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 Delores Holmes
Incumbent Ms. Holmes is seeking her third term as alderman of the Fifth Ward because, she says, she “wants to keep up and continue the work we’re doing.” The goals of the City Council, as stated on the City’s website, cityofevanston.org, are her own goals, she says, but her top three of those for the Fifth Ward and for the City are youth, economic development and community safety.
Crime remains a problem in Evanston and the Fifth Ward, Ald. Holmes says. “We have to get a better handle on it. The Police Department does a fine job, but we can’t arrest our way out of it. The police, the residents and the faith community all have a part to play. … If we work on it, we can take the neighborhood back, block by block.”
Communication and connection are key facets in getting a neighborhood to pull together to keep crime down. “We have to have certain standards we want people to live by and let them know what we’re doing to enforce those standards,” Ald. Holmes says. People should get to know their neighbors and form block clubs and neighborhood watch groups.
In addition to attracting and retaining businesses, Ald. Holmes says she sees economic development as job training, workforce development and entrepreneurship.
“We need workforce development and training to make sure we have a plan for those kids who have no skills. … This is a problem that confronts the whole community, not just the Fifth Ward,” she says. She advocates reporting suspicious or antisocial activity to the police: “If you see something, say something.”
Overall the Fifth Ward is in better shape than it was a decade ago. Business has been coming to the Fifth Ward, she says – more than 30 new businesses have come or started up in the area in the past three years. She says she encourages people with marketable skills to create their own businesses.
“Crime is down, compared to what it was 10 or 15 years ago,” says Ald. Holmes.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program, NSP2, which saw $18 million in federal money come to Evanston to help repair neighborhoods destabilized by foreclosures and vacancies, has been a boon to the Fifth Ward, she says.
“NSP2 has been a blessing. You can go to some blocks and see once-foreclosed homes occupied by families. There are rental units where people can live affordably in this community. Emerson Square, with its mixed-income [units] will bring more diversity,” says Ms. Holmes. She adds she is glad to see people of different races moving into the Fifth Ward. “I think it speaks [well of] the Fifth Ward that people feel safe here and are moving in.”
Race, however, is still a factor in Evanston, and Ald. Holmes says she is glad that the City is sponsoring dialogues on race. “We need to talk about race. There are differences, but it’s OK. We’re so much more alike than we are different.”
Ald. Holmes is running again, she says, because she doesn’t “see anyone stepping forward and trying to learn how to be an alderman. I don’t want to lose the kind of progress we’ve made.”