These are Gary Gespard’s unedited responses to the RoundTable’s questions submitted to all Candidates for Mayor.
Question: Please provide information on your educational background; employment/professional background; volunteer and civic activities; and other attributes that qualify you for the position of Mayor?
I received a Master’s degree in Social Service Administration (with an emphasis in Community Program Planning Development) from The University of Chicago (2008) and a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Northeastern Illinois University (2005) and
Currently, I work as a full-time faculty advisor at Northeastern Illinois University. I teach Social Work Research and Social Welfare Policy, which helps me to have an in-depth understanding about public policy. I also work independently as a Behavioral Intervention Specialist for Life Builders at Chicago Public Schools. My area of expertise lies in school attendance, substance abuse, gang dis-affiliation and/or self-regulation and conflict resolution.
I also worked as an adolescent treatment counselor at Youth Outreach Services in areas most affected by violence in Chicago. I facilitated the rehabilitation of youth offenders. I advocated for youth who were involved with the juvenile justice system to have second chances. In doing that, I worked with a network of agencies – court, probation, detention center, and service providers in the neighborhood where the youth resided.
As for community organizing and political activism, I have made substantial contributions to community development. For more than two decades, I served the Evanston/Chicago Community through direct practice of community engagement and empowerment. I produced public affairs radio programs, exploring the knowledge of community resources to advocate for community growth, socioeconomics and culture. I help raise awareness of social/political issues that are usually important to community growth. I volunteered in several political campaigns as well as working in partnership with community stakeholders to assist in recruitment and hiring.
In 2013, after getting elected as Township Supervisor with 57% of the vote tally, I was denied requests to meet with the outgoing supervisor for transition or inventory. I was told employees were forbidden to talk to me until taking office. After taking office, sabotage was coming from everywhere. Two different budgets were distributed for the same meeting. I was handed a budget with 30% decreased from the year before, whereas the Human Resources Committee of the City received one with 29% increase. I was chocked to the point I didn’t know what to do. My Township email address was blocked while a subordinate was placing without my authorization a job opening Ad in the Sun-time for $17K+. After this and all other problems, I had to assess the situation with the Township. After assessing that I had lock of support from the board and the City and majority of the voters did not want the office anymore, as well as taxpayers’ money was being used to sabotage my leadership, I decided to resign from the office. Then, it didn’t take too long for Evanston voters to dissolve it.
Nonetheless, I believe that I accomplished many things I was campaigning upon for the township supervisor office: Transparency was Increased where the Township became more visible. I was the first to release to the media the Novak Consulting Group report on the Township Assessment, which was completed about a year before taking office. I worked in collaboration with the City and relocated Township to Civic Center. I focused on accountability by moving Township recipients toward self-sufficiency and more.
Question: What would be your top three priorities as Mayor? What would you do to advance your priorities?
My three top priorities as mayor would be: Commitment and accountability; fairness and equability; diversity and inclusion. , emphasizing on community program planning development, highlighting on public safety, affordability, diversity and inclusion.
Commitment and accountability to:
- Police-community Relations
- Black Lives Matter
- Youth Violence Prevention
- 1. Neighborhood/Community Safety: Echoing what Pres. Obama highlighted in his farewell speech, each of us should accept the responsibility of citizenship. With that being said, I vow to commit to civic engagement in reconciliation of our community with law enforcement.
- 2. Fighting Drugs and Guns: I pledge to strengthen community relations with police by encouraging the community and law enforcement to work together to develop solutions based on a comprehensive approach to drugs and gangs that solicits the community’s cooperation and support.
- 3. Black Lives Matter: The paradigm shift whereas a police officer sees a young Black man as a threat to the society or himself, as well as a young Black man sees a police officer as an exterminator to wipe out the Black men community. This got to change. We cannot accept or tolerate this kind of perspectives continues to emerge in our community, because Black Lives Matter
Question: What role, if any, do you think the Mayor should play in developing a vision for the City and in promoting or implementing that vision?
In developing a vision for the City and in promoting or implementing that vision, the mayor should constantly play his/her role as a leader of empowering others, accepting others point of view to achieve vision and objectives. The mayor needs to know how to develop positive relationship with others, including members of the community, as well as the City Council, as representatives of the City Government. As mayor, I have already established a great relationship with both the City Manager and the legal Department members. I will make every effort to develop maintain and nurture that great relationship with them and their employees, as well as all nine members of the City Council, aligning with the City’s mission.
