The RoundTablerecently 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?
Elizabeth Tisdahl has lived in Evanston for 37 years. For the past six years she has served as alderman of the Seventh Ward. Earlier, she spent 12 years on the Evanston Township High School (District 202) Board of Education – two years as president and three years as chair of Education Research and Development (ED-RED) a lobby group that represents Northern Illinois public schools in Springfield.
“One of the roles of the mayor,” says Ms. Tisdahl, “is to promote the City, including the schools of which I am very proud.” She says she would like to work very closely with state legislators and our federal representatives. She would also try to ensure that “everyone gets along, that all personalities are heard and don’t clash.”
Ms. Tisdahl says she is running for mayor because “this is a very difficult time for the City and the country. The national economy is of course impacting Evanston, and these are very troubling times.”
The mayor needs to identify problems and offer solutions, Ms. Tisdahl says, citing the City’s pension problems as an example. She noticed the problem, she says, and she helped convince everyone that something needed to be done.
When Morton Schapiro, the new president of Northwestern University, arrives, Ms. Tisdahl said she would “throw a huge welcome party, and I know how to throw a party. Then I would like to start the conversation anew.” Northwestern does not make any payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), and other universities do, she says: MIT and Harvard make PILOT payments, she says, and they have an agreement that if they buy a building and take it off the tax roles, they will pay taxes in perpetuity. She says she wants to encourage Northwestern to enter into a similar arrangement with Evanston.
As for Evanston’s budget woes, “We can cut, we have cut and we will cut more, but we can’t cut a whole lot more positions,” Ms. Tisdahl says. “Over the past three years, we’ve cut 43 positions. We’re to the point that, if we make any more cuts, we will be cutting entire programs and eliminating some services,” she adds.
Ms. Tisdahl says she hopes to find additional budget relief from Northwestern and by attempting to renegotiate the City’s 20-year-old contract to provide water to Skokie and others. Also, she says she believes her relationship with county, state and national elected officials will help direct both federal and state infrastructure money to Evanston.
“I do think there is a chance that if we ask for it and we make a good enough case, we can get some of the infrastructure money. … [There are] no guarantees, but we will get more if we make a good case for it than we will if we don’t,” she says.
Ms. Tisdahl adds, “I don’t like taking money out of reserves and I don’t want to do it, but the reserves were set up for times like this. … The reason I don’t want to do it is that I think next year will be equally bad.”
Ms. Tisdahl says she believes she should be mayor because “I’ve lived in this community, I’ve worked in this community, I have a long record of getting people to work together collaboratively, such as working with Evanston Hospital to create the school-based health center at ETHS.” More such collaborations are needed. she says, and she has a record of finding such collaborations.
“If you are open to ideas, there are things that we can do even in the face of this recession to make Evanston a better community,” Ms. Tisdahl says.
Ms. Tisdahl now works part time and serves as an alderman. “The job of alderman is very time consuming, so I don’t think that [being mayor] would be that much different.”
Ms. Tisdahl’s favorite spot, she says, is Lighthouse Beach, because she loves the lake, she loves swimming and the lighthouse is symbolic of the community.
“It’s a beautiful spot, a beautiful setting and Noah’s playground itself being completely accessible for everyone is to me so symbolic of Evanston, and that makes it my favorite spot,” she says.
She also notes that gardens are beautiful; the Garden Club has done a wonderful job.