This article has been updated to correct the date of an upcoming forum held at Bethany Lutheran Church on February 19, 2013.
by La Risa Lynch
Dolton -- Fifteen of the 22 individuals seeking the vacated seat of former Cong. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. attended a candidates’ forum at a south suburban church Saturday, January 12th. The forum, hosted by Developing Communities Project, a community development organization, was moderated by WVON’s Cliff Kelley.
The forum’s topics ran the gamut of issues from jobs, foreclosure, to youth violence. The responses varied as much as the candidates themselves as to how they would address these issues that are impacting the Second Congressional District.
Cong. Jackson resigned his seat 15 days after handedly winning re-election to office although he has been missing action since June. He is being treated for bipolar disorder. Jackson’s resignation comes amid reports of a federal investigation into possible misuse of campaign funds.
His wife, Sandi Jackson, followed suit, resigning from her 7th Ward aldermanic post effective Tuesday, January 15th. According to news reports, Sandi Jackson resigned from her alderman's job because could not balance her duties to the ward while "dealing with very painful family health matters." A special election for Cong. Jesse Jackson's seat is scheduled for April 9th while the primary election takes place February 26th.
The candidates, chosen randomly, were asked questions that came from both the audience and moderator. While many responded with typical run of the mill answers, a few were noteworthy. Here’s a sampling of responses from some of the candidates, many virtually unknown in this crowded race.
On the question of parity in school funding:
Eric Wallace, one of five Republicans in the race, believes in school choice where the money follows the students. The idea he said will allow people who don’t have the money or live in a certain community to shop around for a good school.
“People don’t understand how competition itself will make everything better,” he said.
Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones, who ran to fill President Obama’s vacated U.S. senate seat in 2010, called for an elected school board. He said there is too much patronage in education, which wrestles control from local school councils and often excludes deserving children a chance at a good education.
Without mentioning any names, Jones’ comment seems to be a gibe at 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale, also a candidate in the race. Beale drew criticism for his daughter receiving a college scholarship from a political ally from the now disbanded legislative scholarship program.
“The only people who’ve benefited from the education system in the city of Chicago are those who are political connected…” Jones said. “As a congressional member, I seek to break up the power and monopoly on the Fifth Floor of City Hall and give it back to the local school councils….”
On ensuring funding for the Redline extension and Blacks getting fair share of contracts:
Ernest B. Fenton supports the Redline extension, but questions why people must travel to the city for jobs instead having jobs in the suburbs. He contends the Redline stopped at 95th Street to prevent certain people from passing an invisible color line when the "L" was built in the 60s. “Now those folks are in the suburbs and apparently there is a reason we need to go to the city…” Fenton said.
To ensure hiring goals, State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-40) said there should be strict community hiring objectives to provide Redline extension jobs for residents. But she also said community colleges should be buttressed to provide training so individuals can land those construction jobs.
Agreeing was former Cong. Debbie Halvorson who also added that there must be an end to the practice of pass throughs, where minority companies “sell their participation back to the major players”. Halvorson said that practice should be illegal.
Many of the candidates were on the same accord about addressing youth violence in a city that has seen more than 500 murders in 2012. The candidates said there needs to be violence prevention education in schools, more youth jobs, community centers and after school programs.
Robin Kelly, a former state rep, believes the key to stemming violence lies with getting guns off the streets. She said she would stand with Pres. Obama on banning assault weapons and close loopholes that allow illegal handgun purchases at guns shows. Kelly said she wants to keep Illinois the only state without a conceal and carry law.
“I would be a leader in that because we are losing a generation,” she said.
On the question of eliminating the more than 200 brownfields or waste sites in the south suburbs:
Jones said the Green Party’s platform is rooted in ecological wisdom. He said the proliferation of bio hazard sites in the district is because of “political sellouts.” He said many in the Democratic Party has sold the Black community to big businesses for campaign dollars …“and the toxic waste that exist in these communities extend from those policies.”
While this is a smidgen of responses given during the two hour candidates' forum, Second Congressional District constituents have a tough decision as to whom can best represent them on Capitol Hill. Another candidates' debate will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 19th at Bethany Lutheran Church, 9147 S. Jeffery Ave., in Chicago.
2nd Congressional District Candidates in attendance: