The Evanstonian’s Guide to Evanston’s 2021 Municipal Elections
February 17, 2021
In the coming months, Evanstonians will make their voices heard by voting for all of the publicly elected municipal positions available. These roles—mayor, city clerk and all nine members of the City Council, corresponding to the city’s nine wards—serve four-year terms and work to manage and determine city policy as well as communicate and connect those policies with the citizens.
Elections will be held in two rounds: a consolidated primary on Feb. 23 and a general election on April 6. Any race with more than four candidates, two for mayoral races, takes place on Feb. 23; these include mayor, city clerk and the 4th and 8th Ward council seats. The remaining elections, including District 65 and 202 school boards, will be taking place on April 6.
Early voting for the primary began on Feb. 8 and mail-in ballots can be requested until Feb. 18. If eligible, to register and learn more about how voting works for you, visit the Cook County Clerk’s website. For more information on the candidates, the Democratic Party of Evanston (DPoE) conducted interviews with most of them; these interviews can be found here. Major endorsements have been made by DPoE, the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership (OPAL) and Evanston Fight for Black Lives (EFBL).
The Mayoral Election
For those familiar with local politics, Daniel Biss’ name probably rings a bell. Serving as a state representative from 2011 to 2013 and then as a state senator from 2013 to 2019, Biss has plenty of experience in politics, experience he hopes to employ as Evanston mayor.
“I decided to jump in this race for mayor of Evanston because I see this as a really, really pivotal time, partially because of COVID-19 and all that the recovery from COVID is going to require, but partially because of the moment that we’re in that is giving us the opportunity, far too late, to begin reckoning in earnest with questions of racial justice, policing and what true shared public safety looks like and, frankly, questions of segregation and housing as well,” Biss said in an interview with The Evanstonian. “It’s an opportunity for a community like Evanston—that sees itself as progressive and wants to be a leader of the country—to do bold and exciting and transformational things.”
Biss has been campaigning with the understanding that racial justice, particularly in policing and police reform, alongside the fight against climate change are the two largest questions facing Evanston, questions he believes he can help answer.
“We need to develop a full audit of what the police doing [and answer] what needs to be done by police officers in the traditional sense, what needs to be done by somebody else altogether, how do we build up the capacity for that somebody else to be available and then what needs to be done by some kind of partnership, a co-response model…. Once you’ve made those three categories, you need to build up the capacity to actually do the work that way and start to deflect police responsibilities over to these other functions,” Biss said. “If you get all that right—which is a difficult, delicate, multi-step process—you’ve wound up providing a greater quality of police services and a greater level of truly shared safety at a lower cost. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the community.”
With regards to climate, Biss believes that the Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) needs to be implemented and fully supports the work to accomplish those goals.
“[CARP] was enacted by the council a couple of years ago; it’s a really important document. But here’s what it does: it sets ambitious goals; it doesn’t actually solve the problem. Now that those goals have been set—I’m really thrilled that they have been set—we’ve got to do the hard part, decarbonizing our buildings and moving away from carbon in our electricity sources and changing our waste disposal mechanisms. That’s just a tremendous amount of really difficult, critical work that’s going to have to be done on an ongoing, continuous basis if we intend to actually meet the goals of CARP,” Biss said.
In addition, Biss supports the effort to reopen a school in the 5th Ward, both as part of the effort to address systemic oppression in Evanston and as part of his vision for what Evanston could be.
“I support [a Fifth Ward school]. I think neighborhood schools form a social anchor in the community, it creates social bonds in the community, it connects neighbors to each other and creates a greater safety net because people get to know each other on the walk to and from school, and they can look out for each other. It’s good for public health, for kids to be able to walk to school. I just think it’s really important,” Biss said. “The idea that we’re gonna help the communities that have been the victims of systemic racism by shutting down their institutions and then busing them somewhere else while the communities that have benefited from systemic racism won’t have to deal with any disruption, that’s bananas; that’s not a logical way to solve the problem given the vantage point of more thinking and a more modern understanding of what racism really means.”
While these goals are important, Biss understands that all of them will be large changes, changes that will take work and effort from the city and from community members to bring to fruition.
“All these things are, in my opinion, difficult and bold; none of them is going to happen without some pushback and some controversy. What I need to do is to, first of all, be clear during the course of this campaign about what I’m running on, so if I’m elected, it will be visible to the community that there really is public support for these ambitious agendas,and then work closely with experts in the community with activists, organizers and the nine members of the council to really move an agenda like this forward.”
Biss believes that the long-term impacts of such an agenda will transform Evanston into a community that can thrive and prosper as never before and can build it into a beacon for the rest of the country to aspire to.
“I see Evanston as a community that can be really thriving and its recovery from this pandemic and a city that can show the country what a truly bold and fearless agenda on racial justice looks like,” Biss said. “Twenty years down the road, I think we have an unbelievable set of assets in this town that will only become that much more extraordinary as the effects of climate change began to harm the world more…. I would like to see Evanston move to be a more communal, walkable, large neighborhood. There’s a vision of what’s called a 15-minute city, which is the idea that we should all be able to access our true necessities within 15 minutes from our home. That means everyone has a school that they can walk to; everyone has access to healthy food and other clear necessities. That allows for a kind of density and affordability and a community feel where we support one another.”
“Four years from now, we might look back with incredible pride at having gotten it right, and it’s also possible that, four years from now, we could look back and feel kind of disappointed at ourselves that we didn’t put in the work and effort to get these things right. The next mayor is going to help determine which of those two paths we land on. That’s the whole point of public service, to help lead a community to make the right choices when the stakes are high, and that’s why I’m so excited about what this job could mean.”
Long-time Evanston resident Lori Keenan is excited to be running for mayor in the upcoming municipal election.
Keenan has spent the past 22 years living in Evanston with her husband and three children, all ETHS graduates. She balances her time between her principal role in a women-owned marketing and public relations business and volunteering with various grassroots organizations throughout the city. Although Keenan’s campaign marks her first involvement in government, she was inspired to run in the hopes that she could help enact real change within the city and bring new ideas to the table.
“I truly believe that what you bring to your community, the passion and energy are really, really good. I’m concerned because it feels like some of the city council is not listening to the public. The current mayor even ignores people and called them CAVE people, citizens against virtually everything. You can’t solve new problems with old ideas, [you need] fresh blood and new leadership,” Keenan said. “It’s exciting to see new faces, fresh ideas.”
Prior to her run for mayor, Keenan has been involved with multiple volunteer organizations around Evanston. Her past volunteer work includes advocacy for creating a west side branch of the Evanston Public Library and working to protect the library’s budget from being cut. Keenan believes her deep involvement with community-based organizations will help her as mayor to listen to the different voices of Evanston residents.
