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home : elections : elections May 29, 2017

1/18/2017 11:54:00 AM
Steve Hagerty, Candidate for Mayor

These are Steve Hagerty’s unedited responses to the RoundTable’s questions submitted to all Mayoral candidates.

Question: Please provide information on your educational background; employment/professional background; volunteer and civic activities; and other attributes that qualify you for the position of Mayor.

I am a graduate of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and founder and CEO of Hagerty Consulting (www.hagertyconsulting.com), a 100+ person public sector management consulting company. I have spent my entire career helping communities address their challenges and learning what works – and what doesn’t work – in municipal government. Over my 24-year professional career, which began at Price Waterhouse, I have helped many communities around the United States prepare for and recover from disasters, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Super Storm Sandy.

My wife, Lisa Altenbernd, and I volunteer our time and invest locally in many Evanston organizations that are working to assist our most vulnerable residents, provide important resources and support to youth and families in need, enhance citizenship and volunteerism in the community, support school children and artists, eliminate racism and empower women, build a stronger business community, and address overarching needs in the community.  These organizations include YOU, the Evanston Community Foundation, Leadership Evanston, Youth Job Center, YWCA Evanston North Shore, YMCA, YEA, Connections for the Homeless, D65 Foundation, the MashUp, NU Dance Marathon, NU’s Fellowship Office, and the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, I serve on the Board of First Bank and Trust, the Advisory Board of the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and as a Fellow to the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), an organization established by Congress to assist government leaders in building more effective and transparent organizations. Lisa and I have two children, Caroline and Garrett, who are currently or formerly active in many Evanston institutions including AYSO, YWCA Flying Fish, Evanston Jr. Wildkits Hockey, EBSA, and YMCA’s Camp Echo.   

Question: What would be your top three priorities as Mayor? What would you do to advance your priorities?

As Mayor I will ensure that the City of Evanston continues to deliver services to our residents in an equitable, professional, responsive, respectful, and efficient manner. I will always respond thoughtfully to concerns expressed by residents and will question issues that defy common sense. As Mayor I will seek to lead the community to “own” and make more progress to (1) decrease violence, enhance public safety, and build trust among our community, (2) keep our property taxes stable through smart and sensible economic development that benefits all our neighborhoods. Such economic development will help us fund critical infrastructure and human service needs throughout the community, and (3) keep Evanston affordable and diverse so that long-time residents, including young working class families and seniors, can remain in their homes. To do so, I will work hard to attract businesses that will provide jobs and expand our tax base to all neighborhoods, to implement the inclusionary housing policy, to develop strong housing plans, and appoint members to City Boards that are representative of our community’s diversity.

To advance these priorities, I will elevate the level of conversation around these issues. I will apply my experience as a convener, facilitator, and leader to build coalitions to make progress on these issues. I will aggressively pursue federal grants that help us achieve our local objectives. I will tap into and use the resources, talent, and knowledge that exists in this community to advance our development. I will work closely with our State and Federal officials to advocate for positions that will benefit Evanston and our citizens. In summary, I will help our City successfully envision, plan, execute, and deliver on the daily functions, and periodically manage through unexpected crises.

Question: What role, if any, do you think the Mayor should play in developing a vision for the City and in promoting or implementing that vision?

I think the Mayor plays an essential role in developing a vision for the City and promoting and implementing that vision. As Mayor, I will work hard with the City Council to make Evanston the most livable City in the US. One that is financially sound and economically vibrant throughout all of town. A City whose school system revenue is considered when making economic development decisions. A City where all parts – government, non-profit, education, the University, and business – are more focused, collaborative, and efficient in addressing infrastructure and human service needs. One that remains a leader in the world in environmental stewardship. One where all its residents feel safe, secure, and hopeful. A City that is diverse and offers opportunity to all its residents. One where all businesses, including minority and woman owned, thrive. A City where the largest landowner (Northwestern) remains a good neighbor, respectful of the City’s tax base, its neighbors, and our residents’ opinions, and where residents are welcoming of all that NU and their students offer to make Evanston the City it is. A City where injustices are called out and rectified, and where we quickly acknowledge our mistakes.

In my opinion, Evanston is a microcosm of the real world. The difference between issues at the State and Federal level is that our challenges seem manageable and our vision achievable because we have the talent, resources, knowledge, and compassion to progress on issues that concern us. If we can solve issues in Evanston, we can serve as a model to other, similar communities around the country.

Question: What should the City do to address youth violence? Is it doing enough, should it do things differently?

