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Delores Holmes, alderman of the City’s Fifth Ward, is seeking re-election; Carlis Sutton is conducting a write-in campaign for that position. The RoundTable asked both candidates to describe the major issues for the City and for the Fifth Ward, to comment on whether the Neighborhood Stabilization (NSP2) project, which includes single-family rehabs and the new Emerson Square development, helped or harmed the Ward and to discuss how they would work to reduce crime in the neighborhood and encourage residents to come forward and help in that effort.
Responses From Carlis Sutton
A third-generation Evanstonian, Peace Corps volunteer (Liberia) and former teacher, Mr. Sutton says he is running “so the people can speak – to see if the [current] representative is representing the community well.” He holds both a master’s degree in curriculum development and a law degree.
Mr. Sutton says he believes black people in Evanston are being squeezed out by the high cost of living and the lack of employment opportunities. “We’re fighting a losing battle, trying to stay in Evanston,” he says.
“My issues are gentrification, employment and youth violence,” Mr. Sutton said. While, he says, 80 to 90 percent of Evanston’s low-income housing is in the Fifth Ward, he also sees gentrification as a problem that has caused many black families to leave Evanston.
The NSP2 project, he says, rather than helping the neighborhood, is squeezing other landlords because there are not enough tenants for all the new housing. “We don’t need any more housing. … Landlords have to compete with Brinshore [the developer of Emerson Square] and the City of Evanston,” he says.
Mr. Sutton says he believes the City gives too much to developers without providing comparable benefits to the residents. “We need to take a second look at our tax base and see who benefits. … We ought to look at TIF [tax-increment financing] districts and see how the appropriations are made.”
The Fifth Ward has the City’s highest unemployment rate and the highest violence rate, Mr. Sutton says. He adds, though, “The Police Department and the politicians can’t solve the current crime problem. It’s a community problem – the failure of a moral commitment and a community commitment. … The sense of community is gone. Never in my life would I have thought I would be afraid to walk in my community. … Violence between black youth is totally out of control.”
Getting the community involved in stemming the violence will be difficult, he says, because many do not trust the police and many fear retaliation if they go to the police. He says the current problems are “a lot deeper than a family feud – there have always been disputes between families, but it’s gone to a new high.”
Nonetheless, Mr. Sutton does not appear ready to give up. He says he thinks families should be “approached on an individual basis, to see what kinds of support they need.”
Mr. Sutton says, “I don’t know if it’s too late to reconstitute the values [of the community], but we can at least have the dialogue. … I’ve been told I’m Don Quixote but there needs to be a dialogue on the issues that affect our community.”