"Conversations" sculpture in Raymond Park by Indira Freitas Johnson

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The RoundTable invited the Third Ward aldermanic candidates, Nicholas Korzeniowski and Melissa Wynne, to offer a tour of the Third Ward that included its top three assets and top three challenges before the April 6 general election. 

Nicholas Korzeniowski’s Third Ward

The Third Ward is a vibrant community that enjoys a large scenic lakefront as well as a burgeoning metropolitan corridor, and all manner of residences in between.  We have a long history of being highly engaged politically, and routinely show the second-highest voting turnout in the city.  

On top of that, our activist history is a uniquely progressive one.  Out of all these merits and successes, I think what needs to be recognized though is that our most treasured asset in the ward is the people of the ward themselves.  None of these great things would be possible at all if it weren’t for the amazing community of neighbors we enjoy here in the Third Ward. 

This doesn’t mean that we are without our challenges, of course.  We need to tackle the ever-present affordability crisis in town, we need to backstop and protect our local small businesses to try and spell the damage from COVID, and we need to address the climate challenges before us with clear eyes that see CARP as a beginning and not an end.  

Ald. Wynne’s Third Ward

The 3rd Ward is extremely fortunate in its assets, but each of those assets also presents challenges: 

Asset #1 – Our 3rd Ward residents:  First & foremost among our many assets are the remarkably diverse, intelligent and engaged residents who have chosen our semi-urban ward as their home.  Whether just starting a career, raising a family, or retired from formal work, all of our residents bring an extraordinary mix of talents, training & commitments to the community that makes the 3rd Ward unique.  

The ongoing challenge here, as elsewhere, is affordable housing – a critical element in ensuring the continued vibrant mix that makes the 3rd Ward so attractive.  I’ve steadfastly advocated for the City’s affordable housing initiatives, strongly supporting the original Inclusionary Housing Ordinance and various strengthening amendments to increase the size of payments-in-lieu and percentage of affordable units onsite.  I’ve also worked closely with City staff to locate and develop underutilized properties as potential sites for affordable housing, including most recently our initiative to develop the underutilized City parking lot on South Blvd. with affordable family-sized apartments.  We also must continue looking carefully at modifying our zoning to permit new types of housing, such as accessory dwelling units, which provide affordable housing and extra income to homeowners so that they can stay in Evanston.  Finally, we must always promote smart development, both commercial and residential, to strengthen our Evanston tax base. 

Asset #2 – The Main-Dempster Mile: Another of the 3rd Ward’s prime assets are our neighborhood businesses, which have combined into The Main-Dempster Mile Merchants Association.  These local shops and restaurants defy the internet, with owners we know by name, curated wares, and shopping experiences that can’t be replicated in cyberspace.  

Recognizing the critical importance of this asset, I provided key Council support in the formation of Main-Dempster Mile, to provide our local businesses with a platform to jointly promote the unique attractiveness of the 3rd Ward’s business community. The results of this initiative have been striking – a steady stream of new businesses, 3rd Ward neighbors enjoying each other’s company in gathering spots, and pedestrian shoppers lured from the broader area by our walkability. 

The challenge, of course, is the COVID pandemic, which threatens businesses and so the livability of our ward.  I continue to (a) strongly back economic development support from the City to retain and attract business, (b) work closely with our business community on innovative solutions (as with Space and Few Spirits), and (c) staunchly support entrepreneurs in developing new businesses in the 3rd Ward and throughout Evanston.    

Asset #3 – Our lakefront:  Another treasured asset of the 3rd Ward, our magnificent lakefront,  provides recreation to all, in all forms – a place to picnic, run/walk/bike/skate, toss a ball, read, meditate, swim/sail/surf/kayak/paddleboard and even snowshoe!  The list is endless. 

But our lakefront is threatened by rising Lake Michigan water levels, in part due to climate change.  I have strongly advocated for environmentally appropriate responses – protective sandbags, additional barrier rocks, and faithful adherence to our Climate Action Resiliency Plan, to do our part in the fight against climate change. I’ve also been vigilant in curbing pesticide use, promoting systematic new planting of trees, and defending the Lakefront Master Plan (developed with my leadership) to protect our lakefront as non-commercial and open to all. Finally, we must ensure every Evanston resident has access to our beaches by expanding our free beach tokens program.

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.

Mr. Korzeniowski, has lived in Evanston for over a decade and his daily had been in the Third Ward for five years. His oldest a student at Lincoln and his youngest will be as well in a few years. 

Why He’s Running: “I’ve had an affinity to public service all my life, and I think my history working as a technology administrator in the public sector with K through 8 education speaks to that.  Beyond my professional experience, I have served with the Indivisible chapter in Evanston, the South East Evanston Association, and am a charter member of a charity called Dine After Dark that encourages inclusive business practices in the foodservice industry.  When I ran for District 65 School Board it was because I truly felt that I was able to provide a much needed, and helpful, voice and set of skills to a public body that could really use them.  In a climate now where the whole world is looking to build back better, I had to ask myself if running to be on a board that I largely agree with is really the best use of those things I have to offer.  Especially in a time of remote learning whether a family can easily accommodate it or not, I think it goes without saying that my skill set very easily translates to the concerns of all of our city residents.  Ultimately I decided that a seat on the City Council is how I can best leverage what I have to offer for our families, our ward, and our whole city”

Priorities: “My platform prioritizes the affordability crisis, the climate crisis, and the budget crisis. This is obviously a tremendously large scope of work, and I fully expect it to take far more time and effort than almost any other “part-time” job there is out there.  That being said: I can’t wait to get started, and hope to earn the chance to serve as the 3rd Ward Alderman in the coming term.”

Ald. Wynne has lived in the Third Ward since 1988 where she and her husband raised their two children, sending them to Lincoln, Nichols, and ETHS.

Why She’s Running: “My strengths are well suited to the job of alderman because (a) I’m a problem solver who enjoys bringing people together to find solutions, (b) I’m facile with the complexities of public policy thanks to my background as an environmental lawyer, and (c) I have a lifelong passion for public service, starting early on with my work in Washington DC for Common Cause and on Capitol Hill, and my pro bono lawyering for low-income families at the Howard Area Community Center. I’ve decided to seek one more term as alderman because the COVID pandemic has plunged our City into a crisis like no other I’ve seen, wreaking havoc on our business community, our City budget, our residents and our City staff.  At this critical time, I strongly believe the combination of my experienced leadership, seasoned judgment and deep knowledge of our policy challenges are valuable to Evanston and the 3rd Ward as we navigate through the tumult of COVID and its aftermath.”

Priorities: “My top priorities for the next four years are: (1) post-COVID recovery – rebuilding a better & more resilient Evanston economy; (2) racial equity – assessing every City policy and interaction through an equity lens; (3) climate action – continuing Evanston’s national leadership in climate resiliency and sustainability; and (4) housing affordability – redoubling our focus on underutilized properties, pro-affordability zoning policy, and smart development of our business & residential base.”