I think we all need to “own” this problem. I don’t think it’s fair fof us to say that this is a problem only for those in neighborhoods where this occurs. We are all in this together, and the death or injury of a youth should sadden and remind us all that “If not but for the grace of god go I.” Specifically, I think there are at least four areas where we should be intentionally focused:

I think we need to sustain our holistic – cradle to career (C2C) – approach to supporting our children. We need to reduce the number of kids that find themselves on a school to criminal justice system track. This means we need to focus intently on the human lifecycle starting with pre-natal care through post-secondary success (college, job training, etc.). It means it’s more important than ever that the City, Schools, Non-Profits, and businesses work together to build a support system that ultimately reduces the number of young adults that find themselves without any job prospects. To do so, I will support an environment where this coordination and respect exists. I will attend C2C meetings and D65 and D202 intergovernmental meetings, and nurture relationships with leaders of key organizations throughout Evanston.  

We need to make it clear that guns and violence are not welcome in Evanston. Period. I think we should continue to execute smart policing to get guns off the street, which our police department has done an admirable job. I will work closely with the State’s Attorney’s office to make sure people with illegal guns are prosecuted.

We need to continue to invest in community outreach efforts to pre-empt violence, save lives, and change lives. When feasible, we should consider restorative justice and offer youth a choice between the criminal justice system and alternative paths to help them get on the right track before it’s too late.

We need to continue to make sure our youth have jobs and help them learn at a young age the pride that comes from learning a new skill or trade and earning money. We should never forget the powerful impact summer jobs had on so many of us and how a job can change a life. We should continue to work with large employers like Northwestern and the hospitals to develop skilled trade jobs apprenticeships. We should look for opportunities to further invest in workforce development so that those that are unemployed or underemployed have the skills to obtain and retain a job. I will actively promote and encourage that large, new developments in Evanston use qualified Evanston businesses and residents.

Question: What should the City do to promote economic development? Is it doing enough; should it do things differently?

A strong tax and revenue base is essential to keeping our community affordable and providing good city services. We have a diverse tax base, which is an asset to our City. But we need to build on it so that we can hold the line on taxes while still making investments in our children, infrastructure, and human service needs. Two-thirds of tax revenues go directly to District 202 and 65. We must always remember how interrelated economic development and schools are in Evanston.  Employers and residents come to Evanston because of good schools. What is good for schools is good for the economy, and what is good for the economy is good for schools.

To better promote doing business in Evanston I would consider establishing a Business Roundtable group, like what exists in some larger cities, to serve as ambassadors to help the City attract and retain businesses. There is no better sales person than a company already invested in Evanston. Additionally, when a personal relationship exists among business owners and executives in town it makes it more difficult for an executive to make a decision to leave Evanston.

Question: Name some things the City should do to preserve or create additional affordable housing.

We need a plan to manage our affordable housing fund. There needs to be a conversation about how that money can be used to provide low-interest loans or subsidies to public servants such as teachers and police officers whose incomes are not large yet whose value as residents would pay dividends. We also need to use our affordable housing fund to assist people who have lived in this community for decades but who are being forced out due to increases in property taxes. There is a direct relationship between increasing property taxes and decreasing socioeconomic diversity. We need to be attuned to the implications our taxing decisions have on residents.

Question: Do you support Evanston’s Cradle to Career initiative and partnering with community organizations to increase opportunities for youth? Please explain.

Absolutely. My wife, Lisa, and I have long been focused on spending our time and resources on local programs that we believe over the long term will reduce the opportunity gap that currently exists. We have too many young adults, aged 16-24, that are essentially trapped. They didn’t graduate. They’re experiencing poverty. They lack opportunities. Some turned to crime and must now rebuild a life with a criminal record – a very difficult prospect. Today, the non-profit sector – with its strained resources - is providing critical services that quite frankly were the purview of the public sector in decades past. I think it’s essential that the Mayor work with Cradle to Career, the schools, and other non-profit organizations to address these complex issues. As a business owner and a civic leader, I’ve been deeply involved in these issues. As Mayor, I will prioritize working with our non-profits and schools to create opportunities for our youth.

Question: How should the City promote equity?

Whenever we in city government make a decision, we must think in terms of equity.  We must ask ourselves who will benefit from - and who will be harmed – by a change in policy.  The conversations we have and the decisions we make need to be inclusive of all voices.  We need to strive to raise the voices of traditionally marginalized groups to an equitable level in this community. We need to create spaces for them to be heard and taken seriously. I will do this by attending as many community meetings as possible within these communities, presenting myself as a listening ear rather than a loud voice, and making sure that these opinions are heard and valued throughout city government.