“I feel like I’ve really been in the trenches; I’ve been very involved in a number of different ways…. I always feel like when you see these sort of grassroots movements, they really reflect what the community wants, what the public wants. It’s complicated, and I feel like we need somebody who has really focused on Evanston,” Keenan said.
At the core of her campaign is Keenan’s outspokenness about the issues she feels are most pressing to address among Evanstonians, including tackling the livability and environmental stability of Evanston.
“Affordability and livability. That can be as big as affordable housing or big as parking; if parking becomes untenable or expensive, or whatever else, I don’t think that’s helping our independent businesses. I don’t think it’s helping our downtown,” Keenan said. “When we talk about sustainability and the Climate Action and Resilience Plan [CARP], let’s really capitalize on that…. How can we attract sustainable businesses as a model?”
CARP is a plan adopted in December 2018 to guide Evanston in the fight against climate change. This plan includes strategies for climate mitigation and resilience with a focus on carbon neutrality by 2050. Keenan hopes to expand on the implementation of CARP and hold Evanston accountable for taking action to combat climate change.
A major discussion point among Evanstonians is equity and the creation of equitable spaces, an issue Keenan feels very passionate about as a mayoral candidate.
“There are certainly progressive issues that are also Evanston issues, but I don’t think that we can create a blanket policy, because Evanston is so unique and has so many different nuances,” Keenan said.
Evanston is a unique community with its own strengths and challenges, thus when considering national issues—such as systemic racism and climate change—it is important to consider Evanston’s diversity to create plans that work for everyone.
“How does Evanston do this? Yes, this is a national issue, but what can we do in Evanston? What are our strengths and challenges here? Because I think it’s not a one-size-fits-all,” Keenan said.
More recently, youth movements, including groups in Evanston, have been gaining attention as they work to mobilize people for actions around different important issues. Evanston is home to many youth activist groups, including Evanston Fight for Black Lives and E-Town Sunrise and Talking Whiteness on Central Street. 16.8 percent of Evanston residents fall into the youth demographic, an age group Keenan hopes to work alongside and share ideas with.
“I have kids who recently went through the high school. I understand that population really well,” Keenan mentioned.
Keenan acknowledges the importance of Evanston’s youth voices and wants to highlight the role that they play in the political dynamic by inviting them to be part of the conversations about making changes in the city.
“They’re often educating me way more than I am them, and I think that we should really be bringing them into the mix,” Keenan said. “I think that youth voices are informed and intelligent people who know how to do things. They’re the future, and I feel like the future’s bright, especially in Evanston, which is such a unique place. You’re so lucky [to have] such a formative experience…. and we should be really capitalizing on what they bring to the picture.”
Although this is her first time entering the world of public service, Keenan feels prepared to take on the challenges that come with being mayor. She is confident in her ability to draw on years of experience working with others in both volunteer and professional settings to help her work with aldermen and Evanston residents to create a city reflective of its people.
“I think that we need someone who has been on the frontline here, lives and breathes it every day. I feel like I’ve done that…. because I dare and I think that we need elected officials who aren’t insulated, but who are among people and who are listening and trying to work within the parameters we have,” Keenan said. “ I really think it needs to take someone who is of the people and someone who’s been listening for a long time to make a change.”
* This profile was originally published on Dec. 14, 2020 and subsequently edited for publication on Feb. 17.
Recent ETHS alumnus Sebastian Nalls is hoping to go from 1600 Dodge to 2100 Ridge—in the Mayor’s Office.
Nalls, currently a junior at Purdue University, announced his campaign on Aug. 29 urged on by the city’s choices with regards to the Robert Crown project and the eruption of protests following the murder of George Floyd.
“One of the base reasons for running were the issues that came from the funding that Robert Crown was receiving, particularly the $400,000 donation that they received back in 2018…. I’ve gone to Robert Crown my entire life from preschool to summer camps. I was [asking] who’s gonna be primarily impacted by this decision, and that was minority youth that lives in the area,” Nalls said. “Another [key] moment was the protests following George Floyd’s death and the reaction from the city and some of the city council members. Both of those combined were kind of my driving force.”
Nalls has previously worked for the City of Evanston, directing multiple programs since the beginning as a counselor-in-training while at ETHS; Nalls believes this experience with the city structure will help guide his decisions once in office, decisions that will be based around the needs of the community.
“I want to make sure that I am an advocate for individuals in the community. The scope of mayor is pretty narrow, and it doesn’t have much power—it’s mostly the city council and the city manager that do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to city governance—so being an advocate for the people is something that I really want to achieve while in office,” Nalls said.
The same issues of inequity that are at the core of Nall’s choice to run are front and center in his mission statement to address racial justice and equality, fiscal policy and increased early childhood education funding.
“Racial justice is at the forefront of our campaign. [It’s] something that we’ve been focusing a lot on because it stems to other issues such as violence in the community and [fiscal policy],” Nalls said. “One of the things that we’re pushing for is the reduction in police funding to fund the Parks and Recreation Department, the Community Development Department, as well as the Health and Human Services Department. By redistributing those funds and further expanding those departments, we can focus on areas that have been marginalized throughout the decades here in Evanston, and proceed to make Evanston a more equitable place by providing more economic opportunities in these neighborhoods.”
Another issue close to Nalls’ heart is environmental stability, something he feels the city has failed to properly implement following the passing of the Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) in late 2018.
“CARP was adopted back in 2018, but it hasn’t really been implemented to the full scope of actually going through and changing some of our city buildings to rely on renewable energy. That’s something that we’re looking forward to, the actual implementation of that plan,” Nalls said.
Equally as important as policy, Nalls hopes to create and maintain healthy, working relationships with youth activism groups in Evanston, such as Evanston Fight for Black Lives and E-Town Sunrise, something which many have accused Mayor Steve Hagerty of failing to do.
“Youth activists, especially here in Evanston, have spurred this movement…. It’s extremely important that these individuals are out in the community, being activists for something that they believe in…. Having a good line of communication, talking to these groups, is probably the most effective thing to do as mayor, and it’s ultimately one of the duties of the mayor as well,” Nalls said.
Mobilizing these groups, and others like them is crucial in Nalls’ view of Evanston’s future: one that acknowledges the faults of the past and actively strives to heal the divides that exist, particularly with regards to the history of discriminatory housing policy in the city.
“There’s always been the [belief that] all the things that are happening in Minneapolis, Louisville, Chicago can’t happen in Evanston because we’re so diverse, but people often forget that African-Americans had been redlined into various wards all over the city less than 50 years ago. We are still seeing the ramifications of doing that…. We’ve taken strides in the right direction since then, but there is still a lot of work to be done here in Evanston,” Nalls said. “As a city where we pride ourselves on being so diverse, so equitable, we need to actually speak on it and act on it… [producing] the necessary legislation to ramify and heal that process.”
The campaign trail may be a challenging one, but it is a challenge that Nalls is ready to rise and face. It is a challenge that stretches beyond his campaign, calling upon all Evanstonians to reach for the future that lies ahead.
