MARK KIESLING: Jackson successor: Will he keep the airport idea flying?

2012-11-23T00:00:00Z 2012-12-20T21:25:34Z MARK KIESLING: Jackson successor: Will he keep the airport idea flying? nwitimes.com
November 23, 2012 12:00 am

This news wasn't of the magnitude of the attacks on Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Centers.

The resignation of Illinois U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was pretty much telegraphed when it became clear he is under federal investigation.

For what?

Well, Jackson is alleged to have been one of five persons who sought to buy a U.S. Senate seat which became vacant upon the election of former Sen. Barack Obama as president in 2008.

That mess resulted in the federal conviction of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who had the power to appoint a new senator.

Instead, the Senate seat went to former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris, named by Blagojevich before his conviction and removal.

With little support even within his own Democratic Party, Burris chose not to-run for re-election, allowing former U.S. Rep.  Mark Kirk, a Highland Park Republican, to run virtually unchallenged.

The resignation by Jackson, who was re-elected earlier this month despite intensive treatment for bipolar disorder and the ethics charges, raises a couple of questions.

No, I am not asking when we will see his seat on eBay, but rather a couple of major, serious issues.

The first is, who, all joking aside, will replace him?

His is a constituency small in area but large in population density. It's 184 square miles that goes into Cook and Will counties with more than 650,000 people.

Of those, about 30 percent are white, 62 percent African-American, 10 percent Hispanic and a smattering of others.

His successor's challenge, much like his own, will be to satisfy one ethnic group while not alienating another.

The second question is, what of the third airport in the Chicago area? Whether you call it the Abraham Lincoln National Airport (as Jackson does) or the South Suburban Airport, as the Federal Aviation Administration does, will Jackson's successor be as enthusiastic about the project planned for the Peotone area?

Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley sure wasn't, going so far as to cross state lines to help former Gary Mayor Scott King with the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Daley's rationale was to keep the major airports of O'Hare and Midway, located in Chicago limits, under city control.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who succeeded Blagojevich, wants the airport built posthaste, but U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, an Illinois Republican, says there is not all that much excitement in Washington about Peotone.

I'm still in Thanksgiving for not wanting the job or being eligible for it.

Talk about needing Tums.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com  or (219) 933-4170.

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