These are Mark Tendam’s unedited answers to questions submitted by the RoundTable to all Mayoral candidates.
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.
Volunteer and Civic Engagement: I have extensive experience in community action and leadership. I became a board member of Better Existence with HIV (BEHIV) in 1996, serving as President of the Board from 1997-2002. I was also a member of the McGaw YMCA Board, serving as their fundraising event co-chair for several years, as well as on the Y’s Residence Committee; in addition, I’m a longtime board member and committee chair of the Democratic Party of Evanston.
I am a graduate of the Evanston Community Foundation’s Leadership Evanston program (2004), served on the steering committee of Leadership Evanston. I’m also a graduate of Evanston’s Citizen Police Academy (2010).
I’ve served two terms as 6th Ward Alderman on the Evanston City Council over the last seven plus years, and they’ve been very productive. I am proud to have taken a leadership role on many of our initiatives:
- We amended the Affordable Housing Ordinance with incentives for builders to include a range of housing options on site, or opt to make a significant contribution to the housing fund. By the end of 2017, funds received will exceed three million dollars.
- We reorganized the Evanston Animal Shelter and Animal Control Program with expanded adoption and fostering programs operated largely by volunteer Evanston residents.
- Focusing city and private efforts on a versatile Performing Arts Center in our downtown will help us maintain our standing as a top entertainment destination — keeping our restaurants and hotels thriving.
- By transitioning the Evanston Public Library to a self-directed fund model, compliant with state law, we created a self-directed board removed from other city politics.
On Council, I serve on the Rules, Planning and Development, Human Services, Economic Development, Parking and Transportation and City-School Liaison Committees as well as the Housing and Homelessness Commission.
Education and professional background: I am a 1978 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a B.S. Degree in Design. I practiced graphic design for 35 years at large and small firms including international public relations firms Hill+Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller. For the last 20 years I have run my own business with a long list of clients including Brach’s Candy, First Chicago, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Cohn & Wolfe and William M. Mercer.
Question: What would be your top three priorities as Mayor? What would you do to advance your priorities?
My top three priorities would be:
- Workforce development
- Economic development
- Care for the most vulnerable
At the very top of my list of priorities will be generating more and better-paying jobs, creating accessible apprenticeships and encouraging better development choices. As a member of the City Council, I’ve been supportive of the Mayor’s Summer Youth Job Program and development of apprenticeship programs at Evanston Township High School and Northwestern University and the results are becoming very clear. Cooperation in providing accessibility to appropriate training and jobs needed by local employers will give Evanstonians young and old a sense of pride and a livable wage.
We have made great strides the past eight years in developing a safe and thriving downtown, but there is still much work to do for our entire city. As mayor, I will be committed to growing all of our business districts, improving the safety of our neighborhoods and ensuring that Evanston is a welcome and vibrant place for all who live, learn, work and play here. To keep our many new restaurants, hotels and shops busy we must continue to grow our city as a destination.
We are a community blessed with people and organizations that care for the most vulnerable among us: children, seniors, the homeless and those with mental health and substance abuse issues. As government moneys that fund these caring organization continues to decline, I believe the City’s role will be to help reorganize and consolidate the services offered and assist residents in finding the appropriate services.
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?
I believe the mayor’s role in developing a vision for the City is critical. The mayor is well positioned to work with aldermen, individually and collectively, as well as the city manager, chief financial officer and staff to bring the vision into focus. Words like “vision” or “goals” are useless unless there is a clear understanding of what they represent and how they might be achieved.
The mayor can express the vision to a broad, city-wide effort to obtain feedback and support from residents. But the vision is, to some degree, a fluid or flexible idea. We live in uncertain and unpredictable times and we cannot envision the unknown.
Question: What should the City do to address youth violence? Is it doing enough, should it do things differently?
There are short-, medium- and long-term approaches that we have begun to implement or are already implementing in order to address youth violence. In the short-term, the City and Police departments have worked with the school districts to improve and increase security within the high school and respond to incidents around the school. We have upgraded exterior lighting, implemented an anonymous text-a-tip program and established clear guidelines for emergency situations. Last summer there was a substantial decline in violent crime among our youth, attributed in part to the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program. This kind of mid-range approach is a work in progress. Our dedicated city staff will continue to build on their success providing more work opportunities for our youth.
In the long-term, the city will continue to partner with early childcare/education providers and larger collaborations like Cradle to Career. It will require dedication and careful understanding and a lot of other hard work, but the results can be outstanding.
Question: What should the City do to promote economic development? Is it doing enough; should it do things differently?
Of all of the city’s programs, economic development has seen the most change. The council, to which I was first elected in 2009, inherited a much different economic environment — a great economic crash. I believe many of the so-called “giveaways” were appropriate at the time and successful. But there were some failures as well. As a member of the Economic Development Committee I have helped steer our funding away from grants to assistance with loans and merchant programs that provide assistance to business districts as a whole.
Our support of the independent organization Downtown Evanston and the Northshore Convention and Visitors Bureau has filled our calendar with great events, and our collaboration with the Evanston Chamber of Commerce and Northwestern University has created one of the most outstanding events of the calendar year — The Evanston Mash Up.