Additionally, the mayor plays a lot of roles as a city leader. As stated in the question, the mayor helps in developing a vision. S/he serves as the liaison between the City Government and community members, the spokesperson of the City Government, and most importantly, the advocate for the people of Evanston. The mayor has to be fair and impartial in order to develop positive relationship with others and achieve goals and vision aligned with the City’s mission.
Not only treating others with respect and dignity, the mayor must have the skill to listen actively to members of the community, as well as those of the press. Again, the mayor has to be fair and impartial, while every alderman fighting for the piece of the cake for their respective wards. The mayor is advocating for all wards. Lastly, it is the role of the mayor to bring it all together, particularly bringing everyone together to achieve vision.
Question: What should the City do to address youth violence? Is it doing enough, should it do things differently?
Youth Violence Prevention: I will embrace a comprehensive set of approaches to support and strengthen youth and families. I will implement the following activities:
- Expanding the Summer Youth Employment Program to a year-long program.
- Promoting an annual forum on youth violence prevention to not only listen to the community, but also to listen to youth themselves so that we can be familiar with the issues that concern youth.
- Encouraging every police officer to serve as a mentor by adopting three to five kids through early adulthood.
Question: What should the City do to promote economic development? Is it doing enough; should it do things differently?
We understand that one cannot fight crime without economic development.
- Economic Development – Economic Deprivation = Economic Empowerment: Putting more families on the path toward economic self-efficiency is our priorities. Therefore, I want prospective employers to be required to hire/retain 35% of the employment of Evanston workers
- Make Evanston affordable: Lifelong Evanstonians are leaving town for high property tax. I will fight to keep Evanston affordable for everyone, my plan is two-fold: 1) Give homeowners a break by putting a freeze on property tax for two years; and 2) Spread the pain by instituting a local income tax on high income level.
Question: Name some things the City should do to preserve or create additional affordable housing.
Affordable housing is considered to be part of economic self-sufficiency programs. In a city like Evanston, everyone should have an economic opportunity. No community will be left behind, particularly the underserving communities. I will advocate for a tax increment financial (TIF) district program for the 5th Ward. This TIF district program would be dedicated to residential project to promote growth in the areas of the City that is most needed – the 5th Ward. It will help provide affordable housing for low-income as well as elderly housing for seniors and lifelong Evanstonians. This will also help thousands of dollars generate per year in property tax.
Question: Do you support Evanston’s Cradle to Career initiative and partnering with community organizations to increase opportunities for youth? Please explain.
Yes, I do. I like the idea of working together to help improve the lives of our youth, particularly with the effort to increase literacy and reduce summer learning loss.
Question: How should the City promote equity?
To my understanding, promoting equity is defined as every citizen to have access to City’s resources. This include health services, affordable housing programs, community relations with police etc. We can promote equity in the City by practicing the following:
- Developing economic opportunities for all individuals, communities, and wards, as well as reducing inequalities and promoting shared prosperities for all Evanstonians.
- Promoting commitment and accountability, police-community relations in particular, as well as facilitating diversity and inclusion. In addition, keeping track of participation data and Programs evaluation definitely helps promote equity.
Question: The City has taken steps toward becoming a sustainable City. What will you do as Mayor to promote sustainability in ways that will be affordable for all residents?
I believe jn climate change and renewable resource as steps toward becoming a sustainable city. As mayor, I will try to reduce inequalities and promote shared prosperity for all Evanstonians as the City becoming environmental, economic and social sustainability.
Question: What do you think about privatizing public spaces, such as the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, the Recycling Center, the Library parking lot, and the Harley Clarke Mansion?
To some people, privatizing government properties is downsizing government, as well as promoting free market economy. I can understand their point of view. However, here are three of the main issues that make me uncomfortable the most when it comes to privatizing the government properties – the affects to public employees, transparency, and service accessibility to all citizens after privatization. Therefore, NO I am not a fan of privatizing our public spaces like Noyes Cultural Arts Center, the Recycling Center, the Library parking lot, and the Harley Clarke Mansion.
Question: How will you interact with State inofficials, given the stalemate in Springfield and the potential loss of funding for the City?
I understand that this could be complicated establishing a rapport between state and local government representatives. As mayor, however, I will seek the assistance from Sen. Daniel Biss, Rep. Robin Gabel, and Rep. Carol Sente, as well as those with other allies, I will try to establish positive relationship with the State officials. I will make the efforts to travel to Springfield as much as I can to network with the officials and advocate for our City.