Firefighter alderman Nick Sposato supported the unions donation to Mayor Emanuel.
  • Richard A. Chapman
  • Firefighter alderman Nick Sposato supported the union’s donation to Mayor Emanuel.

For the record, let me say this—the firefighters of Chicago have no bigger fan than yours truly.

I mean, how can I not love these folks? They’re the ones who run into burning buildings while everyone else is running out.

That said, I got to tell you, firefighters: in my humble opinion, you’re making a monumental miscalculation in this mayoral race. To put it mildly.

Not only did your union endorse Mayor Emanuel, even though he spent his first three years in office trying to sock it to you.

But it just gave him $25,000. Like this dude—who’s raised more than $30 million in the last four years—needs more money!

That means you will have effectively financed your own demise, if, as I suspect, the mayor flip flops back to his anti-union ways once this election season is over and he’s safely reelected.

Moreover, you may be inadvertently subsidizing the campaign against Alderman Nick Sposato, the only firefighter in the council. I’ll get to that later.

The $25,000 contribution to the mayor came in the form of a check on January 26 from the International Association of Fire Fighters, the parent union of Chicago’s Local 2.

OK, 25 grand might seem like small potatoes in contrast to the tens of thousands Mayor Rahm seems to collect every day from Hollywood moguls, corporate chieftains, and other mayoral pals.

But it’s almost as much money as Alderman Robert Fioretti has been able to raise in the last month. And Alderman Fioretti’s the candidate most of the rank-and-file firefighters I’ve spoken with say they plan to vote for.

At the moment, Fioretti doesn’t have enough money to pay for television ads. For that matter, County Board commissioner Jesus Garcia—the mayor’s other top challenger—can’t currently afford TV commercials either.

These days watching the boob tube around here is sort of like watching Soviet TV in the days of Comrade Brezhnev—definitely a one-party message.

If you only know what you see on the tube—and, let’s face it, many Chicagoans fall into that category—you probably don’t even know Mayor Rahm has opposition.

Or you’d think that the mayor was a warm and fuzzy friend to low-wage workers, unions, and little puppies.

In terms of the firefighters, their contract expired in 2012. Instead of negotiating a new contract, the mayor spent over two years trying to squeeze pension cuts from them.

When they wouldn’t buckle, the mayor had no choice but to agree to a contract because he didn’t want to go into the campaign season with the firefighters working against him.

As it is, a lot of paramedics are already working against him. They’ve formed a group called EMS Professionals for a Safer Tomorrow and they’ve endorsed Garcia.

Tom Ryan—the president of Local 2—tells me there was no quid pro quo with the Emanuel endorsement. Or the mayor didn’t exact an endorsement in exchange for the contract.

In addition, Ryan says the mayor didn’t make the International contribute that $25,000.

No, the International decided to make that contribution on its own—without any prodding from the mayor.

“They want to be part of the experience,” says Ryan. “If you recall, they also got involved in [former governor Pat] Quinn’s campaign.”

Once again, President Ryan, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree. Knowing Mayor Rahm the way I know him, I believe he put the squeeze on the international and they yelped.

How can people be so brave when fighting fires turn right around and be so wimpy when fighting Rahm?

Back to Alderman Sposato . . .

In addition to running a prodigious fundraising machine for his reelection, the mayor’s also organized a PAC—called Chicago Forward—to help reelect his aldermanic flunkies and punish council independents.

Alderman Sposato falls into the latter category. In fact, the mayor has a history of trying to punish Sposato for his independence.

At the moment, Sposato is the alderman of the 36th Ward. But he’s running in the 38th Ward.

That’s because the mayor moved Sposato out of his old ward in the 2011 redistricting. His crime? Daring to oppose an UNO Charter school the mayor had earmarked for the ward.

Apparently, Aldeman Sposato is a very forgiving man. Though he hasn’t personally endorsed the mayor, he argued in favor of Local 2 endorsing the mayor, when that matter came before the union’s executive board.

Moreover, he doesn’t think Chicago Forward will send out mailers attacking him, as they’ve done to other progressives, like Scott Waguespack.

“I believe Chicago Forward’s money is going to be used to help the mayor’s aldermen who are in trouble,” says Sposato. “I don’t think it’s going against guys like me.”

We shall see, Alderman Sposato. But at the moment your faith in the mayor remains far greater than mine.