Seventh Ward: Under new leadership

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A resident of the Seventh Ward for the last 15 years, Ald. Sandi Jackson saw economic development become too stagnant in the ward, and residents’ requests ignored by her predecessors, former Alds. William Beavers and Darcel Beavers. Enough was enoug

A resident of the Seventh Ward for the last 15 years, Ald. Sandi Jackson saw economic development become too stagnant in the ward, and residents’ requests ignored by her predecessors, former Alds. William Beavers and Darcel Beavers.

Enough was enough, she said, and she waged a campaign to give the Southeast Side ward new leadership.

Jackson ousted Darcel Beavers with 57 percent of the vote in the February 2007 aldermanic election. Mayor Richard M. Daley had appointed Beavers to the post after her father, William, won his county commissioner post.

The ward includes the Calumet Heights, Jeffery Manor, South Chicago and South Shore communities, and borders the 5th and 8th Wards.

Jackson said there were many issues in the ward that needed to be taken care of before any other items could be handled. But first she had to lobby to keep the unused funds from the annual $1.2 million aldermanic menu money that neither Beavers exhausted.

“We’ve had streets repaved, light poles painted, steel garbage cans put on the streets and speed bumps put in alleys and around schools. The constituents have been asking for those things for years and couldn’t get them,” Jackson said as she took the Defender for a walk through the ward.

A South Shore resident said one of the new things he appreciates that Jackson has done is get residential permit parking designated on 74th Street from Exchange Avenue to South Shore Drive.

“People drive down to the lakefront and take up all the spots, leaving residents to park blocks away from their homes. We’ve been asking for the permit parking for years, and now we finally have it,” said Wayne Jackson, who has lived in the community for the last six years.

Jackson said “sweating the small” stuff is key to making sure things don’t get out of control.

Her next task was to make sure that Chicago police commanders attended each community resource meeting so the residents could directly hear from them about how crime is in the area.

Jackson said she shares her constituents’ concerns about the spike in crime in recent months and often gives the police department an earful on the violence increase in the ward.

When she relays the residents’ message to the police, it carries some weight. But Jackson thought it would be much better if the police came out so the residents could tell them face-to-face what their concerns were, she said.

“We’ve had a lot of shootings lately, but I know the alderman can’t control the crime in the area. That is a police issue. But, for all the other things that she does have control over, she’s doing the best she can,” said Shirley Starling, a longtime South Chicago resident.

Wayne Jackson shared Starling’s sentiments about the increased crime in the ward.

“The crime is one of the negatives about the ward. I get a little nervous being out in the evenings, but that’s not an aldermanic issue,” he said. “But overall, it’s too early to gauge Jackson’s hits or misses.”

Ald. Jackson said economic development is now her primary focus.

She took the Defender to the old U.S. Steel South Works site near Rainbow Beach on 79th Street and Commercial Avenue.

The vacant site, about 650 acres at the lakefront, is big enough to “plop” Chicago’s downtown area and still have more room for something else, she said.

“This has been sitting vacant for 22 years. Think of everything that could have been built here. Think of all the jobs that could have been produced. This is a gold mine–on the South Side in the Black neighborhood, and it’s just been sitting for 22 years,” Jackson said.

Jackson, the wife of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd), won over a developer who will build a lakefront “lifestyle community,”–the Market Common: South Shore–complete with a shopping mall, an extension of the surrounding park area and about 17,000 new residences.

The development plans call for trolleys to usher residents and patrons from the ward’s four nearby Metra commuter train stations and for water taxis from downtown. New streets are also slated to run from Commercial Avenue to the lakefront.

The mall, based on Market Common developments in Arlington, Va. and Myrtle Beach, Fla., will include stores such as Barnes & Noble, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.

The first phase of infrastructure improvements has been completed near the entrance of Rainbow Beach.

“This not only benefits the Seventh Ward, but the surrounding wards as well. So many jobs will be created. So much revenue will be generated from this development,” Jackson said.

The planned mass development was one of the main reasons why Wayne Jackson said he voted to put Jackson in office.

“I want to stay in the community, and this was a huge selling point for me,” he said.

As she rode through the site detailing what would be developed in certain areas, Jackson continuously smiled at what is expected to come to fruition within the next 10 years.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not doing something to see that things are moving along here. This is what wakes me up every morning,” the alderman said.

Kathy Chaney can be reached at kchaney@chicagodefender.com.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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