Sandi Jackson - Aldermanic Career

Aldermanic Career

The city of Chicago is divided into fifty wards that are each represented by an alderman in the Chicago City Council. The northern portion of Chicago's seventh ward is adjacent to the Lake Michigan lakefront, and the ward includes portions of the South Shore, South Chicago, Calumet Heights, and South Deering community areas.

Jackson's aldermanic career began inauspiciously when she complained to the Chicago Sun-Times, one of Chicago's major daily newspapers, that she was caught off-guard by the need to pay office start-up expenses up front. This provided fodder for a columnist in the Chicago Tribune, the other major daily, and anonymous on-line commenters on the Chicago Sun-Times web site made light of the issue. At the time, Jackson was considered by one local political writer as the most closely watched of the nine newly elected aldermen that were sworn in on May 21, 2007 and by another as the "star" of the incoming class of nine freshman aldermen.

Her first political statement as an alderman was disappointment in Mayor Daley's decision to force his affordable housing ordinance through the council with nine lame duck councilmen during the week before the new class was sworn in because new alderman would be "forced to live by" the new ordinance. Meanwhile her husband propounded a 10-point ethics reform that would give the city's inspector general power to investigate aldermen; reduce the number of City Council committees to 10; limit municipal campaign contributions for each election cycle; and strip the mayor of the authority to appoint replacements for aldermanic vacancies.

Upon assuming office, she stated that she would emphasize economic development as her primary goal for her ward. One of her goals has been to redevelop the 570-acre (2.31 km2) landfill on the site of the former U.S. Steel mill into a lakefront community.

A local political writer immediately looked for signs that the nine new councilmen who were supported by pro-labor forces would form a block against the pro-business Mayor and old guard members. Five of the new members were among eleven dissenters in a vote on mandatory public art purchase procedures during their first month on the job. In the fall of 2007, Jackson along with several other African-American alderman took issue with the allotment of contracts on the O'Hare Airport runway expansion project because African-American firms were only awarded 8% of the contracts and no general contractor roles. (Jackson's husband is a main proponent of the proposed Chicago south suburban airport in Peotone, Illinois). Jackson voted with the minority in the 29-21 vote approving the Mayor's November 2007 property tax increase. The February 2008 Real Estate Transfer Tax Increase also drew opposition from Jackson and a small minority of aldermen.

Jackson was among the co-sponsors of a council resolution in opposition of U.S. military attacks against Iraq.

There has been international press covering the City Council's deliberations regarding Grant Park and the Chicago Children's Museum. Mayor Daley has propounded a controversial proposal to relocate the Chicago Children's Museum from Navy Pier to a City park, Grant Park that passed 33–16, with Jackson in the minority.

Jackson called attention to American Airlines' newly imposed luggage handling fees for even the first checked bag. She claimed that the fees were contrary to Section 26-04 of the Airport Use Agreement with the City of Chicago, which is the contract that permits American Airlines to be a carrier in Chicago airports. The initial plan exempted Platinum and Executive card holders who were generally business travelers and placed an inordinate burden of new fees on the common traveler in contravention of the non-discriminatory price agreement in the agreement. She expressed interest in a City Council forum on the issue. She wrote directly to American Airlines and then wrote an article in the Chicago Sun-Times on the issue.

Jackson was among the councilman and citizens who expressed outrage at the light punishment issued by the mayor's office over a multi-million dollar city contract scheme. Jackson viewed it as a moral issue where the Mayor did not appropriately condemn immoral activity, which in her eyes encourages similar behavior. During a Summer 2008 violent crime rash she was among the aldermen calling for refocussed emphasis on adequate police support.

She continues to tout a plan to redevelop the USX steel mill as an effort to revitalize her ward. She foresees 17,000 new residences, a high-end mall, and significant amounts of parkland with construction beginning in 2009. By the beginning of her second year on the 50-person city council, Jackson had already amassed the 17th largest pool of campaign funds.