“What we’re trying to achieve is [rooted in] a movement that is bigger than me; it encompasses everyone who seeks to have meaningful change in Evanston. Our campaign will bring more meaningful change to Evanston than what we’ve seen in the past,” Nalls said. “We want to come to the table, bring alderman together and say, ‘These are issues that the community is facing; we need to act on them. We need to change something because, at the end of the day, we can’t just keep having the same [broken] system.’”
Nalls has received Evanston Fight for Black Lives’ endorsement for mayor.
*This profile was originally published on Oct. 20, 2020 and subsequently edited for publication on Feb. 17.
Judy Fiske is the current alderwoman of Evanston’s 1st Ward and is running for re-election this spring. She has lived in Evanston for over 40 years and has been an active participant in civic affairs over the course of her time in the city.
In the past, Fiske has served as president of the Preservation League of Evanston, trustee of the Evanston History Center, an associate member of the Evanston Preservation Commission, treasurer of the Frances Willard Historical Association and appointee to the Police Services Advisory Board.
Most significantly, Fiske has served as 1st Ward alderwoman for the last twelve years.
“As a nearly lifelong Evanstonian, I’ve set my foot, it seems, on every square inch of this beautiful city and have observed it closely,” she said in an interview with the Democratic Party of Evanston (DPoE) last month.
“I believe I bring a unique combination of civic knowledge, valuable experience and strong independence to the Evanston City Council.”
The 1st Ward is home to a large chunk of downtown Evanston and slightly overlaps with parts of the Northwestern University campus. The area is home to approximately 3000 small businesses that accumulate over a billion dollars of annual revenue. Due to the pandemic, the rejuvenation of small businesses has been a prominent topic of discussion between Fiske and her constituents.
“Part of the charm of downtown Evanston is that we have these wonderful little storefronts for niche retail … most of the folks who start those businesses do so with their own personal funds … they’re absolutely committed to the spirit of entrepreneurship that we all think is wonderful.”
Fiske was the co-owner of Fit and Frisky, an independent pet supply business in Downtown Evanston. As a former small business owner herself, Fiske understands the challenges these businesses face and is always looking for ways to elevate the community of small businesses that call downtown Evanston home.
“I continue to serve the council through what I call a reality-based approach, which is based on accurate information, openness to constituent input, practical compromise, genuine compassion and what I hope is calm civility.”
Fiske is also hoping to make 1st Ward housing more affordable and to support the effort of police reform in the Evanston community. In addition, she also aims to combat local zoning laws.
“I think I’m forward-thinking, hard-working, positive, patient and especially respected throughout my ward for the responsiveness to the citizens of my ward,” Fiske emphasized. “In the end, it’s my job to listen to all voices and ultimately identify a course of action.”
* The Evanstonian reached out to Judy Fiske and was unable to schedule an interview. All quotes are from a January interview with Greg Andrus, vice president of the DPoE. To watch the whole interview, click here.
Clare Kelly is running for 1st Ward Alderwoman and a seat on Evanston’s City Council. She will be going up against incumbent Judy Fiske. Kelly has lived in Evanston since she was young and has been a Spanish teacher at ETHS for 30 years.
Over the years, Kelly has been very involved in various city efforts. One of her accomplishments was working with the Evanston community to shut down the Northwestern University medical waste incinerator at Evanston Hospital. This led to a City Council ordinance that banned medical waste incineration.
If elected, Kelly aims to implement lasting policies that bring about real change for the minority community living in Evanston. “We absolutely have to be doing a better job at looking at our budget and never forgetting that our budget is a moral document,” Kelly said in an interview with the Democratic Party of Evanston.
“[The budget] really is the blueprint of our priorities, and, clearly, this has been a little bit skewed not towards helping our lower-income population and minorities in Evanston.”
One of the ways Kelly intends to do this is by collaborating with Northwestern to contribute more to the Evanston community. Given that part of the NU campus is within the 1st Ward, she believes this will make communication easier.
Kelly also aims to lower Evanston property taxes, citing the statistic that Evanston has one of the highest tax burdens nationwide.
“I teach at [ETHS] and the population there is close to 40 percent low income, and it’s like we’re trying to create a very rarefied city that’s not accessible for even middle-income people,” Kelly said.
Another one of Kelly’s goals is to address parking reform in downtown Evanston. She believes parking in the 1st Ward is too expensive and that it is hurting the small businesses there. However, she also seeks to support an effort to increase the use of public transportation in Evanston to help combat climate change.
“I do think it’s important to figure out ways we can reduce the use of cars. I think, right now, we have to make downtown as accessible as possible; we need to protect our downtown and ensure that it thrives.”
* The Evanstonian reached out to Clare Kelly and was unable to schedule an interview. All quotes are from a January interview with Greg Andrus, vice president of the DPoE. To watch the whole interview, click here.
A lifelong resident and activist, Peter Braithwaite has deep roots within the Evanston community and is seeking his third term as the 2nd Ward Alderman. In addition to serving on City Council, Braithwaite works as a sales account manager while raising his four kids alongside his wife.
Braithwaite, a huge advocate for affordable housing in Evanston and within the 2nd Ward, promises to continue working with affordable housing organizations such as Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) to further the development of affordable and equitable housing throughout Evanston.
Braithwaite is one of three co-founders of Evanston’s Reparations Subcommittee. Evanston is one of just four cities in the U.S. working to spearhead reparations for Black citizens whose families have been negatively impacted by slavery and racism throughout American history.
“Not only are reparations important to me, but I think it’s important to the Black families who reside in Evanston. We have been victims of systemic racism for many generations,” said Braithwaite.
Reparations in Evanston would be a huge step forward in the process of even beginning to start to rectify the injustices that Black people have faced in the U.S. over the past 400 years. When finalized, all eligible Black Evanstonians could receive up to $25,000 that would be put towards paying for housing costs. Funding for these reparations would come from tax money generated by the legalization of cannabis in Illinois. This is a step Braithwaite wants to take in trying to help Black Evanastonians who suffered through redlining and housing discrimination in Evanston.
“There’s a very long history of how Blacks in many parts of the country were denied the [same] rights as the rest of America. There’s a debt that’s owed, and, through reparations, we get a little bit closer to repairing our community and closing that wealth gap. I’m happy; I’m excited; I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Braithwaite said.
If re-elected, Braithwaite promises to continue focusing on “economic development” within Evanston. Braithwaite vows to work for the families of the 2nd Ward and will ensure crime prevention and prompt response from first responders.
In a third term, Braithwaite wants to start out and make sure that Evanston continues to follow COVID-19 protocols and that the vaccine roll out throughout Evanston is a fast, efficient and equitable process.
“The number one issue that we have to stop is to deal with is COVID-19. Not only administering the vaccine but being cooperative in terms of protocols to help get through the pandemic, and, once we do that, then we can focus on other things,” Braithwaite said.
