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Sandi Jackson stands by Rahm — even after he trashes her husband’s airport plan

Alderwoman Sandi JacksState Senator Kwame Raoul State Rep. BarbarFlynn Currie Alderman John Pope listen as Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about

Alderwoman Sandi Jackson, State Senator Kwame Raoul, State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie and Alderman John Pope listen as Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about the relocation of Lake Shore Drive (Rt. 41) through the former USX steel mill development site on the Southeast Side. Tuesday, April 3, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 5, 2012 8:12AM

Ald. Sandi Jackson joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday to mark the long-awaited start of work to extend Lake Shore Drive — five days after Emanuel tried to bury her husband U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s signature third-airport project.

Last week, Emanuel urged construction on a new fourth runway at O’Hare Airport as part of a $7.3 billion plan to rebuild Chicago’s infrastructure.

But that runway would mean an airport in Peotone — which Jesse Jackson has pushed for years — is unnecessary, Emanuel said Tuesday, as Sandi Jackson stood a few feet away.

“I don’t [support a Peotone Airport] and I’ve been clear to the [Jesse Jackson] campaign — which is why his wife’s here and he’s not. That’s a joke,” the mayor said as the alderman laughed out loud.

“I know where to pick which side of the family I stand [with]. Having had dinner with the Jacksons before, I’m with Sandi.”

Turning serious, the mayor said, “I believe in expanding O’Hare — that if we have all the runways, it would be the equivalent of a full Midway over at O’Hare.”

The mayor said he made that clear to Jesse Jackson before issuing a press release endorsing the incumbent congressman in the Democratic primary battle Jackson won handily against former Con. Debbie Halvorson last month.

“I understand what he has to do as a congressman. But as mayor, I have my interests representing the city and that means expanding O’Hare and its capacity because, if it runs on rails, if it runs on roads and if it runs on runways, it’s coming through Chicago and I want to make sure we have the most modern, up-to-date infrastructure because we are the transportation juggernaut of the country,” Emanuel said.

Ald. Jackson (7th) praised the mayor effusively in her introduction of Emanuel and sloughed off the third airport controversy afterwards.

“I don’t know enough about the details of what’s happening at O’Hare and Peotone. I leave that to the mayor and I leave it to our federal officials, namely my congressman,” she said.

Reminded that her husband has been a one-note Charley on the third airport issue, Sandi Jackson said, “He has and he’s gonna continue to be because he’s looking at growth in terms of the entire state. He’s looking at growth from the region. I’m focused on what is happening here in the 7th Ward.”

She said she was excited by the project to extend part of Lake Shore Drive (U.S. Route 41) two miles to the south with help from $19 million in state and federal grants. The new road will include landscaped medians, 600 new trees, four new traffic signals and a CTA turnaround at the north end. It will relocate Route 41 by connecting it at the north end of the old U.S. Steel South Works plant site at 79th Street and South Shore Drive to the south end at 87th Street and Avenue 0.

“I’m happy the mayor chose to take a stand and come here and help with this groundbreaking. I can’t tell you how excited I am, how enthused I am that, finally, we’re seeing some movement here when this steel mill has been shuttered for over 20 years. This site is larger than the Loop. When it is fully developed, it will house close to 150,000 new residents.”

“What was once an eyesore will become an economic engine—turning a neighborhood that was literally land-locked and not linked to the rest of the city — connecting it finally,” the mayor said.

Two years ago, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley proposed a $98 million city subsidy to make way for a “new city” on the site of the USX plant — and earned a surprise political endorsement from Sandi Jackson in the process.

Jackson called the subsidy needed to remediate the site and build new streets, alleys, sidewalks and sewers “close to a dream come true,” then said of Daley, “If he is with this, I am with him.”

Daley ultimately decided not to seek a seventh term.

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