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February 17, 2021
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.