“I’m really excited to serve the 2nd Ward. I work very closely with the issues that matter the most to residents.”
A resident of the 2nd Ward for more than 20 years, Darlene Cannon has deep roots in the Evanston community
Currently working as the executive director and co-founder of Feeding the Village Evanston, a non-profit, grassroots organization based out of Evanston that works to provide food to families facing food insecurity in the greater Chicagoland area, Cannon hopes to continue affecting change as a part of City Council.
A Democrat and third-generation Evanstonian, according to her website, Cannon promises that, if elected, she will fight for racial justice and affordable housing within the 2nd Ward. She promises to work with the people of the 2nd Ward, holding open office hours, surveys and community coffee chats to allow residents to voice their concerns.
Cannon’s campaign has been notably endorsed by an organization called Reclaim Evanston, which works to elect “new politicians” pushing out what they consider “established politicians” such as her opponent Peter Braithwaite. Reclaim Evanston is a division of the larger Reclaim Chicago movement.
Cannon became deeply involved with local activism in 2018 when plans surfaced for the “Housing Opportunities for Women” (H.O.W) project, an affordable housing initiative on the corner of Dempster and Pitner. She did not want the building on her block in fear that it would decrease her property value, in addition to being upset about a lack of communication between developers and 2nd Ward residents.
“We were told by city employees that this was what they envisioned for our neighborhood. I just didn’t understand how you could have a vision for my neighborhood that did not include me. I wasn’t at the table when this decision was being made, but it was being forced upon me, and there was nothing I could do,” said Cannon in an interview with The Daily Northwestern.
If elected, Cannon wants to focus on racial justice in Evanston.
“This campaign is about ensuring the equity lens the city claims to utilize is actually a tool leveraged to improve and transform Black and minority lives,” Cannon said in a Facebook post.
* The Evanstonian reached out to Darlene Cannon for comment and received no response.
Nick Korzeniowski is one of the candidates on the ballot for 3rd Ward alderman. He is a longtime Evanston resident who has previously run in the District 65 school board election. Although Korzeniowski is relatively new to city politics, he has invested himself in the Evanston community through his involvement with local organizations.
“I wound up being involved in the leadership of Indivisible Evanston, as well as the Southeast Evanston Association, which is very focused on development lakefront historical preservation,” Korzeniowski said. “I actually wound up founding a nonprofit called Dine After Dark, which encourages food industries to stay open later during the month of Ramadan.”
A top focus of Korzeniowski in his campaign is the affordability of Evanston, especially for residents of the 3rd Ward. Due to the already steep and increasing property taxes throughout the city, many residents are being pushed out.
“I think Evanston is in an affordability crisis right now, and I think the 3rd Ward is in a pretty unique position in that crisis. We don’t feel the brunt of it in the way that some other wards do, but we do feel it,” Korzeniowski explained. “I think the 3rd Ward can actually lead the entire city on issues like this…. I think we should be taking all of what it takes to thrive in Evanston, not just survive in Evanston with a roof over your head. That should be what we call affordability.”
In his campaign for alderman, Korzeniowski is also focusing on plans to create a municipal broadband network to ensure every resident has internet access and tackling issues surrounding equity and climate change. If elected, he wants to use his position on City Council to fix the city’s budget when it comes to large issues including policing, equity in schools and climate change.
“I see these budgetary issues as necessarily citywide, but the things I want to fix in them hit close to home. So even if it seems small, these are shared issues throughout all of us, and all of our lives,” Korzeniowski said.
Melissa Wynne, the current alderwoman of Evanston’s 3rd Ward, is running for re-election.
As an Evanston resident for over three decades and alderwoman of the 3rd Ward for the past 24 years, Wynne is an invested member in the Evanston community and is looking to continue representing 3rd Ward residents on City Council.
In her previous experience as alderwoman, Wynne advocated for reparations, fought for the construction of the new Robert Crown building and helped to create the Dempster Business Mile Association.
“Over the last 10 months, we have been fighting COVID and trying to make Evanston as safe as possible by making sure that we are contact tracing every case, supporting our local businesses, providing city services that are running remotely,” Wynne said. “This year has been like no other because of what COVID has done, and then the upcoming year is going to be really challenging.”
Before kicking off her campaign for re-election, Wynne considered leaving city government work behind after finishing out the past term. Over the summer, she decided to run for re-election, attributing her motivation to wanting to help push Evanston into its COVID-19 recovery by continuing to offer her leadership and government experience on the City Council.
“I was looking at what was going on with COVID, and the really devastating impact it had on our economy, our city budget and government. I really felt like the city was in an emergency,” Wynne explained. “I felt like I would be abandoning the ship when they really needed experienced hands to help get us through the COVID crisis and through the unknown that we will be facing afterward.”
Throughout her campaign, Wynne has highlighted her plans to help increase affordability in Evanston as well as her plans to continue focusing on equity and tackling the climate crisis.
“We have projects that are looking at the city’s planning process through an equity lens and environmental justice lens. I do understand that environmental justice component of that,” Wynne said.
As a previous member of Evanston’s environmental board and former environmental lawyer, Wynne is passionate about working with organizations in Evanston to create a more sustainable city.
“I’ll meet with the groups in our community that come forward, or have ideas or concerns, and work towards passing a goal with City Council,” Wynne said.
ETHS alumna Diane Goldring is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Don Wilson for the 4th Ward alderman position to pursue more progressive policy in Evanston.
“I feel like Evanston can do a much better job these days living up to what it professes as progressive values,” Goldring said. “Now, equity, climate change and affordable housing and all the big issues that we can lead on. We haven’t been leading lately, and [it’s] time for a change.”
Goldring’s involvement in the Evanston community includes working for Step Up for Youth, which fundraises for Evanston foundations; the educational advocacy board Evanston CASE; volunteering for Jennifer’s Edibles; Joining Forces for Affordable Housing and Connections for the Homeless. While delivering food through Jennifer’s Edibles, Goldring noted differences in funding for different facilities in the same town.
“It’s like two different worlds, and they’re right across the street from each other,” Goldring said. “So, I decided that, really, while I’ve done good work in volunteering and organizing and donating, the only lasting way to make lasting change is through policy.”
“This is the way things have always been done… if there’s not a whole lot of turnover [in City Council positions], it’s just going to be very similar,” Goldring said.
Goldring names the most immediate issue that Evanston faces is COVID-19 and its impact on employment, food insecurity and housing security for Evanston residents. Another issue she would address is making sure lifetime residents can afford to stay here as living costs have steadily risen in Evanston.
“Making sure we have been able to help people who [are] poor and middle class and in just a wide range of economic circumstances afford to live here and stay here and thrive here,” Goldring said. “You can have market forces working against us, though, and it’s going to take government intervention to get that done.”
