2012 a slow year for politics in Hyde Park

Staff Writers

The last year saw few changes in the political landscape for Hyde Park, though a new state rep and the loss of a long-time U.S. Congressman made some headlines during an otherwise slow news year for politics.

Chris Mitchell elected

Christopher Mitchell sprang onto the political scene in 2011 and won his first political victory in 2012. A relative newcomer, the young political player had powerful backing, especially from Cook Country Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and narrowly won a race to replace state Rep. Kimberly du Buclet (D-26).

Jesse Jackson Jr.

While one polticial star rose in Hyde Park, another fell into dramatic ruin. After five months of absence from the House of Representatives Jesse Jackson Jr. tendered his resignation from Congress on Wednesday Nov. 21.

Jackson left the House to seek treatment for bipolar disorder and depression in June, though his office didn’t alert his constituents until two weeks later and said he was seeking treatment for “exhaustion.”

Jackson, whose district includes a sliver of East Hyde Park, was also in discussions for a plea agreement with federal investigators regarding his alleged illegal use of campaign money redecorating his Washington D.C. home and buying a high-end watch for his female friend.

The election to replace him will happen on April 9, with a primary set for February 16.

Since his resignation many people have thrown their names out there for consideration.

Former U.S. Representative Debbie Halvorson of Crete announced her candidacy for the seat. Jackson defeated her in the spring primary. Former Northwestern and NFL player and State Senator-elect Napoleon Harris has said he will seek election. Harris won his first elected seat on November 6.

Former Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and former State Representative Robin Kelly of Matteson have both announced their intention to seek the seat.

Former state Sens. Donne Trotter of Chicago and Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields have also expressed their intention to run.

Trotter was arrested at O’Hare International Airport in early December after he tried to board a flight with an unloaded firearm. He is currently released on $25,000 bond.

Dalton, Ill. Pastor Anthony Williams has also announced his run for the seat.

Obama votes early

On Oct. 25, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to vote early, when he came to the Martin Luther King Community Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave. to cast his ballot.

He landed at O’Hare International Airport around 3:30 p.m. and drove past crowds of onlookers, supporters and television trucks lined up along the avenue.

The South Side location was the only early voting location in the Fourth Ward, which also includes his South Kenwood residence.

Devoted onlookers waited out in the rain for Obama’s motorcade to drive by.

Obama won a decisive victory on Election Day, November 6. South Siders turned out to overwhelmingly vote for him to have a second term in the White House.

Harold Washington Celebration

The Hyde Park Herald and Hyde Park Historical Society co-hosted a panel discussion titled “It’s a Harold Thing: The Legacy of Harold Washington in the Age of Obama” Sunday afternoon at the Hyde Park Historical Society, 5529 S. Lake Park Ave. Panelists included Timuel Black, historian, author and activist; Sue Purrington, former executive director of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Chicago chapter, and former IVI-IPO head Barbara O’Connor; Elizabeth Brackett from WTTW and Jacky Grishaw, who worked as an organizer during Harold Washington’s administration.

Chicagoans from across the city gathered at the Hyde Park Historical Society to share memories of their encounters with the city’s first African-American Mayor Harold Washington in observance of the 25th anniversary of his death.

Discussion included remarks about Washington as a young man growing up on the South Side of Chicago, his being convinced my community members to run for mayor, his cordial demeanor, his accomplishments as mayor and how his death affected the people of Chicago.

4G Broadband

On Oct. 16 Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced that a statewide competition to establish ultra-high speed broadband networks across Illinois. The state awarded economic development corporation, Gigabit Squared $2 million toward its Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program (GNGP). Gigabit Squared will partner with the University of Chicago that will also invest $1 million and raise an addition $1 million to deploy a fiber optic and wireless network in the Mid-South communities.

Hyde Park, Kenwood, Woodlawn and Washington Park will be the first three neighborhoods to receive ultra-high speed broadband networks as part of the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge. Overtime Grand Boulevard, South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing and Douglas and Oakland will be served by gigabit speed wireless.
Residents, community groups, small business owners and representatives from technology companies and the University of Chicago have been meeting to discuss how each entity could benefit from the technology advancement and how they can work together to create a grant-winning proposal for the competition.

Legislative Town Hall

State Reps. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) and Kimberly du Buclet (D-26) along with State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) hosted a town hall meeting Monday evening at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. The three legislators spoke about issues they expected to come up during the veto session, which began on Nov. 27, and answered questions from concerned citizens in the audience.

The state budget, insurance, gun control and education were some of the main issues discussed during the meeting.