I believe the time has come that we can be more selective in asking businesses to come to Evanston. What are the missing merchants or services we need to make each business district more complete? We must be persistent in our efforts so all residents have access to good, affordable food and other necessities for a healthy lifestyle.
I will continue to push for a downtown performing arts venue and other large projects that will help keep our existing shops, restaurants and hotel thriving.
Question: Name some things the City should do to preserve or create additional affordable housing.
For the last four years, I’ve served as the council’s representative on the Housing, Homelessness and Human Relations Commission. Amendments to our affordable housing ordinance have started to grow our designated fund with an expected $3 to $4 million by year’s end. This money generated by our own means comes at a time when state and federal dollars are very uncertain. This unrestricted money will allow us to be more creative in supporting affordable housing and also partner with builders who have Evanston’s best interests at heart.
An Evanston resident and developer has begun a mid-size apartment building near transit using new incentives provided in our amendments to the affordable housing ordinance. Rather than contributing to the housing fund, he elected to include four units of affordable housing in the development — a studio, a one-bedroom, a two-bedroom and a three-bedroom apartment.
I have proposed that we continue to look for additional incentives for developers as well as looking for ways to build the housing fund in ways other than contributions from larger developments. Increasing the demolition tax on single-family homes is just one idea.
Question: Do you support Evanston’s Cradle to Career initiative and partnering with community organizations to increase opportunities for youth? Please explain.
I believe Evanston’s Cradle to Career is a very promising initiative. Shared access to the same data will instill trust and cooperation between Evanston’s many service providers.
In my comments above, I listed this initiative as a long-term solution to ending youth violence. It will take time for the results of this collaborative effort to be fully realized. Early childcare and education is imperative, as we understand how important it is for all our children to enter kindergarten with the same capabilities. We also know that a child who reaches third grade with appropriate reading and other skills will most likely be successful in the years to follow.
Question: How should the City promote equity?
I think there is a large and growing capacity among Evanston residents to take ownership of our problems and successes collectively. There is NO crime in the 2nd Ward, there IS crime in Evanston. There’s no homelessness in the 3rd Ward, there’s homelessness in Evanston — and so on. As an alderman, it is important to take care of ward business but also have an unbiased view of the city as a whole. I believe the mayor’s role is to ALWAYS see the city as a whole and promote equity throughout.
The city can assist in matters of equity especially now with a designated staff member to oversee such matters. While creation of this new position is a good step forward, I believe there are very positive movements in the private sector — especially among faith groups. Special services and other collaborations among these groups have been increasing in both frequency and the number of people participating. I have participated in events hosted by Second Baptist Church and my synagogue, Beth Emet.
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?
Mayor Tisdahl has guided through the process of becoming one of the nation’s most sustainable cities. Our city efforts started right at home with our civic center, automobile fleet, expanded recycling and more recently a utilities benchmarking process for medium to large buildings.
However, there is so much more we can and will do. We must expand our weatherization assistance program as it benefits everyone. Homeowners save on utility costs while reducing their carbon footprint. The city must continue to emphasize waste reduction. Programs that encourage us to “recycle, repurpose and reuse” cannot be emphasized enough.
We must also learn to share. Younger generations have learned to coordinate these efforts — setting examples for many of us — sharing living space, work space, automobiles and bicycles and much more. The city must promote these ideas and encourage companies like Divvy and Zipcar to operate in our community.
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?
I think the issue of privatization should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Along with the issue of privatization comes the question of selling or offering a long-term lease for a property. In most cases, a long-term lease is preferable since the property remains an asset to the city. Selling a property is forever and we, the residents, lose control of what happens on the property.
I have fought to return Noyes Cultural Arts Center to its original concept as an incubator for the arts — helping artists starting out much like any other business incubator. Maintaining ownership of the former recycling center makes sense with its proximity to James Park. Expanding the park to this area and west will require significant remediation of the soil, but leaving the property in tact offers a potentially very profitable business to open there.
I look forward to discussions about the library parking lot. The considerations at that site are more complex and include the preservation of some of our finest historical destinations and maintaining much needed parking for the library and other area businesses.
Question: How will you interact with State officials, given the stalemate in Springfield and the potential loss of funding for the City?
My relationships with our elected officials go back many years beginning with my work at Better Existence with HIV, BEHIV. We lobbied successfully for and received funding from state, county and municipal governments. I have been an active volunteer in the campaigns of many of our current representatives and have done so because they are fighters and also good negotiators.
No one knows what will happen with gridlock in Springfield and drastic changes in Washington, D.C. In the past couple of years, council has taken measures to maintain and preserve our city’s operations in the likelihood of reduced or eliminated funding. We voted to set aside more cash reserves and have had alternative budget proposals ready as well.
I will continue to maintain both professional and personal relationships with our representatives in order to respond quickly to opportunities that may arise. I will continue to stress upon them that if sacrifices are to be made here in Illinois they cannot be the burden of one age group, one workers group and most importantly the most vulnerable residents of our community.