We would have thought that Mayor Stephen Hagerty would have learned one important lesson from last fall’s public outcry over Interim City Manager Erika Storlie’s abrupt firing of a popular staff director: that Evanston residents expect their elected officials to lead with impartiality, integrity, and vision. We expect our City Council to set policy and ensure its staff, led by the City Manager, acts in accordance with an ethic of care for each and every member of our community.
Instead, Mayor Hagerty himself, evidently corralling certain aldermen in advance, suddenly proposed fast-tracking a permanent hire of Ms. Storlie.
This item was not on the May 26 City Council agenda. There is no urgency. The City Council until then was methodically following the process that it established when it selected a consulting firm to conduct a national search. Indeed, the Mayor is reneging on the City Council’s own promise that the public would have an opportunity to provide input.
The pandemic is no excuse for an end run on the democratic process. Democracy may be hard work, but justice thrives where the top priority is the development and inclusion of the people.
If Ms. Storlie is hired after all candidates are evaluated under the same transparent criteria, with public input and proper vetting, we can accept those results. But if she is hired today, she will start her tenure, which could span many administrations, under a cloud of illegitimacy from an unprecedentedly truncated hiring process.
That does not augur well for her, the City Council, or the City of Evanston’s residents. On June 8, rather than vote on Ms. Storlie, the City Council should reaffirm its continuation of the City Manager search in good faith.
Bennett Johnson, Rick Marsh, Oliver Ruff, and Gail Schechter, Community Alliance for Better Government