Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday night that he will accept online applications from people who want to succeed former 7th Ward Ald. Sandi Jackson and ask a committee to winnow the field of contenders.
The web site will be up Friday and the panel will feature four members with “community representation,” Emanuel said. The panel, to be named next week, will “go through, interview people,” said the mayor, speaking at a Tribune-sponsored “Chicago Forward” event at the Field Museum. “They will give me recommendations so I will then select somebody.”
The next alderman for the South Side ward must have a record of “community involvement and engagement,” the mayor stated in a news release. Emanuel hopes to pick the replacement by mid-February.
Ald. Jackson was 20 months into her second term when she resigned last week as controversy continues to swirl around her husband, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. He resigned shortly after his November re-election, citing his bipolar depression and acknowledging federal ethics probes into his use of campaign funds.
In 2007, Sandi Jackson defeated Darcel Beavers, daughter of former alderman and current Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, who now is under federal indictment for alleged misuse of his campaign fund. The mayor is leery of appointing anyone linked to either the Jacksons or the Beaverses, sources have told the Tribune.
Emanuel was asked how much input a retiring alderman should have into selecting a successor, given perennial chatter about longtime Ald. Richard Mell, 33rd, seeking to engineer an appointment for his daughter, state Rep. Deb Mell.
“They should have a say as much as — my view is to make sure the community is heard,” responded the mayor, who added he hopes the format for picking Jackson's successor becomes the template for replacing aldermen.
About 550 people watched the 50-minute interview conducted by Bruce Dold, the Tribune editorial page editor, at an event co-sponsored by corporate advertiser ComEd. Proceeds from the $20-a-ticket forum went to the Chicago Tribune Foundation charity, organizers said.
Emanuel largely hewed to his talking points while discussing topics such as the city's pension crisis, the bloodshed on Chicago streets and the importance of a longer school day for Chicago public schools students.
Asked what his greatest failure has been as mayor, Emanuel said he should have had “a different type of conversation” with the Chicago Teachers Union about how to handle the school district's financial problems prior to the September strike. But Emanuel stopped short of saying he could have avoided the strike.
Emanuel also touched on the need for stronger gun control laws at the local, state and federal level, an idea he has returned to repeatedly in recent weeks. In addition, the mayor said the city cannot get out of its much-criticized 75-year lease of the city’s parking meter system engineered by his predecessor because most of the $1.15 billion upfront payment has been spent.