PI Original Ellyn Fortino Wednesday January 7th, 2015, 5:43pm

Fioretti Talks Ride-Sharing Safety, Ethics & Policing At U of C

Progress Illinois provides highlights from Ald. Bob Fioretti's Monday talk about his Chicago mayoral bid a the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

Chicago mayoral candidate Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) plans to introduce a resolution at this month's council meeting calling for hearings into the hiring practices of ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

Fioretti's expected request for council hearings on the matter comes after a Chicago Uber driver was charged last week with sexually assaulting a passenger in November. The alderman mentioned the planned resolution during a Monday night talk about his mayoral bid at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

"We need to know what the [ride-sharing companies'] background checks are, what they're doing, how they're making sure that their drivers are following the law and what kind of backgrounds that (drivers) have," Fioretti told Progress Illinois after the event. "I want the companies to come in and tell us what they're doing."

Fioretti said he expects to file the resolution at the January 21 council meeting.

During his talk, Fioretti also criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for saying Monday that Chicago Board of Education member Deborah Quazzo, who has come under scrutiny over her business interests following a recent Chicago Sun-Times investigation, should remain in her post. According to the newspaper's report, firms in which Quazzo has invested have allegedly tripled their business with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since Emanuel appointed her to the board in June of 2013.

"Deb has the public spiritedness and the commitment on education as well as public policy, but on education specifically, to serve and bring that energy and that passion to her role on the CPS board," the mayor said Monday, the Sun-Times reported.

"Deb says she'll answer any questions, the [Inspector General's] going to look into it. I'm pleased that she's volunteered her time to serve and she's going to continue to do it," Emanuel added.

In light of the newspaper's investigative report, Fioretti has called on Quazzo to resign.

Speaking to the U of C audience, the alderman added: "Apparently the mayor said today it's OK to have somebody on the CPS board, and she can keep making money off of all these contracts. I'm like, what are we talking about? That's not the way we do business here. That's not the way government should be doing business for anybody. I mean, ethics starts at the top, and it seems like there's not much in this administration."

At the Monday night event, Fioretti also said he finds interesting the idea of turning closed public school buildings into boarding schools primarily for homeless students. Last academic year, there were 22,144 homeless public school students in the city, an 18.6 percent increase over the previous school year, according to CPS data.

"When I talk about those closed schools, I'm going to put it out there, I haven't vetted it fully, maybe you turn a lot of those schools into boarding schools to take care of those kids that have no place to sleep, no place to learn, so we can give them the resources [so] that they can become productive members of our society," Fioretti told the crowd.

When asked about his boarding school comments in a follow-up interview, the alderman said, "It's just an idea I'm looking at right now."

"We need to help, and I throw that out [there]. It's a thought," Fioretti explained. "I want to talk to some of those who are in the areas that can help and see what they think and then see how we do that, how we implement that."

The boarding school concept grabbed the attention of audience member Patrick Reilly, a U of C history student.

"I hadn't heard of an idea like that before," he said after the discussion. "It strikes me as something that definitely warrants exploration."

The campaign talk at U of C came after Fioretti released his public safety platform earlier that day. The alderman has pledged to hire 500 additional cops if elected mayor, saying the new hires could be made in part by cutting police overtime costs. The mayoral hopeful also notes on his campaign website that he favors a city pilot project for police body cameras as well as the expansion of restorative justice programs, among other items.

An audience member asked how Fioretti would work to counteract racial profiling by police if he's the new mayor. Fioretti said, in part, that there needs to be an aggressive effort to hire police from the communities that they serve. 

Ankit Jain, a fourth-year U of C student majoring in Law, Letters, and Society, was pleased that the mayoral candidate "expressed support for making sure that cops come from the community."

That being said, "I thought he could have gotten a little more specific about actual ways he would stop police from racial profiling," Jain added after the meeting.

During his remarks, Fioretti reiterated his support for an elected school board, the reopening of shuttered community mental health clinics as well as a commuter tax to generate new city revenue. Fioretti said a 1 percent commuter tax on the more than 600,000 people who live in the suburbs, but work in Chicago could generate $357 million a year.

One meeting attendee asked Fioretti whether he is concerned about "scaring away jobs" in the city if his revenue ideas, which also include a tax on financial transactions, were implemented. In response, the alderman said he does not believe his revenue proposals would impact the city's competitiveness. 

Regarding the commuter tax, Fioretti added, "If you don't want to pay the tax, just move into the city."

Overall, audience member Jain said that while the alderman presented "a lot of interesting ideas" at the event, "some of the specifics weren't there."

"For example, he said that we should tax commuters," Jain noted. "(It's) an interesting idea, but he's like 'if they don't want to pay the tax, they can just move into the city.' But is that really going to happen? I don't know."

Meanwhile, the progressive group MoveOn.org has launched its voting process to determine which Chicago mayoral candidate it should endorse. Voting, open to 75,000 Chicago MoveOn members, will conclude Thursday at noon. According to an email to members, MoveOn will endorse any mayoral candidate who receives at least 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate meets that threshold, MoveOn will not make an endorsement in the race. Chicago MoveOn members can cast a vote here for either Emanuel, Fioretti, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garica or businessman Willie Wilson.

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