The Sad Story of Jack Chiovatero
New Berlin's outgoing mayor fell victim to a war over affordable housing.
New Berlin mayor Jack Chiovatero lost last night, and maybe we shouldn't be surprised seeing as the local businessman once sent an email to a constituent alleging that the suburb "is filled with prejudice and bigoted people." But this is the story of a man who was pushed too far. Chiovatero's decline began dramatically in May of 2010 after the city's Plan Commission approved the development of a housing project that would have been built within the "City Center" area, a central location New Berlin leaders began targeting for upscale development in the late 1990s. The project would have received tax credits and offered reduced rates to working class people and seniors, but a backlash convinced Chiovatero, also chair of the Plan Commission, to withdraw his support.
Opposition to the project (which was passed during a relatively subdued meeting of the Plan Commission) quickly congealed, and the second-term mayor became target numero uno for the movement claiming subsidies would attract undesirables to the area. "I am a prisoner in my own home," Chiovatero said in the May 25, 2010, email. "I have spent several hours a day last week listening and replying to concerned citizens. I spent all weekend doing the same. I went to Pick N Save to pick up a prescription and I was stopped by several people and it took an hour and a half to leave the store. I was asked NOT to attend two functions this weekend for fear it would distract and cause havoc by my presence. Our City is filled with prejudice and bigoted people who with very few facts are making this project something evil and degrading." Chiovatero also claimed that opponents of the housing project had called him the "N-word" and harassed his children.
Needless to say, the Center City development never happened. Chiovatero reversed his support, issued a sheepish letter of apology ("I know the good people of our community are only voicing their concerns based upon their love of this City"), and a recall group began collecting signatures. Although recalls were later to become all the rage in Wisconsin politics, Chiovatero never faced a vote and finished his term in relative quiet. In July of 2010, he mailed a letter that called the City Center "broken" to 12,500 homes in the city, and he attempted to renew interest in the area. The ironic ending to the saga of Chiovatero and Center City is that the original developer, MSP Real Estate Inc., eventually did build reduced-rent apartments in the area, though a second project planned for Library Lane, the location of 2010's proposal, fell apart due to concerns over increased traffic.
Looks like it's back to conducting home inspections for Chiovatero, who ran the company All Pro Inspection Services prior to his election in 2005. Or will he retire? On his Facebook page, Chiovatero says this about his life: "Spent the first 25 years growing up, the next 25 raising my kids, now the next 25 being me, whatever that is. School, college and UPS 21 years, living in Wisconsin, 2 businesses, 2 other jobs, now doing the Mayor thing. Loving the job and people, hating the politics. After this, retire and enjoy my hobbies, Sue, Harleys and cars."
New Berlin's new mayor, former Ald. Dave Ament, ran on a promise to freeze the city's property tax levy and restore civility to its politics. "I won't call you names if you disagree with me," he wrote in a New Berlin NOW questionnaire. "I will work with the council in the best interest of our community rather than creating an adversarial relationship or (blaming) them when something goes wrong."