Ald. Sandi Jackson resigns from City Council effective Jan. 15
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 11, 2013 3:22PM
Former Ald. Sandi Jackson in December. File I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: February 13, 2013 6:10AM
Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) on Friday abruptly resigned the City Council seat she has held since 2007, saying she cannot balance her role as the wife of a former congressman under federal investigation who is also suffering from bi-polar disorder with her demanding role as a Chicago alderman.
Jackson is the wife of disgraced former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned in late November amid a federal investigation of his campaign finances that, for the last year, has included questions about Sandi Jackson’s finances.
“As a representative of the people of the 7th Ward, I value the public trust which has been bestowed upon me and take my responsibility to safeguard the interests of my constituents seriously. Likewise, I am unapologetically a wife and a mother and I cannot deny my commitment to those most important personal responsibilities,” Jackson wrote in her resignation letter to the mayor.
“To that end, after much consideration and while dealing with very painful family health matters I have met with my family and determined that the constituents of the 7th Ward, as well as you Mr. Mayor, and my colleagues in the City Council deserve a partner who can commit all of their energies to the business of the people. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as Alderman of 7th Ward, effective January 15, 2013.”
She added, “While I will no longer serve in this official leadership capacity, my service and affinity to the ward, my staff and the citizens of the City of Chicago remains unwavering. I am immensely grateful for the prayers and support extended to me and my family during this most difficult time and words will never be able to capture the magnitude of my gratitude to the 7th Ward for allowing me to serve them.”
Sandi Jackson’s resignation comes one month to the day after she insisted she had no plans to step down and called for and end to the rumors and speculation.
On Friday, the outgoing aldermen could not be reached for comment. Her father-in-law, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., refused to comment when contacted by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The resignation will allow Mayor Rahm Emanuel to make his first appointment to fill an aldermanic vacancy. The deadline for filling an aldermanic vacancy by special election was Oct. 19. Emanuel has 60 days after the resignation takes effect to make an appointment to fill Jackson’s seat.
The mayor had been careful to avoid pressuring Jackson to decide between her public and private responsibilities during her prolonged absence from the City Council that included skipping an all-important vote on the city budget.
“This afternoon I received a letter from Alderman Sandi Jackson tendering her resignation from City Council, effective January 15th. As Sandi takes this time to focus on her family, we give her our deepest thanks and support for her service to our City and the residents of her ward. Her leadership has been greatly appreciated in the Chicago City Council.,” the mayor said in a prepared statement.
“The process to identify a replacement for Alderman Jackson to serve and represent the residents of Chicago’s 7th ward will be announced early next week.”
While Sandi Jackson’s fellow aldermen were feeling sorry for their soon-to-be ex-colleague, those sympathies did not extend to indicted Cook County Commissioner William Beavers.
Beavers’ daughter, Darcel, was appointed to succeed her father in the City Council and was defeated by Sandi Jackson in 2007 and again in 2011.
“She was a ghost alderman. She was never here. She always lived in Washington,” Beavers said of Jackson.
“People come in my office even today looking to find out where she’s located. I have pre-printed information with her office address and phone number. They’re coming to me for aldermanic issues that I don’t handle because they can’t find her, and they need some information.”
Beavers said he expected Sandi Jackson to resign just like her husband did, arguing that the alderman was in the thick of the financial decision-making and campaign spending now under federal scrutiny.
And Beavers argued that Sandi Jackson’s departure won’t mean a thing for the 7th Ward.
“She wasn’t very effective because she was never there. She never attended any meetings and, when she came to a meeting, she left right away,” he said.
“I don’t feel sorry for her. I’ve got my own problems. I think she’s gonna be part of it and Jesse Jr. is cutting a deal to save her.”
Although there is bad blood between the Beavers and Jackson families, Beavers said it does not extend to family patriarch the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
“The father and I are alright. We always have been. He’s always asked for favors and I always returned his favors. Even today, we don’t have any problems,” Beavers said.
“But the son and I never saw eye-to-eye. He’s from a different era than I am. His downfall was arrogance.”
A paid political consultant to her husband, Sandi Jackson was elected to the City Council in 2007 when her husband’s political power was at its peak.
