Fourth Ward and Eighth Ward residents begin Feb. 8 to choose their next aldermen. The Feb. 23 primary election is necessary because more than four residents are running for aldermen in those wards. The names of the top-two vote-getters will appear on the April 6 general election ballot.
The RoundTable invited the aldermanic candidates – Patricia Connolly, Diane Goldring, Jonathan Nieuwsma, Sari Kadison-Shapiro, and incumbent Donald Wilson – to offer a tour of the Fourth Ward that included its top three assets and top three challenges. Mr. Nieuwsma, Ms. Goldring, and Alderman Wilson responded. The RoundTable will post the other responses as they are received.
Diane Goldring’s Fourth Ward
The Fourth Ward’s primary asset is its residents. I am constantly amazed at and humbled by the breadth and depth of their knowledge and experience. I have had conversations with housing experts, artists, attorneys, educators, successful entrepreneurs, students and restaurant and retail workers.
Second, the Fourth Ward is a uniquely diverse community of households, housing types and businesses. It contains single-family homes, small multi-family residences, large apartment and condominium buildings and the YMCA, which is one of the City’s leading providers of affordable housing. Several discrete business districts are in the Fourth Ward, including both the Main and Dempster Street corridors and a slice of downtown Evanston. Finally, its location, in the heart of Evanston and adjacent to both the El and the Metra, makes the fourth ward an extremely vibrant and convenient place to live.
The most significant challenge in the Fourth Ward is the same as the most significant challenge City-wide: ensuring residents are able to remain in their homes and obtain basic necessities during and after the current pandemic. Several Fourth Ward residents told me that they are barely hanging on, struggling to pay both housing and health care expenses.
Second, economic instability has led to the closure of many fourth ward restaurants and businesses, leaving empty storefronts in all areas of the ward, including on Church, Davis, Dempster and Main.
Third, our approach to development has been ad-hoc, leading to drastically insufficient affordable housing and a patchwork of new buildings that required significant zoning variances for little benefit in return. We must create a workable and consistent plan for the future.
Jonathan Nieuwsma’s Fourth Ward
Our first asset lap takes us through the several business districts that contribute so much to the character and economic vitality of our community: Main Street for tacos, a bottle of wine, some children’s books, a new guitar, and some old rocks. Dempster Street for a quick dance lesson and some farm-fresh produce while your iMac is repaired. Davis Street for a new bike helmet, some hardware, and a donut. And then downtown for some sushi and a massage, or maybe some chicken curry and a beer. The unique small businesses in our ward are among our best assets.
On our second asset lap we’ll notice all the people who live, work, worship, and learn here: the business owners, the firefighters, the teachers and students at our six schools, the patients in residential rehab, the congregations at our synagogue and churches, the musician who practices outside in the summer, the Northwestern students who are here for a few years, and the families that have been here for generations. Our ward includes residents of every demographic and income level who are truly our community’s most valuable asset.
Our third asset lap ends at the new Robert Crown Center. A brand-new facility with ice rinks, basketball courts, community rooms, a branch library, and an awesome sports field – a real community asset. What’s not to love!
For the first challenge lap we’ll stay right here at Robert Crown. It’s a great facility to be sure, but was it worth the price considering other areas of Evanston are sorely in need of investment? And if the City is serious about sustainability, where are the solar panels and cutting-edge energy efficiency? I’m listing Robert Crown as a challenge because it exemplifies the competing priorities that the City must juggle: community input, racial equity, environmental concerns, and budgetary constraints.
For the second challenge lap we’ll go back to everyone we met before and ask them what’s on their minds. If they’re like many of the folks I’ve been talking to, they’re concerned about how much it costs to live here, how they’re being treated by police, and whether their voices are being heard. Managing the varying wants and needs of a diverse community like ours requires a commitment to equity and engagement which can be challenging in the best of times.
Our final challenge lap is back to the small businesses we visited the first time around, many of which have been devastated by the pandemic economy. One of our greatest challenges here in the Fourth Ward is doing everything we can to support local business and encourage a thriving local economy that generates and retains wealth locally.
Donald Wilson’s Fourth Ward
I like to think that the Fourth Ward has some of everything that makes Evanston great. It’s hard to quantify the assets of a neighborhood, but I think that the most important asset is the residents. Next would be the businesses here in the Fourth Ward.
We have many small businesses, as well as a portion of downtown within the Ward boundaries. These businesses help create the feel and the experience of living in Evanston. They are an integral part of what makes the City great. For as long as I can remember, we have had interesting, creative and forward thinking retail and restaurant operators bringing us great ideas and great experiences. We also have an incredible group of non-profits and faith organizations. They are serving our community to meet countless needs, from food and housing, job and mental health services. I think there are more than 3 top challenges, but I would say, as discussed below, the cost of living here, the challenges facing our business community and the lack of equity in opportunities.
About These Candidates:
The RoundTable’s questionnaire also asked why each candidate wished to be aldermen, what the duties and priorities of an alderman are, and how much time she or he would devote to the job.
Ms. Goldring, a 37-year Evanston resident, has lived in the Fourth Ward for nine years. She attended Oakton Elementary School, Chute Middle School, Evanston Township High School and Northwestern University (M.B.A.). Her professional experience, community leadership, education, and personal history, she says, have prepared her to be alderperson.
Why She’s Running: “The only way to bring about lasting change is through policy, which is created by City Council. I grew up in Evanston and strongly believe that we can lead on issues that are important to the entire nation – racial and economic justice, climate change and government transparency and accountability, to name a few – and it has been painful for me to watch as we move either too slowly or in the wrong direction. Rather than sit on the sidelines I decided to act and run for public office.”
Mr. Nieuwsma has lived in Evanston 13 years. He is chair of Citizens Greener Evanston and of the City’s Utilities Commission. He says his background as an engineer and experience as a business consultant in the renewable energy industry will bring technical and business expertise to the City Council.
Why He’s Running: “I’m running for alderman so I can continue the work I’ve been doing for more than a decade to make Evanston more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. I’ll work to dismantle structural racism by fully implementing our groundbreaking reparations program, making sure our public safety budget reflects the values of our community, and addressing affordable housing. I’ll make CARP implementation a priority of the City Council and will support an environmental justice ordinance. I’ll support policies that encourage and promote small businesses which create wealth locally and retain it in our community.”
An attorney in private practice, Ald. Wilson has lived in the Fourth Ward since 2003, raising his family here. He has served as a Board member for Evanston non-profits and on the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals. In his professional life, “I have been actively engaged in problem solving. This requires hard work, diplomacy and the ability to bring people together. If reelected, I intend to continue to do this job with civility, compassion and an open mind.”
Why He’s Running: “I am running because I want to continue my work on evolving as a community. Evanston already has what many communities strive to create: neighborhoods where neighbors know each other and enjoy a ‘walk-to-everything’ lifestyle. Nevertheless, there is more than one Evanston. It is time to break down the walls and barriers that exist as obstacles to equity and opportunity. I want to continue my work in furtherance of these aspirations.”
Early voting is available in Room G300 of the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the following dates: Feb. 8-13; 15-20, and 22; and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 14 and 21. Voter registration is available at these times as well. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Feb. 18, and ballots must be postmarked by Feb. 22. A drop-box will be available at the Skokie Court House,