At the Evanston NAACP candidates forum March 2, moderator Vanessa Calloway popped the question at the end of the nearly one-and a-half-hour session.
The forum was the first major candidates’ event held after the Feb. 23 primary, with candidates now racing to the April 6 General Election.
“There [are] so many questions and you’re giving us so much information,”
Ms. Calloway said at the session.
“Why do you want to be alderman? Really, what is it – why do you want to be alderman, specifically for your ward?”
Not all candidates attended the forum, but those who did participate took turns responding. The answers below reflect the order in which the candidates spoke.
Clare Kelly, candidate for alderman in the First Ward:
“We’ve seen our taxes go up over 5% a year, and this is unsustainable and harming the residents of my ward and residents across the City. It’s changing the demographics of Evanston, and this is not necessary.
“We must stop the bleeding. Also, I’m running because I am 100% confident that if I’m elected we will start to get a greater contribution out of Northwestern University. I’ve been laying out the groundwork and working with future colleagues on the City Council and I’m 100% sure we can do this. Just to keep in mind: Northwestern has over a $12 billion endowment. If it paid the amount in lieu of taxes [the University is exempt from paying property taxes] which would be between $35 and $40 million, it would just be less than half of one percent.”
Darlene Cannon, candidate for alderman in the Second Ward:
“As I said previously, I was born and raised in the Second Ward, and I’ve lived here my entire life. And so because of my love for my community, I think that we need a shift in leadership, and how we engage with the citizens of the Second Ward, and we must think about the long term impact [actions are] going to have on the residents.
“Many of the other candidates have said,we have continuously raised property taxes. How is that affecting our minority community? Are people leaving Evanston, because they cannot afford it? Are houses being purchased for one amount, and tripling in cost? Is that running people out as well? I also support the idea of [holding Northwestern] accountable. You know, they don’t pay even half of what other colleges [do].”
Peter Braithwaite, alderman in the Second Ward, seeking another term of office:
“When it comes down to what gets you re-elected, it’s service and responding to your constituents, number one. Service is 80% of what we do on the City and responding to our residents – that’s always at the top of my mind. I’m going to continue to prioritize the COVID pandemic. I’m going to continue to prioritize neighborhood safety and the well-being of our most vulnerable residents. I’m going to continue to prioritize economic development that expands the tax base. You can’t just complain about a tax problem without addressing the issue. I think economic development is that tool to make sure that we continue to expand our commercial tax base and retail tax base, given the fact that we lost anywhere from $8 to $10 million last year with COVID.”
Nicholas Korzeniowski, candidate for alderman in the Third Ward:
“The short answer for why I’m running is to help as many people as I can. That may sound weird and maybe even a little dorky or something like that, but it’s really in my DNA. I’m a network engineer, and I work in a public school district. I don’t need to be doing that; there’s money to be made elsewhere. I wouldn’t be doing that if I didn’t really want to help everybody I could with the skill set that I provide. I see issues that are true here at home in the Third, at home in Evanston. Everybody’s got these shared issues, especially right now and we’re all going through the pandemic at the same time – issues of affordability, issues of the budget – if you’re talking schools, issues of his budget with things like SRO [School Resource Officers] – issues of policing, issues of climate, all of these issues…and I really genuinely want to help us forward.”
Diane Goldring, candidate for alderman in the Fourth Ward:
“Sometimes I’ve asked myself that same question. Why do I want to do this? I know that you can’t make everybody happy all the time. But I’m doing it because I love this City. I have a deep commitment to Evanston and my community, and my whole life has been about service. I serve on the Board of Evanston CASE [Community, Advocacy, Support, and Education], an organization that serves families and children with special needs. In my professional career, I was the director of customer support, which meant that I listen to people and solve their problems. So not only do I love my community; I think I’ll be really good at it [responding to concerns as alderman]. It’s not only the big issues which are really important, like equity, affordable housing, policing, all the things that we’ve been talking about that are also very close to my heart. It’s about listening to the residents and serving the community.”