At the time, Jesse Jackson Jr. was contemplating a race against then-Mayor Richard M. Daley before backing out when polls showed Jackson couldn’t win.
Sandi Jackson has been under fire ever since for living in Washington, D.C., and sending her children to school in the nation’s capital while serving one of Chicago’s most impoverished and crime-ridden wards.
She was often seen arriving at City Hall with a suitcase and her young children in tow.
Although rumors have been flying for weeks, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), who sits next to Sandi Jackson in the City Council chambers, said she was shocked by the resignation.
“I love my job. I love what I do. I would find it shocking and surprising that anybody would decide to step down from this job,” Harris said.
“She’s been my seat mate. We pretty much came in together. I’m very sad. Sandi is a bright, vivacious young lady. She’s an attorney. She’s intelligent and articulate. It’s my wish, hope and prayer that she’s gonna be fine.”
Harris said she feels sorry for Sandi Jackson. She can only imagine the emotional pressure Sandi Jackson has been under for months as a result of her husband’s illness, the federal investigation and the need to keep her young children on an even keel.
“From a mom’s perspective, this whole ordeal and being in the public eye is hard. But, she has done what she had to do. She made a decision she thought was best,” Harris said.
Last month, Jackson returned to the City Council for the first time since her husband’s resignation from Congress and said she had no plans run for Congress or resign as alderman and planned to finish out her four-year term unless catastrophe strikes.
Jackson acknowledged then that rumors were flying that she plans to step down to focus on her family as her husband, Jesse Jackson Jr., continues to simultaneously battle bi-polar disease and the federal investigation.
But, she cautioned her constituents and the news media not to pay attention to rumors, adding, “This is not reality TV. This is real life.”
“I’m not resigning. I am here. I’m working. I’m gonna continue to work and whoever these people are who purport to speak for me should stop. I’m asking them, please to stop,” she said.
“If you don’t hear from my office via a press release or from me, then it is not coming from me. I intend to finish my term unless something catastrophic happens. I could step outside and get hit by a bus today. I don’t know.”
Jackson was asked whether “something catastrophic” might include her husband going to jail — either after a conviction or a plea agreement.
“I’m not going to entertain questions like that. I really am not. I am going to concentrate on keeping my husband well. ... I’m going to concentrate on my two wonderful babies who depend on me and that’s where my mind set’s going to be,” she said.
In his resignation letter, Jesse Jackson Jr. acknowledged the federal investigation and said the mistake made were his alone. His attorneys have said they are attempting to negotiate a plea deal, but it could be months away.
Sandi Jackson has not answered questions about the federal probe into her husband’s campaign finances that has included inquiries about what she knows about the alleged spending irregularities.
But, talking to reporters last month, the alderman made no bones about it. She has come through an “exhausting period” that’s been so emotionally wrenching, she found it difficult at times to soldier on.
“It would be hard for any family to go through what we’ve gone through publicly. There may have been times when I was overcome with exhaustion. I was overwhelmed and felt as if I couldn’t take another step. That’s real. And that’s human. A lot of people go through that,” she said then.
“I’ve had a lot of people say that to me: ‘Be strong because you’re at the beginning of this journey.’ And I am and I know that. But, I honestly have what a lot of people don’t have and that’s support.”
Jackson said then she had not yet decided whether to move back to Chicago now that her husband had resigned his seat in Congress. But, she pushed back hard against those who consider her an absentee alderman.
“People have personal tragedies. I can’t control when sickness happens. All I can do is respond to it. I don’t think anyone would blame me for trying to be a good wife and trying to be by my husband’s side when he was hospitalized,” Sandi Jackson said in December.
The alderman claimed she seldom missed a City Council meeting until this year, when she missed plenty, including November’s vote on the mayor’s budget, the most important vote of the year.
“People know I work hard on their behalf. They know they’ve got security in the 7th Ward — private security — for the first time ever. They know they’ve got private snow removal on our main thoroughfares for the first time ever in the existence of that ward. They know we’ve got landscaping and beautification efforts under way for the first time,” she said.
“They know because I go directly to them. I don’t go to anybody else to get the message out, which is why I own a robo-call machine. I don’t rent it. I intend to get my message to the people.”