.
The Gate: I’d like to talk about your proposal for an elected school board. During your talk at the Institute of Politics, you mentioned that you would like to divide the city into a grid system and appoint administrators to provide city services more fairly and uniformly than the city council does. Why couldn’t that logic apply to having appointed school administrators instead of an elected school board?
Fioretti: I think it goes hand-in-hand, really, but we need to find the resources. Every school has different issues and different problems. I always think of a small, great school [where] the parents, [on] one Friday night, raised $117,000. But at [a] school on the West Side [with] 200 more students, the Friday night after, they were able to raise almost $4,000. So we need to find ways to help level the playing field and find resources to help these schools and get our kids engaged. And I’ve done that through our museums, establishing ambassador programs, [and] having corporations mentor and assist with schools.
The Gate: As a follow-up to that, on your campaign website you promise to go to Springfield and fight for an elected school board. I have two questions about this idea: Why are you choosing to pursue this on the state level, and have you spoken with either Governor Rauner or House Speaker Madigan about this idea?
Fioretti: First of all, the state statute, from, I think it was ‘93, specifically says that we have to go to the legislature for the change. So that’s the problem we’re facing. I haven’t talked to Governor Rauner on this, or Speaker Madigan. We’ve had conversations, but on different issues.
The Gate: What do you think will be necessary to see this plan [for an elected school board] through to fruition?
Fioretti: Some of our state reps and state senators from Chicago introduce it and get it passed, and Rauner signs it. It should be that simple. I think the movement’s here now. People want an elected school board here in this city.
The Gate: Just out of curiosity, are elected school boards the norm in smaller Illinois districts?
Fioretti: Every other school district in the state has one, yeah.
The Gate: One of your big campaign promises is to increase the number of police officers in Chicago. As a former civil rights attorney, how do you plan to make that work in the post-Ferguson era?
Fioretti: Listen, our police officers need to be proactive and involved in their communities, and not reactive, not [just] responding to 911 calls. They should know our neighborhoods, know our people, know who’s there. We should all work together to help everybody. When I grew up, the officer was friendly. He should be that way again. But you can’t be that way if all you’re doing is responding to calls and you don’t have the resources to help and assist in our communities. That’s what’s key.