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The RoundTable recently interviewed the four candidates for mayor, asking them each the same questions: How long have you lived in Evanston? What is your experience in City government? How do you envision the role of mayor? Why are you running for mayor? Why should you win? How would you address the City’s financial crunch? How would you deal with Northwestern University? What is your favorite part of Evanston?
Barnaby Dinges has lived in Evanston “for 12 years, in three houses.”
Though he has never been an elected official, he says, “I worked four years with Dawn Clark Netsch in Chicago as her press secretary. Later, as a policy advocate, I worked directly with municipalities and county governments as a policy advocate.”
Mr. Dinges says the role of mayor is “to champion economic development, as I believe the City needs to grow itself out of its economic problems; to run City Council meetings, which right now are too long, do not start on time, and do not follow Roberts Rules of Order.”
Mr. Dinges says he is running for mayor because he wants to change the way things are done in Evanston government. “I have the skill-set and experience to address the issues that face the City,” he says.
He says he believes he should win because “the number-one issue is the budget and taxes. I have a background in city finance and communications. I want to help citizens understand at least what they’re getting for their $90 million. I look at what the City needs and my skill set, and I think, I’m the guy for right now. Will I be the guy four years from now? I don’t know. But I think I’m the right guy for right now, and I really just look at this as a four-year commitment.”
Mr. Dinges says he believes the City can “grow our way out of our economic problems, by increasing the number of businesses here and creating a more welcoming retail environment. Sales taxes are 20 percent of City revenue, and yet we’re the City with the parking Gestapo and we’re chasing people out of downtown.
“I’d rather be the City that invites people into town to spend their evening and derive that sales tax revenue.”
Mr. Dinges would like for the City to stop paying consultants, which he says would garner $1 million in savings.
“The City spents $17 million on finance, administration, human resources, and legal. I can’t imagine there’s not at least $1 million in savings there. Next, the City payroll … I can’t endorse a pay increase of more than 1 or 2 percent in this environment.”
His favorite spot in Evanston is Central Street Beach, where the lighthouse is. “I am so caught up with the lake, and the beauty. That’s the one place where I just sort of stop and say, ‘I feel like I’m on vacation.’ I’m a mile from my home and I feel like I’m on vacation.”
Since the position of mayor is a part-time job, Mr. Dinges says he feels he can balance his career with public office. He says he believes he could still have one or two clients in his issue-advocacy business. His work with windfarms is perfect, he feels, because his clients are outside of the city in outlying counties.
Mr. Dinges calls for a summit on collaboration with Northwestern University. Some candidates have demanded cold hard cash, he said, and he sees this as a failing strategy that gets you nowhere. He thinks there would be a “great opportunity” to help build this new relationship “because, first of all, I have a degree from Northwestern (in journalism). My wife has an MBA from Northwestern.” He also says he wants to work with Kellogg School of Management and the Evanston Chamber to build the number of businesses here. “I want Evanston to be like Ann Arbor, Mich. or Palo Alto, Cal. I’m in the business of creating win-wins, because they do exist.”
He also says he feels that ideas discussed and discarded are better than ideas never discussed. He blogs constantly, and he encourages voters to do a Google search and see his ideas.