Goldring also intends to listen to and work with the youth activists in Evanston while making City Council decisions.
“When we learn as old people, we learn a lot from young people,” Goldring said. “We tend to think we’re the ones who have life experience… but you have to have an open mind, especially when it comes to climate. You guys are the ones who are going to inherit this earth and we managed to screw it up for you.”
Jonathan Nieuwsma is one of two candidates challenging incumbent Don Wilson for 4th Ward alderman in the upcoming election.
“I’ve been up in front of the City Council dozens of times over the last decade as an advocate… pushing climate action, energy efficiency, renewable energy, environmental justice,” Nieuwsma said.
Nieuwsma is focusing his campaign on four priorities: equity, environmental sustainability, engagement and economic development.
“I want to be a responsive and engaged alderman and make sure that the government and the decision-makers of the city are truly representing the needs of the community,” Nieuwsma said. “And to continue the work that I have been doing over the last decade.”
As part of his devotion to sustainability, Nieuwsma wants to actively work towards the goals listed in Climate Action Resilience Plan (CARP) passed by the Council in late 2018.
“I want to make sure that CARP implementation is an official City Council goal. [This means] forc[ing] every decision at every level to be examined through a CARP lens, which includes CARP’s commitment to equity and environmental justice,” Nieuwsma said.
For equity, Nieuwsma wants to continue progress with reparations and focus on affordable housing.
“As a City Council member, I would be committed to taking the recommendations of the reparation subcommittee and making sure that their recommendations are institutionalized within the city government and city structure,” Nieuwsma said.
He emphasizes the importance of community engagement for making effective decisions for the city.
“I’m committed to being accessible and available to the community with regular ward meetings,” Nieuwsma said. “Making sure that folks that are impacted by decisions are the ones who are invited to the table to discuss them.”
With regards to economic goals, Nieuswma talks about promoting local businesses to Evanstonians and people outside of Evanston.
“Whatever we can do as a city to promote local businesses, small businesses and certainly to promote women and minority-owned businesses [should be done],” Nieuwsma said. “I would like to promote Evanston as a destination for arts and entertainment.”
Overall, Nieuwsma hopes he can bring more responsiveness, transparency and greater commitment to social justice and climate action to the Evanston community.
Incumbent Don Wilson is running for what he intends to be his fourth and final term as 4th Ward alderman. Besides his three terms as alderman, Wilson has been involved in the Evanston community through the Zoning Board of Appeals, Animal Welfare Society board, open art studio projects and coaching youth sports.
“Participating in those different things started to give me more of a view and a picture of where I felt there were deficiencies in our governance,” Wilson said. “So, that’s really what motivated me to run.”
In the last 12 years, Wilson lists one of his political accomplishments as focusing on developing affordable housing in the 4th Ward, including working on the amended Inclusionary Housing Act, which passed in late 2018.
“I’m proud of the fact that we’ve created some [affordable housing units]… and brought in more money,” Wilson said. “But, I also think it’s important as a community to continue with that. It’s an ongoing conversation.”
Wilson has also worked on an assault weapon ban ordinance, a sanctuary city ordinance that entailed suing Former United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions for attempting to limit federal funding for sanctuary cities and the Robert Crown Community Center project.
“Not only did we just build an amazing community center, but we had a model that raised a significant portion of the money, roughly 20 percent, from private sources, so that really limits the impact on taxpayers,” Wilson said.
Wilson says he is eager to keep working on and supporting the reparations initiative in Evanston and community safety issues if he wins a fourth term. He lists crossing guards, bike lanes, policing, no stop-and-frisk tolerance and never suspending civil rights as important pillars of community safety to be improved.
“[Evanston police officers] are all people that work very hard… are very open to change and open to evolving and really intent on having what I think should be the best police force in the country,” Wilson said.
One goal Wilson has going forward is to work on civil dialogue in the community. He talks about the discourse over the summer about defunding the police.
“Some people came to my house, and I talked to them on the lawn,” Wilson said. “That was really great for me to hear some of these specific concerns that I wasn’t aware of; it was good to have them fleshed out.”
Patricia Connolly and Sari Kadison-Shapiro are also in the 4th Ward alderman race as write-in candidates.
Bobby Burns grew up in the 7th Ward but says he fell in love with and found belonging in the 5th Ward through the friends he had there as a child.
“I feel like I owe a lot to the ward,” Burns said. “I’ve been working in the 5th Ward and in Evanston for the last 10 years… and I feel like I need to join in with everybody else living here to try to try to address some of the stubborn issues here.”
Burns says he wants to build on the work of past aldermen in the realms of business, public services and housing.
“Equitable delivery of public services is really important to me,” Burns said, citing a recent study by The Daily Northwestern that found only 2 percent of Evanston’s lead testing sites are located in the 5th Ward. “This ward was very self-sufficient… and there were many businesses that lined the business corridors. For a lot of reasons, a lot to do with discrimination… and restrictive zoning policies, the ward has faced a lot, and I want to do what I can to try to bring back the business districts.”
Burns, a former board member of fair housing organization Open Communities and a founding board member of Evanston Development Cooperative, is concerned with housing instability, an issue he thinks was exacerbated by the pandemic.
“We need to make sure we’re enforcing the existing property standards code and that… landlords understand… that we’re assisting them and… listening to our landlords about whether or not the existing programs are what they need,” Burns said. “If there’s a way to prioritize people that were formerly providing housing for people before COVID-19 for vaccinations, I would love to. Because we need to see them as just as much a part of our affordable housing strategy… I [also] think we need to prioritize… people who are at risk of being evicted… for [Evanston’s] new rental assistance program that will pay up to six months rent for households that are 80 percent or below that area’s median income.”
Burns also looks to his history of activism and volunteering, such as organizing the youth We Want to Live March at 24 and more recently being a member of a 5th Ward panel on institutional racism in 2018, founding the Informed Village to bring information to 5th ward businesses and residents in 2020 and serving as a deputy city clerk as evidence of his readiness to be an alderman.
Burns is endorsed by former 5th Ward alderman Dolores Holmes, Evanston racial equity advocacy group Opal, activist group Evanston Fight for Black Lives and the Evanston firefighters union.
Carolyn Murray is confident that she is the best candidate for 5th Ward alderwoman.
“I believe that I am the right representative to advocate [for] and initiate those things that can bring Evanston together.”
Murray was born and raised in Evanston and attended ETHS, after which she served in the Navy overseas. When she returned to Evanston, Murray was disappointed with the lack of activities and facilities Evanston offered for her children.
“After coming back to Evanston, I remembered… we always had after-school activities,” Murray said. “I had my kids and… we went to all of the recreation centers in Evanston, and they were closed. So, I went to one of the City Council meetings and complained that there was nothing for the kids to do, and that was the beginning of my advocacy and politics.”
