There is a nice, upbeat ring to “the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.” This might be because Mayor Morton has advocated for the past several years to preserve the building rather than tear it down and relocate City headquarters elsewhere. Or it might be because she served longer than any other mayor. Or it might be because Lorraine Morton herself is so emblematic of civic leadership that the entire name of the building just trips off the tongue.
Beginning as a teacher in School District 65, Ms. Morton worked for the District for 35 years, retiring in 1989 as principal of Haven Middle School. While still at Haven, she served as Fifth Ward alderman – through 1991 – and she became mayor in 1993.
Graciousness has been the hallmark of Ms. Morton’s public service. At home in Evanston, her door and her heart were always open for the children and any others who wished to visit, express concern or give voice to an idea that might improve the community. Away, she was our greatest ambassador – making everyone feel that there was no better place to live than Evanston.
We wish Mayor Morton well in her well-deserved retirement, but we expect to see her smiling face and cheery demeanor around town for many more years.
As long as we are ringing in the new, we thought we might as well greet our new – as yet unhired and unknown – City Manager. Chances are, you are already on a short list prepared by the retiring City Council and to be reviewed by the new City Council. We have some ideas about the challenges you will face, and we wonder if, in spite of whatever you have heard, you are still curious about us.
About you first: You will have to shepherd the City through a major and prolonged financial crisis.
You will have to help Evanston strengthen its middle class. Like much of the rest of the country, Evanston is becoming a place of disparate wealth, on the verge of squeezing out struggling homeowners, artists, teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public servants. We need to bolster our infrastructure – not merely the physical part, but the social and cultural aspects as well.
We look to you to help the community attract and retain businesses, foster the arts, keep our social safety nets flourishing, direct our efforts toward sustainability and make us safe in our neighborhoods, schools and homes.
We want you to love our community, our quirkiness, our activism, our trees and parks, our lakefront, our lighthouse, Mount Trashmore and the canal. We want you to make our community vibrant – a combination of small-town sweetness, hometown familiarity and urban sophistication.
But enough about you. Have we told you about us?