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Fioretti runs his mouth, trips on his words

Alderman and mayoral candidate Bob Fioretti speaking to the City Club of Chicago at Maggiano's. Monday, January 26, 2015 | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times

Ald. Robert “Bob” Fioretti wants to be known as the one mayoral candidate with a proven track record of standing up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, which is true, but sideswiping the mayor’s teenage son Monday was the wrong way to make the point.

The 2nd Ward alderman created a firestorm after a speech to the City Club of Chicago when he questioned the official account of a December incident in which the mayor’s son reported he’d been robbed of his cellphone, with Fioretti suggesting Emanuel was responsible for the case not being prosecuted and comparing it to the don’t-snitch street culture.

Unless Fioretti is operating on better information than the usual police scuttlebutt, he’s the one who is going to get singed by his accusations.

OPINION

I need to be careful here to not make the same mistake Fioretti did, which is to get out ahead of the known facts.

What is known is that Emanuel’s son reported the phone was stolen in a strong-arm attack near his home by two alleged assailants, that police have recovered the phone and questioned an individual who had the phone in his possession (but denies stealing it), and that no charges have been filed.

Fioretti took it a step further to say that police caught those who stole the phone but that the mayor had decided “we’re not going to prosecute.” At the Chicago Sun-Times, we do not know that to be the case.

That’s apparently Fioretti’s interpretation of what has been publicly reported, because he did not claim to have any inside knowledge about the case, although I can tell you the police rumor mill has been working overtime with skepticism ever since the initial report.

Fioretti’s comments discounted the possibility police haven’t really identified the alleged attackers or have been unable to make a case they think would stick.

The implication was that the mayor had blocked the case from going forward because he wanted to avoid the embarrassment of the truth coming out about what really happened.

No matter how you slice it, it’s not the sort of thing a mayoral candidate ought to be speculating about publicly to make a political point, especially with a 17-year-old kid involved.

This is a classic situation of where you put up or shut up.

Fioretti said his issue was with the mayor for sending the wrong message to the public about reporting crime and following through.

“What message does that send to every community about let’s not snitch when they’re saying we’ve got to take an active role in our communities? Mayor, you failed us again,” Fioretti said, thumping the podium for emphasis.

But he kept taking little jabs at Emanuel’s son’s version of events, saying at one point: “When your kid is out, just maybe, whatever he was doing at 10 o’clock at night on a phone and had to leave the house.”

The irony here for Fioretti is that if he wants to make the point he’s been willing to battle Emanuel when his fellow challengers were nowhere to be found, then all he has to do is quote chapter and verse about all the times he has opposed the mayor on issues before the City Council.

He really does deserve credit for sticking his chin out, even if the ward remap that cast him out as an alderman without a home made that an easier choice.

In wading into the matter involving the mayor’s son — without any prompting by reporters — Fioretti stepped on his own message of the day, which is that he has a vision for the city’s future.

Often criticized as someone who has made a career of being against the policies of first Mayor Richard M. Daley and then Emanuel, Fioretti in his City Club speech mapped out some of the things he’s for: including a moratorium on charter schools, an elected school board, a $15 minimum wage and possible new financial transaction and commuter taxes.

Too bad for him he couldn’t stay on message for another 15 minutes, but probably good for Chicago voters that they got some insight into his judgment.