After that initial meeting, Murray joined a group that raised funds for the Evanston Youth and Young Adult Division. Since then, Murray has been a vocal gun control advocate, especially following her son’s death by gun violence in 2012. While gun control remains important to Murray, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped her priority issues for her candidacy.
“Our response to COVID is… a priority right now. We have to get adequate resources to lower-income families that are hurting because of this. We have to get resources available to the small business owners that are in my ward that are being affected by this exacerbating time of COVID-19.”
In a recent Zoom meeting with the Democratic Party of Evanston, Murray was assaulted with racist rhetoric and threats on her life. That, she says, made racial justice even more of a priority for her.
“[There is] a real race issue in this city that was built and founded on our attraction for being a diverse place for people to be welcomed,” Murray said. “We have to get this policing issue and the issue of everyone feeling safe and protected… under control… As it relates to community policing that we don’t see anymore, we have to start holding professionals accountable.”
Murray also looks to her history advocating for youth to inform her current platform. Murray aims to pressure the city to tax Northwestern to provide funds for youth-focused research centers and recreation centers where children from the 5th Ward and Evanston as a whole can go and not feel policed.
Murray hopes to listen to the needs of 5th Ward residents and businesses as alderwoman, bringing much-deserved help to a ward that she views as long having been neglected.
“I believe in the Evanston that I grew up in… We shouldn’t be separated by address. We collectively care about our community, but we just have to make sure that we elect officials that feel the same way. I feel that I am that person.”
Rebeca Mendoza immigrated from Mexico to Evanston when she was five years old. She has lived in Evanston for over 30 years, during which time she founded Evanston Latinos and worked in humanitarian grant management for Rotary International. Mendoza thinks she is uniquely qualified to lead the 5th Ward through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think… my work in humanitarian grants… for the last six years gives me an upper hand, as well as having worked for the last 10 [months] as part of the COVID-19 response team with the nonprofit leadership group and the Mayor’s Task Force,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza views the pandemic as having made clear the issues already facing Evanston and thinks a comprehensive response to COVID-19 will help her ward in the long term.
“[As for] health disparities and economic community recovery, COVID-19 has hit… Black and brown communities in very different ways, [such as] loss of income. We’ve been the hardest hit by the actual virus in terms of positivity rate,” Mendoza said. “So, in order to respond to that, there needs to be a very targeted approach to those communities.”
Mendoza also hopes to restore community trust in ward leadership, something she thinks has been missing in recent years.
“[For] the last four, maybe eight years, there’s been a lot of drama in City Council. I think that that has caused… distrust of city government. Reestablish[ing] trust and communication are going to require the City Council to do a better job of listening to us. I think it’s needed that [the] council carry out… a very targeted community needs assessment to see what the needs are as we work to recover this pandemic.”
With trust reestablished in city government, Mendoza hopes to be able to implement other areas of her platform, such as addressing housing issues.
“We’re always talking about this diversity that we love and cherish, [so] we need to be actively working to help those families stay here. So that’s going to require addressing issues of affordable housing and being more creative. An example is the affordable housing fund that they’ve never had a full plan for,” Mendoza said. “Housing is a priority. Helping people who’ve fallen back on rent and, as a result, has caused homeowners to fall behind on mortgages. There has to be a solution. I’m not saying that I know what the solution is, [but] we have a lot of intelligent people that work for us at the city… and I think [we should be] looking to see what models across the country are working.”
“I would love to serve and be able to use some of the skills that Evanston so kindly gave me,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza was removed from the ballot by a judge on account of a technical error while submitting her petition sheets and is running as a write-in candidate.
Tina Foster did not reply to The Evanstonian’s request for an interview, nor does she have a campaign website or social media accounts. Foster currently works as a Program Assistant at Northwestern’s Farley Center.
Four years ago, Tom Suffredin was inspired to run for alderman of the 6th Ward because of a block party permit.
“My wife and I both grew up here, and our block party permit got rejected. And it started this whole series of events that culminated in my running for alderman,” said Suffredin.
Having grown up in Evanston, Suffredin is familiar with the city and the issues it faces. One thing, in particular, he’s concerned about is the cost of living.
“I think having a financially sound city benefits everybody,” said Suffredin. “That’s a big issue, because when we’re irresponsible with our spending, that has long-term effects.”
Not only does he want to keep Evanston affordable for residents, but Suffredin wants to make the city a place that people who grew up in want to return to.
Suffredin commented, “I think a big metric is always how many people grew up here, lived somewhere else, but move back here… So, how do we continue to encourage that?”
While serving on the City Council, Suffredin also works as a lawyer. He had never run for office before running for City Council, and there are many things he looks forward to working on should he be reelected, especially things that have been started but not finished in the past four years.
“Downtown [Evanston] was already in a period of transformation, prior to COVID-19. Now that’s been accelerated, and it’s an opportunity to redefine what our downtown is and will be,” Suffredin said.
While rebuilding after the pandemic will bring new opportunities, Suffredin also predicts financial hardship for the City of Evanston.
“I think our biggest obstacle on the revenue side is going to be to recover from the pandemic,” he said. “We are very reliant on parking revenue, sales tax, liquor tax and a lot of things that we did not get this year because people just weren’t engaging in the activities that generate that revenue.”
According to Suffredin, there will be a few ways to deal with this, such as setting realistic expectations for revenues and adjusting spending accordingly. But there are also things that will need to be avoided when the economy is recovering.
“Property tax increases are one of the biggest things that we need to avoid because our property tax burdens are already so significant relative to the communities around us.”
A resident of the 6th Ward for over 30 years, Katie Trippi is a third-generation Evanstonian who, if elected, will be a second-generation City Council member.
“My stepdad was a council member in the 1970s. His name was James B. Moran, and he is actually who the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy is named after,” Trippi said.
Trippi currently works for the McGaw YMCA and has been very active in the not-for-profit sector of Evanston, serving on the board of directors for organizations including Youth Opportunity United, the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston and the Evanston Women’s Club.
Before working for the YMCA, Trippi was a political consultant and organizer.
“On the national level, I’ve worked on a number of presidential campaigns and U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns,” said Trippi.
What inspired her to run for alderwoman of the 6th Ward was that the current alderman, Tom Suffredin, was the only City Council member to vote against reparations.
“I very much disagree with that vote. I think the reparations work that’s being done by the City of Evanston is groundbreaking and fantastic, and I support it wholeheartedly,” said Trippi. “So, I said, this is the time, I need to step up and represent my ward.”
Should she be elected, Trippi has a few plans for things she’d like to accomplish, including helping restaurants and small businesses recover from the pandemic and sustaining affordable housing and living in Evanston.
“I think it’s an amazing moment in time to be able to be a leader at the local level, because I really think that that’s where people can make a difference,” said Trippi.
Having been very active within the community herself, Trippi is particularly encouraged by the youth activism she has seen recently.
