Alderman Sandi Jackson attends an unveiling ceremony of the Henry L. English Way street sign on Thursday, August 9, 2012 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: January 7, 2013 1:32PM
The spot where five people were wounded by gunfire outside a currency exchange Monday night is just four blocks from Ald. Sandi Jackson’s 7th Ward office.
It is bad enough that the shots were fired at one of the busiest intersections in the South Shore neighborhood, but the shooter didn’t even have respect for the office holder.
Indeed, this shooter was so cold-hearted, he didn’t care that mothers and children were waiting at the bus stop or that senior citizens were being cared for at a nursing home directly across the street.
And he certainly didn’t care that diners in a nearby restaurant, Metra commuters, and patrons at a liquor-food mart had a plain view of the carnage.
This mayhem didn’t happen in one of the neighborhoods we often describe as low-income, struggling or troubled. This happened in a neighborhood that is home to some of the city’s most prominent African Americans.
These are people who want to enjoy the same amenities as their counterparts up on the North Shore where residents shop, dine and commute without worrying about an outbreak of gun violence.
While there was a lot of consternation about when former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. would return from medical leave and resume his duties in Congress, far too little has been said about Ald. Sandi Jackson’s disappearing act.
When five people are shot on the street, you expect the alderman to take some kind of action — lead a peace rally, hold a news conference or let citizens rant at a town hall meeting — anything that would demonstrate outrage over an intolerable situation.
I called Jackson’s office on Wednesday, two days after the shooting, and got no response.
I understand that the alderman is dealing with some tough personal issues, and I sympathize with her plight.
But it could have been me coming out of the restaurant or getting off the Metra the night bullets were flying.
Henry English, president and CEO of Black United Fund of Illinois located at 71st and Jeffery, has been at the forefront of every effort to keep South Shore a desirable community.
He was involved in the battle to save the South Shore Cultural Center and to revitalize South Shore High School.
I asked him what the heck is going on.
He regularly meets friends at the L&G Restaurant on the corner of 75th and Exchange, where the five people were shot.
Apparently law enforcement recently did a “sweep” of the same area three weeks ago.
“Individuals engaged in nefarious activities were linked together, rounded up and taken to jail,” English told me. “Then we go into the area block by block and try to regain it. That has been happening quietly.”
The “sweeps” are part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aggressive gang-fighting strategy that includes shuttering problem liquor stores, tearing down abandoned buildings and teaming up with CeaseFire, an anti-violence group that has gained national recognition as violence interrupters.
Although English runs a self-help organization, the chaos taking place right outside his door puts him smack in the middle of the violence issue.
“It has a lot to do with drugs and personal relationships,” he said. “We can’t police our way out of this. It is the sheer number of people who are in poverty and have been in poverty a long time.
“In our training program, some folks have never had a job. The crux of this violence is the city dumping more individuals who are in poverty in an area where the poverty is now concentrated. As far as we can tell, the shooting was over somebody taking somebody’s gym shoes.”
So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the shootings.
I suppose we should be grateful that no one was killed. But how long will it be before that happens?
In a city like Chicago, the alderman is the first line of defense. If the alderman is absent, the ward is literally up for grabs.
Maybe the mayor can do without Jackson sitting in the City Council, but the residents in the 7th Ward need her to get on the case.