In an effort to inform Evanston voters about candidates for the Second and Ninth wards, the RoundTable sent out a standard questionnaire to each person running for the council seat of either ward. Today, we are publishing responses from candidates, which you can find in one place here

Early voting opened at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on Monday, March 20, and Election Day is Tuesday, April 4.

Darlene Cannon

Darlene Cannon.

Provide your occupation (if you’re a consultant, please describe what type of consulting work you do), recent civic/volunteer activities, educational background, and time you have lived in Evanston. 

I was born and raised in Evanston. My professional background includes working in corporate and health care administration, and in the special education department at ETHS. With the support of my family, I have dedicated the last seven years to community organizing, which grew out of my concern about lack of process in my own neighborhood regarding development. I’m currently working as a substitute teacher in District 65. I’m a board member of Citizens Network of Protection, the Democratic Party of Evanston, and a commissioner on the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission. 

What do you see as the top three challenges facing the city of Evanston in the next few years, and how would you address them?

Housing: We need a multilevel approach: We rely too much on new developments, with too little affordability. Our highest priority is adding more housing stock that is affordable into perpetuity. We must invest in scattered-site affordable housing throughout Evanston. Lastly, we need a more viable path to home ownership. Land trusts and cooperative housing have the potential for creating an entry point for people who otherwise would not be able to build equity. 

Community voice: I’m an advocate for amplifying the voices of all Second Ward residents. They deserve not only to be heard, but to be collaborators in determining our decision making in Evanston. If there were meetings first with residents, we would alleviate much of the frustration felt by our community at being left out of the process. Residents should be seen as partners, give input, and help guide our decisions. 

Economic development: I have met with small businesses in the Second Ward and across Evanston. As a city, we need to understand that these businesses represent our identity and culture and bring people to our city, creating foot traffic for all businesses. When we are crafting legislation that impacts small businesses we must do it with small businesses in mind. There are differences between small and chain businesses. I would take the lead to meet with small businesses to see what the impacts are for them before moving forward on making a change that would have negative consequences.

We need job training and mentorship, for our unemployed and under-employed youth and residents.

Name one thing that you think the current council has done well and one thing that it could have done better in the last three years and provide your reasons.

Positive: Providing the city with a permanent chief of police. This action gave residents confidence in the hiring process since she was a top choice of many residents. 

Needs improvement: The hiring of several HR firms in the search for a city manager. We have been through numerous city managers in the past couple of years, and we need and deserve a city manager who is an Evanston resident who will be a long-term employee with a vested interest in the needs of the community.

The council appears to have drawn a line against raising property taxes in favor of raising fees and fines, such as parking and waste disposal. Where do you stand on taxes vs. fees and fines?

This is where our budget comes into play. It all matters, when we are trying to do right by our taxpayers. There are people trying to make rent or pay a mortgage, and we must protect those impacted the most by our decisions.

We need to ask ourselves: Are we losing revenue by increasing parking and fees right now? How would overall revenues be affected if we did a one- or two-month parking holiday downtown? Then, if we looked at sales tax data for downtown during that time, did those revenues increase, remain flat or go down? Such data would better support the reasoning for our actions. We must scrutinize all spending, and the ways we decide to create revenue. 

Where do you stand on the proposed fair work week ordinance and ban on cashless businesses? 

Fair Work Week: Workers’ rights and protections are one of my many top priorities and I also strongly support small businesses. I strongly believe this type of ordinance is for large employers of 50 or more. Our small businesses and employees are the heart and soul of our community. We must talk with both and learn about the workplace culture. Neither workers nor businesses can survive without each other. As a result, the community will benefit from collaboration between both entities. Finally, many businesses already adhere to the practices.The other issue is differentiating between small local businesses and national chain stores.

Cashless: There is a need for more research on cashless businesses to provide better insight into the issue. A cashless business can be penalizing unbanked customers. Will the unbanked benefit from kiosks if they were provided? Is there a successful program that would not penalize the unbanked or small businesses? 

The city continues to look at selling the Morton Civic Center and possibly moving city offices to the downtown area. Where do you think city offices should be located? What should be done with the 2100 Ridge Ave. property?

It is unclear what the details are concerning selling the Civic Center. There is talk about using the building for affordable housing. If so, this will require a complete gut rehab. Considering there would be a major financial investment to convert the building, is this a viable option? Secondly, it is very unclear how a move to downtown Evanston is going to save money. Does the city plan to buy or rent a building? Will there be free parking for residents? Does it make sense for us to take prime real estate off the tax rolls for a city building? We need the cost analysis before making this move.

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Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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