“There’s just evidence all over, especially in Evanston, that our youth, our kids, our young people are striving to point us all in the right direction,” said Trippi. “It’s time that they take the lead, and I’m ready to follow them and support them in any way that I can.”
While there is lots of hardship right now, Trippi sees hope for the future.
“[Now there’s] such a great opportunity to rebuild our economy, our social structures, all with that lens of equity,” said Trippi. “That is so important, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to tear down some of the systemic racism that is built into our original economy and social structures.”
7th ward alderwoman Eleanor Revelle is currently looking towards a second term on City Council.
Revelle, who has been an Evanston resident for 42 years and a 7th Ward resident for 12, has focused her first term on increasing Evanstonians’ understanding of the climate crisis. Should Revelle be re-elected, she plans to focus on similar issues along with building a stronger community between wards.
“Climate change has been part of my personal life,” Revelle explained. “My husband and I built the house we live in. It’s energy-efficient, [and] it runs on solar energy. So, I really try to put what I believe into practice.”
Additionally, Revelle’s history as both an Evanston resident and a civic leader allows her to weigh what is truly in the best interest of the Evanston community. Prior to Revelle’s alderwoman position, she was involved in many non-profit organizations and civic leadership roles in Evanston. Revelle has served as president of the League of Women Voters of Evanston, was a founding board member and president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston and was a member of the Housing Options Advisory Council for over 20 years. All of these experiences have informed Revelle’s policies.
“I am in close communication with Citizens’ Greener Evanston, which works on multiple aspects of sustainability [and] climate change,” Revelle said.
Revelle was also involved in the passing of the Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) that City Council passed in 2018. If re-elected, Revelle hopes to continue to push Evanston to the 2050 goal outlined in CARP—a totally carbon-neutral, zero-waste community.
If re-elected, Revelle also hopes to incorporate youth perspectives and engagement in her platform more than the Evanston City Council currently does, citing the importance of empowering youth to take on leadership roles and engage in the politics of their communities.
“I know that youth are very concerned about the climate crisis. I think it would be great if students would like to participate in CARP coordination meetings,” Revelle said.
Revelle comes to this role with a lot of experience, unique love for Evanston and a clear vision for the city both in the near future and further down the line.
“[CARP] goes up to 2050,” Revelle said. “There are short-term actions we need to be taking to achieve those goals to get to a greener Evanston.”
Mary Rosinski, an Evanston resident for over 30 years, recently announced her bid for 7th Ward alderwoman. For the duration of Rosinski’s residency in Evanston, she has used her knowledge as a real estate agent and involvement in local organizations to advocate for fiscal responsibility, proper maintenance of Evanston’s historical sites and an increase in affordable housing; all of these sentiments capture the platform of Rosinski’s campaign.
“I’m running on fiscal accountability mainly because we got ourselves into Robert Crown, and that is the biggest financial fiasco Evanston’s gotten themselves into,” Rosinski explained. “Being in real estate, I’m getting red flags.”
For some Evanstonians, the expensive renovation of the Robert Crown Community Center in southwest Evanston caused concern. While the renovation was initially branded as a 30 million dollar project in 2015, the cost eventually jumped to just over 50 million dollars, leaving some Evanston residents angry. Additionally, Rosinski felt that information about the Robert Crown renovation was not easily accessible to Evanston residents, despite their tax money going towards the project.
That said, not only is Evanston’s fiscal accountability a concern for Rosinski, but she hopes to fix a lack of communication between the City Council and Evanston residents. Having felt unheard by the city for many years, Rosinski comes to the table wanting to prioritize her constituents’ opinions.
“I’d like to be able to live here and field it to people [and know] that City Hall is working in the best interest of the residents. But we don’t seem to be looking at the residents,” Rosinski said. “[If elected] I would love [for it] to be recognized that we are such a dynamic community.”
Another key aspect of Rosinski’s campaign is maintaining public outdoor spaces, such as the lakefront and historical sites and ensuring that such areas don’t become privatized by the city or Northwestern.
“People come to Evanston because they perceive us as being progressive. If we want those buyers coming in, you’re going to have to have some things for kids. That’s recreation, parks [and] good schools. We can’t be selling our art centers and recreation centers,” Rosinski said.
If elected, Rosinski hopes to connect not only with the homeowners and taxpayers in Evanston but with the youth and rising grassroots organizations.
“I would love it,” Rosinski said, referring to youth engagement in Evanston’s City Council. “I would be up for a Northwestern kid, and I would be up for an ETHS kid to have a presence on the Council. I think that would be important [and] I think that needs to be legitimized.”
In this year’s municipal election, Matthew Mitchell is running for alderman of the 8th Ward. Mitchell, born and raised in Evanston, hopes to win against incumbent Ann Rainey and current City Clerk Devon Reid.
“I’m a lifelong progressive Democrat, proud to be from Evanston, proud of [the] progressive community values of Evanston; I’ve always closely followed Evanston politics,” Mitchell said.
As former chair of Evanston’s Civilian Police Complaint Assessment Committee, attorney of ten years and trained facilitative mediator, Mitchell trusts he can take on the issues in Evanston that he believes are most important, including policing and sustainability.
“I would like to see more civilian involvement in police policy,” Mitchell said. “I would like to see more concrete plans for the Climate Action Resilience Plan (CARP) plan moving forward.”
CARP is designed to fight and prepare for climate change. While the plan has a group of individuals already working to carry out previously approved plans, Mitchell would like to see more policies implemented.
“The next 20 years… we get into the real concrete nuts and bolts of the CARP plan, which is going to take dedication and planning. I would like to see Evanston be fiscally responsible and stable. I would like to see Evanston move towards producing its own electricity.”
Mitchell also wants to help Evanston create a more equal, balanced relationship between Evanston and Northwestern. Using his background as an attorney, he thinks he can use pre-existing laws to take action.
“I think Northwestern takes advantage of Evanston, and it doesn’t contribute its fair share. I think Evanston has a number of tools under the Home Rule law in the State of Illinois that can be used to either derive some funding from Northwestern and/or bring Northwestern to the table to reevaluate a relationship,” Mitchell said.
Currently, Mitchell has ETHS student Anna Levy working on his campaign. He has had conversations with Evanston Fight for Black Lives, believes that young people should be able to express their perspectives on issues and has an open-door policy.
“I think Evanston has the potential to be a national leader in a lot of categories,” Mitchell said. “I would love to be part of that leadership team to make that happen.”
Ann Rainey is once again running for Alderwoman of the 8th Ward. She is currently the longest-serving alderwoman in Evanston history, first coming into the position in 1983 and holding it for all but four years since.
