As a grassroots campaign that represents a wide swath of Evanston, Community Alliance for Better Government (CABG) calls for an open process in pursuit of a City Manager who is committed to dismantling policies, programs and practices that embed favoritism based on race, class, and neighborhood. Mayor Daniel Biss and the City Council have the opportunity to do right by the City’s residents and the democratic process. They must ensure residents’ voices are heard to repair lost trust between residents and local government.
A divided Council hired Ms. Storlie last year under a cloud of controversy. That cloud exploded into a storm, as it is only now made public by WBEZ’s investigative team that just at the time she was interviewed, over 50 female lifeguards demanded restitution from City staff for sexual abuse by their male colleagues.
CABG reiterates what it urged the City publicly at various points during the months’ long search in 2020: Undertake a transparent selection process for the Evanston City Manager position, the most important non-elected position in the City.
We stated at the outset of last year’s search that, “Today’s Evanston requires an intelligent, compassionate, and scrupulously honest lead staff member who is committed to dismantling policies, programs and practices that embed favoritism based on race, class, and neighborhood.” The qualities that residents and officials expressed of their ideal candidate in focus groups and emails to the Council and search firm last year were appropriately summarized in this graphic embedded in the position description:
But this is not what transpired in the hiring of Ms. Storlie. Our past experiences with City leadership were of racial insensitivity, closed mindedness and an unwillingness or inability to prioritize racial equity and transparency. We insist that the individual holding the City Manager position evidence commitment to those values.
CABG is also demanding that the independent investigation into the allegations surrounding sexual misconduct in the Parks and Recreation Department, led by Lawrence Hemingway, be made available to the public in full with redactions of personal information pertaining to survivors of the alleged misconduct.
The statement by Nicholas Cummings, the City of Evanston’s corporation counsel, stated, “The City intends to make public the result of the investigation. However, the full report, which will contain privileged material, is not expected to be made public” (Mihalopoulos).
This position is disrespectful and derogatory to those who were survivors of the alleged misconduct, their families, and the larger community. Residents must know which systems failed so they may advocate for appropriate measures to protect the youth and young adults of Evanston who work on its beaches and throughout the City. A refusal to disclose this information will lead to further mistrust and a shortage of seasonal workers in the future.
Community Alliance for Better Government will continue to closely track developments, strive for active resident participation in local government, and communicate with elected officials to guarantee healthy government practices.
Mihalopoulos, Dan. “Evanston City Manager To Quit After Female Workers Allege Sexual Violence At Beaches.” WBEZ Chicago, 06 08 2021.
By Sebastian Nalls