WBEZ | 2nd district http://www.wbez.org/tags/2nd-district Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Low voter turnout expected in Jesse Jackson Jr. district http://www.wbez.org/news/low-voter-turnout-expected-jesse-jackson-jr-district-105728 <p><p>Low voter turnout is expected in the race to replace former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and some election officials worry winter weather may further complicate things.</p><p>Nearly two dozen candidates are running in Tuesday&#39;s special primary in Illinois&#39; 2nd District, which includes Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.</p><p>Early voting has been paltry.</p><p>In Chicago, roughly 2 percent of registered voters cast early ballots. The number is up slightly compared to a special primary election in 2009.</p><p>Overall, Chicago turnout in the 2009 primary was 18 percent. In suburban Cook County, turnout was roughly 10 percent, including early votes.</p><p>The National Weather Service has issued a storm watch for northern Illinois including Cook County.</p><p>Election officials say they&#39;re communicating with streets and sanitation workers to make sure pathways to polls are clear.</p></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 13:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/low-voter-turnout-expected-jesse-jackson-jr-district-105728 Chicago's 2nd district has history of corruption http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-2nd-district-has-history-corruption-105721 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7040_AP808357641455-scr_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>They elected a Harvard-educated Rhodes Scholar and ended up with a congressman who was convicted of having sex with an underage campaign worker. They voted for the son of a famous civil rights leader and got someone who illegally spent campaign funds on everything from furniture to Bruce Lee memorabilia.</p><p>Call it Chicago corruption at its worst or simply uncanny coincidence, but residents of Illinois&#39; 2nd Congressional District haven&#39;t been represented in Congress in more than three decades by someone who didn&#39;t end up in serious ethical or legal trouble. That hangs over them as they go to the polls Tuesday for a special primary to begin picking a replacement for disgraced former U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr.</p><p>It began with Gus Savage, who took office in 1981 and was defeated a decade later after allegations of sexual misconduct with a Peace Corps worker while on a congressional visit abroad. Then there was Mel Reynolds, who won office in 1992 and was convicted of fraud and having sex with a minor. This past week, after 17 years in office, Jackson pleaded guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal expenses.</p><p>&quot;They all drank from the same cup,&quot; said Charles Hill, an unemployed father of five. The Chicago resident once supported Jackson, but the legal drama has left him so drained he&#39;s not even paying attention to the batch of nearly 20 candidates vying for the spot. &quot;It&#39;s a sad commentary.&quot;</p><p>Even by Illinois&#39; corruption standards &mdash; where four of the last seven governors were sent to jail &mdash; troubles in the district are astonishing. The attempts to explain it &mdash; among voters, experts and the most recent candidates vying for the seat &mdash; range from a culture of corruption to pure coincidence.</p><p>Corruption in Chicago politics dates back to at least 1869, when city commissioners were snagged in a scheme over City Hall paint contracts. More than 1,000 Illinois public officials, most in the Chicago area, have been convicted of corruption since the 1970s, according to Dick Simpson, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor. In a study, he ranked Chicago as the No. 1 in corruption among U.S. metropolitan areas.</p><p>Jackson&#39;s grip on the 2nd District seat &mdash; winning each election since 1995 in a landslide &mdash; created conditions ripe for wrongdoing, Simpson said. Even so, he&#39;s slightly baffled by why more problems seem to exist in this district than in others with similar demographics and longtime congressmen.</p><p>&quot;Unfortunately, the 2nd Congressional District seems to be an epicenter for these mistakes by public officials,&quot; he said.</p><p>The district includes part of Chicago&#39;s South Side, south suburbs and some rural areas.</p><p>Talk of ethics has been a secondary issue among the candidates after jobs and guns, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg&#39;s political action committee has poured money into ads criticizing candidates it deems too weak on gun control. The candidates include 14 Democrats and four Republicans. The district is largely Democratic, and the winner of Tuesday&#39;s Democratic primary is widely expected to sail through the April 9 election.