In recent years, she has faced some disagreements, including with activist organization Evanston Fight for Black Lives (EFBL) regarding policing, but has been most noted for her comments regarding opponent Devon Reid who, in a Feb. 2 forum, she called a “scary Black man,” that “every time he speaks, he has to remind us that his parents were in jail…. Enough, already,” and that “He needs to straighten out…. Maybe he just needs to grow up, I’m not sure.” In light of these events, all three mayoral candidates issued statements denouncing Rainey’s actions, and Rainey has been strongly condemned by EFBL.
In an interview with the Democratic Party of Evanston, Rainey said, “I’ve had conversations with [EFBL] having to do with too much policing. And because of that… we’ve taken a look at where that happened and… I’ve not found that to be the case, but at least it was of concern enough that I looked into it.”
One thing Rainey has been in continuous support of is the Climate Action Resilience Plan (CARP), in particular, she believes in inoculating trees and maintaining our current trees.
“Every time it comes up to inoculate the elms, we have a fight because it’s so expensive and new aldermen or aldermen who are tired of spending money on trees think ‘Well, maybe we should put this off.’ No! We shouldn’t put it off, we should maintain these big, huge, beautiful trees we have and inoculate them. The inoculations work… they saved 1000s of trees,” Rainey commented in the same interview.
When Rainey began her first term in 1983 her main focus was on creating more decent housing, a goal she believes she achieved. As she moves on to new goals, she hopes to use her experience to continue representing the 8th Ward.
Rainey continued, “I think I’ve done a really excellent job. I’ve provided excellent service… I feel such a privilege of having served the 8th Ward. It’s a great ward. It’s extremely diverse, it has all sorts of various kinds of housing and people, and it’s come a long way… I just want to continue to serve.”
* The Evanstonian reached out to Ann Rainey for comment and received no response.
Current City Clerk Devon Reid is running for 8th Ward alderman. In the last election, he defeated a two-term incumbent in the fight for City Clerk at the age of 24 and looks to do it again running against Ann Rainey.
Reid’s time as City Clerk hasn’t gone without its controversies, namely his ongoing dispute with the City Council over the release of police misconduct records. However, he has managed to achieve some of his main missions, reaching out to the community, allowing Evanstonians to learn more about government and involving citizens in decision-making within the community.
“Over my tenure, more folks are participating in our democracy; they’re deploying records, and they’re showing up at the council meetings,” Reid said in an interview with Evanston Live TV.
Reid has also digitized many government documents. He believes that citizens of Evanston can become more involved in crafting public policy by the release of public information.
“We can… make Evanston the most livable city in America that we strive to be,” Reid said in the same interview. “We focused on digitizing records. We’ve digitized all of the ordinances going back to the 1950s in a text-searchable database.”
Reid wants to use the position as alderman to make Evanston a more equitable place. He has personal experience with being homeless and in the foster care system. He wants people to see someone who went through a struggle and survived.
Reid added, “We are representing the issues of folks [in Evanston] who are least proximate to power… This campaign is about building an Evanston that is made for everyone. That means single mothers of two children. That means Latinx entrepreneurs. That means young folks who are striving to close the achievement gap and homeowners and renters who are struggling to make ends meet.”
* The Evanstonian reached out to Devon Reid for comment and received no response.
Shelley Carrillo and Joshua Hall are also in the 8th Ward alderman race as write-in candidates.
With her first term as alderwoman for the 9th Ward completed, Cicely Fleming is running for re-election in the upcoming election. Throughout her political career, both on the City Council and as a member of outside organizations, Fleming has worked to promote social justice and improve education.
“I’ve committed to serving one more term because I do have hope that Evanston can transform itself into a better city,” Fleming said. “There are lots of racial tensions which I think are probably new for our white community. In that space, I would like us to get past this empathetic ‘Oh, I feel really bad that this is happening,’ or ‘I’m just learning this is happening,’ and move to a more proactive ‘This is happening; how are we going to change it?’”
As an alderwoman, Fleming has been part of various committees. Her commitments have included chairing the Alternative Emergency Police Response Committee, which has begun trying to address the problems of police violence in our community.
“We’re trying to make a new response model for 911 calls or crisis calls that don’t need an armed police officer. As we’re seeing nationally, mental and behavioral health problems and substance abuse are on the rise, and we know they’ve risen more during the pandemic, and those folks don’t necessarily need a police officer to respond to them; they need a trained mental health or behavioral health professional.”
Another concern for Fleming is the engagement of Evanston youth, especially in the field of education.
“I don’t think we do our best to be holistically supporting our young people,” Fleming said.
Even before she was on City Council, this concern led her to co-found the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership (OPAL). Since 2014, OPAL has focused on decreasing of racial inequality and educating Evanston voters.
“We started as a group of citizens who were frustrated by the achievement gap between Black students and white students,” Fleming said. “We wanted to make some structural changes to the student experience.”
OPAL has also worked to inform Evanston voters about different aspects of our educational system, such as the actions of the school board and different candidates’ stances on education.
Another goal for Fleming is to get more students involved in local politics.
“We don’t really make space for young people in politics, and if we do, it’s often just patronizing,” Fleming said. “I think working with young people, helping them explore [politics] if they’re interested in a political career is really important.”
While many Evanston residents are not aware of the commitments of a city clerk, that is not for lack of importance. The city clerk is responsible for records and helping people obtain documents with the Freedom of Information Act. Stephanie Mendoza, who has worked for political nonprofits helping Evanston and Chicago communities, is the only candidate appearing on the ballot.
“FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, is a right of people to be able to seek information from their government that otherwise is not always published. If we, as community members, want to know how our government is working and how our elected officials are working within our government, it’s a good tool for us to be able to seek information,” Mendoza said.
FOIA documents are only available in English. Mendoza hopes to address this, as it can cause immigrant communities to become even more marginalized.
“My goal is to provide interpretation and translation services for a lot of the documents that we have within the clerk’s office… English is my second language, and I understand the struggle of not only myself trying to interact as a child with organizations that don’t have Spanish speakers but also as the daughter of immigrants.”
Mendoza also has a history of empowering disenfranchised communities through political nonprofits.
“I’ve worked as a political organizer, campaign manager and field director for the past six years… My job has always been to go into communities and provide access to elections and access to information about candidates, which is why this position is near and dear to my heart.”
In addition, Mendoza is passionate about empowering the immigrant community in Evanston, regardless of if those people can cast a ballot.
“People can always show up at City Council meetings and voice their opinions; they can always talk to their elected officials, even if they don’t necessarily have the ability to vote.”
Looking towards Mendoza’s potential term, she hopes to serve as a voice for all Evanstonians.
“My goal is to be a good city clerk. And if not, my goal is for people to hold me accountable and tell me where I can improve.”
To read more about Mendoza and her policies, visit https://mendozaforclerk.com/.
Cynthia Beebe, Eduardo Gomez, Adedapo Odusanya, Jackson Paller, Darrell Patterson and Misty Witenberg are also in the City Clerk race as write-in candidates.