HYDE PARK — The voters of the 2nd District are ready to leave the political scandals of the past behind them, Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly said Monday morning.
Kelly was surrounded by local business owners at Sip and Savor, 5301 S. Hyde Park Blvd., where she came to listen to their concerns about everything from access to loans and economic development to violence in the south lakefront district.
“She’s very concerned, at least gives us an ear and she talks to us,” said Phil Beckham, Sip and Savor's owner.
Kelly's accessibility is in stark contrast to that of her predecessor, Jesse Jackson Jr., who rarely came up to the northern boundaries of the district in Hyde Park.
The Monday morning visit over coffee with Beckham and others was Kelly’s first trip to Hyde Park since taking office April 9.
“I’m there [in Washington, D.C.] much more than I thought because of the shutdown,” Kelly said.
She said she heard a lot of frustration about access to bank loans, a refrain she said she’s heard from homeowners, business owners and residents throughout the district.
One of those concerned business owners is Beckman, who said he lost a line of credit during the downturn, even though his coffee shop was doing OK. Banks have much influence in the Capitol, he said.
“I don’t have the lobbying dollars to go to [Washington] D.C., and this gives us an opportunity to be heard,” he said of Kelly's visit.
Kelly said she’s heard a lot of frustration with Congress during her eight months in office.
“I’ve never worked a job where 90 percent of people don’t like you,” Kelly joked about polls that show Congress is about as popular as toenail fungus.
She said her experience so far is that voters do not trust Congress, but do seem to like their individual representatives.
Kelly said her own voters appear ready to move on now that former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has reported to jail. She said she has not been greeted with a high level of distrust or disillusionment that one might expect after such a political scandal.
Kelly said it was difficult to watch Jackson go through the travails that landed him in a North Carolina prison.
“It made me sad. I knew him, he was my congressman,” Kelly said.
Kelly was ready to move on, too, and after a brief word about Jackson, left for a meeting at the University of Chicago about economic development.