</p><p>The only hint of an ethics scandal has involved former state Rep. Robin Kelly, a front-runner who&#39;s been attacked by other candidates over accusations that she misrepresented hours she worked as a top aide to former Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias in 2010. The Chicago Tribune obtained a report by the chief investigator in the treasurer&#39;s office through an open records request. No action was taken against Kelly because she had already left state government.</p><p>Kelly has denied wrongdoing and dismissed the allegations as &quot;political silly season.&quot;</p><p>As for the region&#39;s troubles with ethics?</p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s coincidental,&quot; she said. &quot;I don&#39;t think the district has any whammy over it.&quot;</p><p>Those who agree with her include Reynolds, who&#39;s running for the seat again. He says the corruption issue has been blown out of proportion, and his campaign signs read, &quot;REDEMPTION.&quot;</p><p>&quot;An aberration is what happened in my life,&quot; he said. &quot;It was not a determination of my character.&quot;</p><p>That hasn&#39;t kept the issue from the headlines, especially with Jackson&#39;s legal proceedings playing out in federal court. Jackson and his wife, former Alderman Sandi Jackson, both pleaded guilty Wednesday in the scheme.</p><p>Another candidate, former U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, has emphasized the issue, saying it&#39;s a time for a clean slate. She unsuccessfully challenged Jackson in last year&#39;s primary, even as he was plagued by questions over ties to imprisoned ex.-Gov. Rod Blagojevich and reports of an extramarital affair. Blagojevich was convicted on corruption charges that included trying to sell President Barack Obama&#39;s vacated U.S. Senate seat.</p><p>&quot;People want to close this door to unethical behavior,&quot; she said. &quot;We&#39;ve had enough. This district has been plagued for far too long.&quot;</p><p>The third front-runner, Anthony Beale, a Chicago alderman whose ward overlaps with the district, said the fact that neither Reynolds nor Jackson held public office before Congress was likely a factor in their ethical problems.</p><p>&quot;They were not homegrown to know what the district needs,&quot; Beale said.</p><p>Savage was defeated by Reynolds after the House Ethics Committee determined he made improper sexual advances to a female volunteer. Then Reynolds was convicted in the sex case and sent to prison. Later, while still behind bars, he was convicted of federal wire and bank fraud charges. President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence in 2001.</p><p>The district&#39;s history has fueled cynicism among some voters.</p><p>Grocery store worker Pnakara Nealy, 32, of Calumet Park, supported Jackson in the past, but now she&#39;s disillusioned with politics.</p><p>&quot;He&#39;s not the only one doing it,&quot; she said of Jackson. &quot;He just got caught.&quot;</p></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 08:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-2nd-district-has-history-corruption-105721 Candidates make final push for Jackson Jr.'s seat http://www.wbez.org/news/candidates-make-final-push-jackson-jrs-seat-105720 <p><p>The candidates vying to replace former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. are making their final push before Tuesday&#39;s primary election.</p><p>Former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson is focusing on Kankakee and Will counties. A spokesman says she feels good about turnout there during early voting.</p><p>Alderman Anthony Beale is concentrating on getting out the vote on Chicago&#39;s South Side. His spokeswoman says Beale&#39;s ward is seeing some of the highest turnout so far.</p><p>Halvorson, Beale and former state Rep. Robin Kelly are considered the front runners in the Democratic primary. The winner is likely to win the April general election in the heavily Democratic 2nd Congressional District.</p><p>Jackson resigned in November. He has pleaded guilty to spending campaign funds on personal items.</p><p>Fourteen Democrats and four Republicans are running for the seat.</p></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 08:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/candidates-make-final-push-jackson-jrs-seat-105720 Chicago district disappointed in ex-congressman http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-district-disappointed-ex-congressman-105651 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7040_AP808357641455-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Residents in this swath of sprawling Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs have brimmed with loyalty to Jesse Jackson Jr. over the past 17 years, giving him an enthusiastic majority each election &mdash; even after questionable links to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, reports of an extramarital affair and a bizarre five-month medical leave.