Dear Mayor Biss and Evanston City Council,
Community Alliance for Better Government and Reclaim Evanston are organizations dedicated to improving transparency, responsiveness and racial equity in Evanston’s city government. With the City Manager application deadline yesterday, Nov. 29, we write with concern about the hiring process.
While we understand the need to expedite the hiring process, a short timeline should not be at the expense of community input. We are concerned that, to date, “public input” has consisted of one very sparsely attended town hall and a vaguely-worded resident survey. Thirty “stakeholders” were selected to meet with the hiring team, but no explanation was given as to how these people were chosen, if they are representative of the wards, the city’s demographics, or even who they are. In addition, the hiring firm has demonstrated no experience or expertise with racially equitable hiring, pointing only to their record in hiring women.
It was only thanks to public pressure last year that there was an open search process at all for the City Manager position. During the early months of the pandemic, former Mayor Hagerty and several Council members tried to hire the interim manager, Erika Storlie, bypassing the wider search that was promised to the people of Evanston months earlier. Then, despite guarantees of citizen involvement, the Mayor restricted the participation of his own racially diverse stakeholder interview teams and turned the supposedly competitive forum of the three finalists into a sham. Less than a year later, City Manager Storlie resigned under the cloud of a sexual abuse scandal that, it turns out, she and Mayor Hagerty knew about during the search. Had our elected representatives listened to the community, they would have made a different selection and we likely would not be here today, once again wasting precious time and taxpayer money.
Mayor Daniel Biss and many of the current council members promised Evanstonians openness, transparency and attention to citizen input. We call on Mayor Biss and City Council to live up to their commitments by providing a full, comprehensive update on the City Manager search. Specifically:
- Is Interim City Manager Kelley Gandursky being considered for the position? When CABG and Reclaim met with Mayor Biss, he agreed that her appointment should be as interim only and that she would not be considered for the permanent position.
- Where was the position advertised?
- The recruitment brochure lists “Ideal Candidate” qualities. Where did this list come from?
- How is public input being used in the selection process?
- How is the search firm implementing a racial equity lens?
- Will there be public forums with candidates?
- What explicit, measurable criteria will the search firm and Council be using to evaluate candidates? What is the weighting of each criterion?
CABG and Reclaim, as broad-based, good government campaigns that represent a wide swath of Evanstonians encompassing all wards, races, and ages, would be more than willing to meet again with the hiring team to provide some additional guidance. Now is the time to rectify a lost year – indeed, a lost two years since Wally Bobkiewicz resigned as City Manager – and hire a truly qualified candidate under a truly competitive, national search process.
CABG Leadership: Rick Marsh, Bennett Johnson, Oliver Ruff, Gail Schechter, Lesley Williams, Nick Korzeniowski, Sebastian Nalls, Diane Goldring, Allie Harned
Reclaim Core Group: Darlene Cannon, Elliot Zashin, Tina Foster, Anne Townley