She has been vocal in pursuit of transparency on the issue of whether Mayor Daley should transfer the monitoring of city hiring to Inspector General David Hoffman and has voted against the mayors proposal to create a separate Office of Compliance. Her voting record earned her praise from the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. A year and a half into Jackson's first term, local political commentator Don Rose writing in the Chicago Sun-Times included Jackson among four aldermen he considered to be inheriting a mantle of reform.

In 2001, the Federal Election Commission ruled that Jackson, Jr. could hire his wife on his campaign payroll. The ruling stated that relatives can be employed as long as they were compensated "no more than the fair market value" for their services. At the time, Sandi Jackson was employed by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as the deputy director of training. Many other lawmakers have made similar arrangements without contacting the FEC for a ruling. When House Majority Leader Tom Delay was charged with ethical infractions, matters such as these came to light. Jackson remained on the payroll of her husband's main campaign fund, Jesse Jackson Jr. for Congress, in 2006 as she considered a run for public office. She also continued to be employed by the Howard Dean of the DNC.

US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr.’s congressional campaign organization has paid his wife Sandra Jackson at least $247,500 between 2001 and early 2009, including at least $95,000 after Sandra Jackson joined the Chicago City Council two years ago, according to federal election records. Sandra Jackson received the $95,000 for political consulting after pledging during her campaign to give “my full attention” to the alderman’s post. From 2003 through mid-2005, the recipient is shown on Jackson’s reports as “Lee Stevens” or “Lee Steven” at the J. Donatella firm. Sandi Jackson’s middle name is Lee. Her maiden name is Stevens. In addition to payments to Sandra for consulting work, Jackson’s political committee also gave at least $298,927 in cash and in-kind contributions to Sandra Jackson’s campaign fund, the “Friends of Sandi Jackson.” Jesse Jackson’s political committee has transferred more than $227,000 to Sandi Jackson’s campaign organization since October 2006, according to his campaign reports. He provided in-kind benefits of $71,914, including billboard space worth about $66,000. The congressman got some reciprocal benefit when the “Friends of Sandi Jackson” bankrolled a Zogby International poll that showed Jesse Jackson atop a list of 10 possible contenders to replace Obama in the Senate. Sandi Jackson’s campaign reports show almost $26,000 paid to Utica, New York-based Zogby two days before polling began.

Jackson received a $4,000 digital radio from Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications (Chicago's 911 Center) to monitor snow removal and emergency operations in her ward. The radio was returned when the controversy that arose led to a personnel reshuffling that included the reassignment of a high ranking Hispanic city employee.

When Congressman Bobby Rush was battling cancer, Time and other publications mentioned Jackson as a potential future candidate for the United States House of Representatives in Illinois's 1st congressional district. Responding to resignation requests, Rush noted that he would be returning to his congressional duties following post-operative treatment. When he returned to full health he noted his disappointment in the premature consideration of his replacement. The issue led to a public reconciliation initiated by Jackson, Jr. at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, termed a "hugfest" by the press. While considering the possibility of Jackson, Jr. being appointed to fill Barack Obama's United States Senate seat, the Chicago Sun-Times mentioned her as a possible candidate for Jackson, Jr.'s Illinois's 2nd congressional district seat.

During the Rod Blagojevich corruption scandal, Jackson's name was mentioned in the pay-to-play activities of then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Allegedly, the governor had considered her for the state lottery director and then asked for contributions from her husband Congressman Jackson. After the Congressman Jackson did not make a contribution, she was not selected and Blagojevich made the causality of the non-contribution in the matter.

In 2008, her second year as alderman, Jackson directed more than $32,000 in payments from her aldermanic expense account to her American Express account. Jackson said she used an AmEx account to launch her office during her freshman term. Jackson was among aldermen who attended the International Council of Shopping Centers, held in Las Vegas, to seek new development for their wards.

In 2012 federal prosecutors reviewed evidence that Jackson faced potential criminal liability for misuse of her husband's campaign funds; allegedly she and the Congressman used campaign funds to decorate their Washington, DC home. Jackson resigned from Chicago City Council, effective January 15, 2013.On February 15, 2013 Jackson agreed to a plea deal. On February 20, 2013, Jackson plead guilty to one count of filing false tax returns.

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