Jonathan Nieuwsma, candidate for alderman in the Fourth Ward:
“I am running for alderman because, as Diane and I have demonstrated, it’s time [for change] at the Civic Center. And I’m wanting to continue the work that I’ve been doing as a community leader over the last decade – working to make Evanston not only more environmentally sustainable, but also socially and economically sustainable as well. This is work that I have done as president of Citizens’ for a Greener Evanston, chairman of the City’s Utilities Commission; on the board of the Democratic Party of Evanston. And my track record as a community advocate goes back as far as junior high, when I wrote my first letter to the editor, and freshman year of high school, when I spoke at my first public meeting. So this trend of commitment to community services has been part of my life from a very young age.”
Bobby Burns, candidate for alderman in the Fifth Ward:
“I’m running to make sure that this ward that I love, and that I that I truly believe in, is prioritized on the City Council; that we have professional delivery of public services again – whether that’s alleys that need to be paved and need proper drainage; whether it’s clean air and water and making sure we have equitable lead testing. We deserve it here in the ward and making sure we have a professional and responsive and collaborative ward office that’s going to get back to folks and partner with people, to address their immediate day-to-day needs.
“And, you know, we have some big issues in the ward like affordability, and we need somebody that has the flexibility to take on what I would call a very demanding semi-volunteer opportunities, such as being an alderman in Evanston, and I’ve arranged my life the past 10 years to make sure that I can do that. I’ve equipped myself through my Board experience and experience as Deputy Clerk, my professional experience, to represent the ward responsibly … and would love an opportunity to serve.”
Carolyn Murray, candidate for alderman in the Fifth Ward:
“Born and raised in the Fifth Ward, out of the gate [I] have been advocating over the last 20 years, hearing issues as it pertains to transparency, accountability and fairness; and not a week goes by when somebody knocks on the door or calls me to help them, assist them, get their problem solved, get their issues addressed. And being the alderperson is that representation that I’ve done for the last 20 years in one way or another – starting initiatives, creating events that would benefit the Fifth Ward. And I strongly believe that this opportunity that we have upcoming is going to be crucial: that you need a person that you can trust; you need a person that you know, and you need a person that will advocate for your issues, unbiased across the board. The Fifth Ward needs adequate representation. They need a person that is going to be responsive and going to address their needs, and listen to them, as well as be concerned about the economic opportunities that the City can provide.”
Thomas Suffredin, alderman in the Sixth Ward, seeking another term of office:
“It’s the same reason I ran four years ago: There’s a huge gap between where we are and where we could be as a City, and I want to be part of [bridging] that gap. I think this Council has done a lot of good things. We’ve built things; we need to pay for them. We’ve started programs and we need to fund them. There’s a lot of unfinished business, and I’m not a person who starts things and walks away. The reason I’m running again is because with a new mayor and City Manager who, while I don’t agree with the hiring process, is new, and has the capability to do good things, we have a chance to bring Evanston out of this COVID situation and become the real ‘City on the Hill’ that we were supposed to be.”
Eleanor Revelle, alderman in the Seventh Ward, seeking another term.
“There are three policy areas that I’ve been working on in my time on the City Council that I really need to, not wrap up exactly, but continue to see them come to fruition. One is affordable housing: I’m part of the Affordable Housing Plan Steering Committee and we really need to finish that affordable housing plan so we can implement it with new strategies that will really be successful at increasing the supply of affordable housing.
“I’m also part of a subcommittee working to develop an alternative Emergency Response program that will send mental health professionals and peer support staff, instead of a uniformed police officer, to help people in crisis. This will provide a better outcome for the residents in crisis and it will mean we can reduce the demand on our police department and ultimately reduce some of the funding needed for the police department. And the third area that I want to continue working on is implementation of our Climate Action Plan.”
Mary Rosinski, candidate for alderman in the Seventh Ward:
“I want to run because I’ve always been a community builder, ever since I was a little kid. I come from a family of eight and I have nine step-brothers and –sisters, and everywhere you go my job is working with people. I help people buy houses and [with] rentals, and I think the people in Evanston are just absolutely the most amazing people that I have run into as a collective group. And I’ve seen over the last couple years a stifling of this amazing energy and intelligence, and I want to be part of something that brings that back up. I’d like to help continue to build between the wards, as we’ve been doing over the last four years. We’ve all worked together on different things over the years … and I just want to be part of that energy because I think we can be the destination on the North Shore, that people come to. We can rebuild, we can keep it diverse, we can do our affordable housing, if we do it with a plan.”