On October 22nd, our Mayor took the time to write a long op-ed to inform us that the cries of impropriety echoing across the Evanston community are nothing more than aimless, restless villagers who will “rally against virtually everything.”
It’s interesting that he points out that these residents have “an agenda” yet failed to mention or speak to the organizers’ primary and clearly stated goal: An equitable approach to governing, an agenda which the mayor deems “not supported by the majority of elected representatives in Evanston – nor, would I argue, the majority of Evanstonians.”
This most recent successful attempt to hijack the City Manager hiring process is just the latest in a string of City decisions with high community impact, carried out with not so sleight-of-hand trickery. (Remember Harley Clarke, Robert Crown, the firing of Kevin Brown just, to name a few?)
Let’s not forget that it was Mayor Hagerty who earlier this year sought to urgently install Ms. Storlie as City Manager without a public process prior to a vote by City Council members. Evanston’s City Manager position is one of the highest paid city staff positions, a role that wields an alarming amount of power to determine funding for City programs and services that directly impact Evanston residents of all ages and walks of life.
The Mayor claims a commitment to racial justice and equity, and then engages in a theater act called an HR search. Despite the superior resumes of two highly experienced Black women who were also finalists for the position of City Manager, Mayor Hagerty voted for Ms. Storlie. Seemingly not satisfied with Ms. Storlie’s confirmation by his vote and that of the City Council, he chooses to pen an insulting and dismissive letter to Evanstonians who opposed this candidate and the hastily handled hiring process. His aggressive defense of his vote speaks volumes.
On a number of issues of racial justice and racial equity, the actions of the Mayor and more than a few members of the City Council are on the wrong side of history. The Evanston residents he speaks ill of are respected professionals, youth organizers, long time leaders of community organizations, and local business people who understand that holding elected officials accountable is essential for a functioning democracy, especially in matters of racial equity and inclusion.
It would be more appropriate at this moment of victory for his preferred choice of candidate, for the Mayor to explain the paradox of how he and the Council will work with the new City Manager on matters of racial equity and inclusion, despite voting against the more qualified Black woman candidates for City Manager.
Evanstonians should be encouraged to freely express their support or objection to candidates for government office. Instead they are met with a scolding and defensive missive that aims to suppress the voices of the people of Evanston who pose objection to the workings of City government, the hiring process of City staff, and the City’s commitment to racial equity and inclusion.