</p><p>But the former congressman&#39;s guilty plea to charges that he lived off and lavishly spent campaign money for personal use &mdash; on everything from toilet paper to mink capes &mdash; has turned the tide. In territory where it was difficult to scrape up any criticism of Jackson, his Chicago alderman wife or his famous civil rights leader father, the mood is now simply one of disappointment.</p><p>&quot;He knew better; it was a very stupid thing to do,&quot; said 75-year-old Jeannette Reese, shaking her head as she grocery-shopped at a busy shopping complex. &quot;He and his father came to our church. I thought he was the real thing.&quot;</p><p>Reese said she had voted for the younger Jackson for years.</p><p>Jackson, who resigned from office in November, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Washington to criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. He faces up to 57 months &mdash; more than four years &mdash; in prison and a fine, under a plea deal with prosecutors.</p><p>It was an emotional day for Jackson, 47, who held back tears as he addressed the federal judge, just hours before his wife pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. Sandi Jackson, who resigned from Chicago&#39;s City Council last month, faces up to two years in prison and a fine.</p><p>&quot;I did these things,&quot; Jesse Jackson Jr. told the judge, adding later, &quot;Sir, for years I lived in my campaign.&quot;</p><p>He first won office in a 1995 special election and developed widespread support from mayors who said he delivered and constituents who valued his family legacy and said he gave them a voice. That support persevered even through an intense primary challenge last year from former one-term U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson who made Jackson&#39;s ethical troubles central to her campaign. He came away with the easy majority even as he remained under a House Ethics Committee investigation for ties to Blagojevich, who&#39;s serving a federal prison sentence on allegations that he tried to profit from President Barack Obama&#39;s former U.S. Senate Seat.</p><p>Even the most loyal Jackson supporters who praised him for bringing home nearly $1 billion in federal funding to the district were rattled.</p><p>&quot;I hate that circumstances ended up like they did,&quot; said Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin. His small community south of Chicago &mdash; one of Illinois&#39; poorest &mdash; got a boost in its water system because of Jackson.</p><p>Still, Griffin did not want to pile on criticism. &quot;His situation is between the court system and the family,&quot; the mayor said.</p><p>Next week, voters in the heavily Democratic district head to the polls in a special primary to replace him. The crowded field of candidates includes Halvorson, former state Rep. Robin Kelly and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale.</p><p>Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced June 28 and his wife on July 1. Both Jacksons, who maintain homes in Washington and Chicago, are free until sentencing.</p><p>More details emerged in a 22-page statement compiled by prosecutors and filed Wednesday. In it, Jackson admitted that he and his wife used campaign credit cards to buy thousands of personal items worth $582,772.58 from 2005 through April of last year. The most lavish purchases included the spending of more than $43,000 on a gold-plated men&#39;s Rolex watch.</p><p>Court papers said more than $60,000 was shelled out for restaurant, nightclub and lounge outings. Money was also spent on a washer, a dryer, a range and a refrigerator for the Jacksons&#39; Chicago home.</p><p>Jackson even arranged for the use of campaign money to buy two mounted elk heads for his congressional office, according to court documents.</p><p>Jackson entered the courtroom Wednesday holding hands with his wife and looking a bit dazzled as he surveyed the packed room. He kissed his wife and headed to the defense table.</p><p>After the hearing he shouted to a reporter: &quot;Tell everybody back home I&#39;m sorry I let them down, OK?&quot;</p><p>The Chicago Democrat disappeared from the public eye last June for a medical leave, though details on his condition and location were always scarce. Doctors later said he suffers from bipolar disorder and was hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.</p><p>His attorney said after the court appearance that Jackson&#39;s health is &quot;not an excuse&quot; for his actions, &quot;just a fact.