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Mitchell: Sandi Jackson owes her ward residents answers

Alderman Sandi Jacksanswers mediquestions about her husband's medical conditiafter attending an unveiling ceremony Henry L. English Way street sign Thursday

Alderman Sandi Jackson answers media questions about her husband's medical condition after attending an unveiling ceremony of the Henry L. English Way street sign on Thursday, August 9, 2012 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 24, 2013 6:31AM

If someone staked out Ald. Sandi Jackson’s South Shore home, voters would know whether the alderman spends much time there.

But given her stature, anyone lurking outside her door is likely to be hauled off to jail.

So voters have had to wait for Jackson to show up. She surfaced last Thursday afternoon to attend a holiday dinner that was hosted by Panega Properties at the South Shore Cultural Center.

The private real estate company purchases distressed properties in communities like South Shore, fixes up the units and rents them at market prices or below.

Frankly, given the tensions between low-income renters and homeowners in the 7th Ward, the Panega party made for a strange coming-out party.

Jackson has avoided the media spotlight ever since her own name surfaced in the ongoing federal investigation into the finances of her husband, Jesse Jackson Jr.

I spoke to her by phone a week ago and she deflected the flack she’s catching for her low profile. Recently, a group of residents started the #SackSandi campaign to air their concerns.

“A big part of the issue here is we don’t have a budget for communications,” Jackson told me. “What we do is send out Robocalls alerting people about meetings. We can’t buy telephone numbers anymore. What I’ve asked people to do every time we have a community meeting is to be sure to leave their email address. Because of our limited budget, it is really hard to get it out there if we don’t have telephone numbers. We don’t have people that can go door to door and pass things out.”

Jackson also claims the negative press about crime in the area hurts her chances of bringing new development into the ward.

However, the most negative story about South Shore continues to be about her and the former congressman.

Earlier this month, political reporter Natasha Korecki reported that five days after her husband resigned from Congress she filed amendments to her ward committee’s campaign fund — amendments that included at least $13,000 in previously undisclosed transfers from her husband’s congressional account into her ward organization account.

But the most pressing concern in the ward has been Jackson’s absence. After all, her husband’s in the middle of a mental health crisis and her two children attend school in D.C.

Jackson doesn’t see a problem.

“For the five years I’ve been in office, we’ve gotten things done. I think some of this [concern] is media inspired and maybe it is coming from some folks who wanted to run against me in the past,” she said.

The alderman pointed to the Special Service Area designation, which includes the area between 71st and 79th streets and goes from South Shore to Paxton, as an example of her effective leadership.

“For the first time, we’ve got private security in this area,” she said.

“The time I spend in Washington is no different than the time I spent in Washington when I got elected. The quality of services in the 7th Ward has not dropped off. Our garbage is being picked up on time. Our streets are clean,” Jackson said.

And she still has loyal supporters.

Carlos Maxwell, the project manager for South Shore Exchange, SSA#49 — the service area that Jackson established — contacted me to speak up for the alderman.

“It is no secret that she has a home in Washington. I believe that in today’s society if there is a situation, a unique situation such as this where our leader is in some other area temporarily, that there is enough ‘virtuality’ to be able to be connected,” he said.

“I don’t see it as disconnected. I really don’t, especially since the goal is for Chicago to become a “Tier One” global city, which is primarily driven by people being able to be virtual and in more than one place at a time.”

That’s an interesting perspective.

But here’s the problem.

There are a lot of long-time South Shore residents who want an alderman-in-residence.

They are people who have invested their wealth into preserving the historic properties that make South Shore a desirable place to live.

Jackson owes them answers.

Dropping by a holiday party is nice but it doesn’t get the job done.

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