The City has taken steps toward becoming a sustainable City. What will you do as Mayor to promote sustainability in ways that will be affordable for all residents?

During Mayor Tisdahl’s tenure, Evanston became a true national leader in terms of what a community can do to promote sustainability.  As climate-change deniers and polluters gain more influence in Washington due to the change in Administrations, localities like Evanston need to take even more of a leadership role. As I was taught and always believed, we must “transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” To do so, we must continue to move the ball forward on environmental issues. Three core objectives of mine are: 1) promoting citizenry and improving public engagement around issues of sustainability, 2) working with CGE and other community environmental experts to ensure that when we renew our energy contract this summer, we do so by smartly balancing both sustainability and cost, and 3) revising the Climate Action Plan so that, just as we were on track to reduce carbon emissions by 20% in 2016, we will reduce them further on our way to becoming a carbon neutral City.

Question: The City has taken steps toward becoming a sustainable City. What will you do as Mayor to promote sustainability in ways that will be affordable for all residents?

During Mayor Tisdahl’s tenure, Evanston became a true national leader in terms of what a community can do to promote sustainability.  As climate-change deniers and polluters gain more influence in Washington due to the change in Administrations, localities like Evanston need to take even more of a leadership role. As I was taught and always believed, we must “transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.” To do so, we must continue to move the ball forward on environmental issues. Three core objectives of mine are: 1) promoting citizenry and improving public engagement around issues of sustainability, 2) working with CGE and other community environmental experts to ensure that when we renew our energy contract this summer, we do so by smartly balancing both sustainability and cost, and 3) revising the Climate Action Plan so that, just as we were on track to reduce carbon emissions by 20% in 2016, we will reduce them further on our way to becoming a carbon neutral City.

Question: What do you think about privatizing public spaces, such as the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, the Recycling Center, the Library parking lot, and the Harley Clarke Mansion?

I do not like the idea of selling public assets; however, I also do not like the idea of raising property taxes. As stated above, I believe excessively high taxes threaten the ability of long-time residents, including young families and seniors, to live in Evanston. When it comes to our public assets we should evaluate each situation carefully on a case-by-case basis. In doing so, my initial questions will be:

Are these public assets widely used by the community?

Does the cost of these assets outweigh the benefit that we receive?

Is there a better, greater use of this asset that, if sold, would allow the City to achieve an important goal? If so, can we replace or absorb the current function, service, program elsewhere in the City?

Related to the facilities mentioned in the question, I’m supportive of the Recycling Center being sold. I’m supportive of the library parking lot being sold IF we can sufficiently address parking – both during the construction and once the new building is up – and ensure that the building is synergistic with the Woman’s Club and the Francis E. Willard House. As the former Chair of the Harley Clark Advisory Committee, I have opined that the beach and dunes must always be in the public domain but that if we want to save the building and the Jen Jensen gardens the most viable solution, which should still offer a public benefit, is through private investment or a Foundation or Private-non-Profit with the financial means and experience to renovate the mansion. On September 23, 2015, I wrote an opinion piece in the Evanston Roundtable that offered a path forward for the Harley Clarke mansion. http://www.evanstonroundtable.com/main.asp?SectionID=6&SubSectionID=6&ArticleID=10985

Question: How will you interact with State officials, given the stalemate in Springfield and the potential loss of funding for the City?

I respect and value the work of our state legislators including State Representatives Robyn Gabel and Laura Fine and State Senator Daniel Biss. They are smart, dedicated and hard-working; they represent our community and our values well. I want to be an active partner with them in pushing back against the Governor’s policies which have decimated social services that many Evanstonians rely on.  I also want to push back – with a unified voice – against policies which would harm our schools or reduce funding for local governments.  I will be a strong voice in Springfield for Mayors who care about social services and schools.  

I will strongly voice my disagreement with the Governor should he try to offload the State’s financial problems on local governments. Meanwhile, I will work hard to encourage us to leverage, in a smart and sensible way, our own resources and assets. The reality is we cannot be complacent when our State is broke, our State income taxes will increase (thereby decreasing the take home pay of our residents), and our Governor may indeed cut aid to local government and schools. Now, more than ever, we need local leaders who can think outside the box, form mutually beneficial partnerships, and identify efficiencies.







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