&quot; Jackson&#39;s father has said that his son remains under strict medical supervision.</p><p>One attorney, Reid Weingarten, told reporters after the hearing that there&#39;s reason for optimism.</p><p>&quot;A man that talented, a man that devoted to public service, a man who&#39;s done so much for so many, has another day,&quot; he said. &quot;There will be another chapter in Jesse Jackson&#39;s life.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 21 Feb 2013 09:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-district-disappointed-ex-congressman-105651 The lame duck Congress loads appropriations bill with earmarks http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/lame-duck-congress-loads-appropriations-bill-earmarks <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/pork_barrel_graphic.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated at </em> <em>1:07 p.m. on 12/15/2010</em></p><p>It looks like the lame duck Congress isn&rsquo;t ready to give up its piggy bank just yet. Over 1,900 pages packed with earmarks and pork-barrel spending provisions arrived on the floor Tuesday.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The omnibus appropriations bill combines more than $1.2 trillion worth of unfinished budget work, combining 12 spending bills into one comprehensive package. Thousands of pet projects are scattered throughout the bill. The so-called earmarks came from both sides of the aisle, despite a recent call for a moratorium on the provisions from Republicans.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>To understand why earmarks, which account for less than 1 percent of the federal budget, are garnering so much attention, &ldquo;Eight Forty-Eight&rdquo; spoke with two Illinois legislators: Democratic <a href="http://jackson.house.gov/" target="_blank">Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.</a> who represents the 2nd District of Illinois and Republican <a href="http://shimkus.house.gov/" target="_blank">Congressman John Shimkus</a> from the 19th District.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Rep. Shimkus said that while he&rsquo;s supported earmarks, after two consecutive years of trillion-dollar spending and the current $13.5 trillion national debt, his feelings have changed. He said excessive spending gave rise to the Tea Party movement.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Cuddy pointed out that some critics argue that eliminating earmarks won&rsquo;t begin to make a dent in the massive debt given their limited share of the federal budget.</p><p>In response, Shimkus argued that this drop in the bucket is a much-needed catalyst for a larger overhaul.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to start somewhere,&rdquo; Shimkus said, &ldquo;And this is a sign that we&rsquo;re now at least starting to get serious. There&rsquo;s a lot more work to do but to say it&rsquo;s irrelevant is not fair.&rdquo;</p><p>But Rep. Jackson said addressing the deficit can only come through tough decisions on overall taxing and spending. This means looking at things like entitlements&mdash;adjusting Medicare or Social Security benefits, military spending and weapons programs, addressing the retirement age and taking a long look at the tax side of the deficit to find responsible ways to raise revenue.</p><p>Jackson further emphasized that earmarks enable members of Congress, not bureaucrats, to ensure funding for vital programs and projects in their districts. When he was elected in 1995, Jackson was able to pointedly place an earmark within an agricultural appropriations bill to provide fresh water for Ford Heights.</p><p>Yet, a recent <a href="http://dailycaller.com/2010/12/10/earmarks-congressional-addicts-in-denial/print/" target="_blank">Harvard Business School study</a> found cause for concern in its conclusion that public money, especially from earmarks, impedes private spending and investment.</p><p>Shimkus accounts the inverse relationship to a lack of the private capital or risk that&rsquo;s generally involved in a good business model.</p><p>But Jackson countered that without an initial public injection, the private sector has no incentive to go into low-income communities.</p><p>&ldquo;Why would the private sector ever choose a low-income community? When does a low-income community ever get water? When do they ever get roads?&rdquo; Jackson asked Shimkus.</p><p>But Shimkus called a lack of confidence in bureaucracy an &ldquo;indictment&rdquo; on our national government and that perhaps such uncertainty is a call to scale back.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 15 Dec 2010 14:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/lame-duck-congress-loads-appropriations-bill-earmarks