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.

Krissie Harris

Second Ward Council Member Krissie Harris Credit: Richard Cahan

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 have lived in Evanston for 50 years. I am manager of student life and campus inclusion at Oakton College, where I have worked for 25 years. I have a bachelor’s of science in construction management and master’s in higher education administration from Illinois State University. I hold certificates in advanced substance abuse counseling, human services and sexual assault advocacy.

Volunteer: Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, volunteer; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), member; Family Focus Inc., auxiliary board; Second Baptist Church, trustee; Race Against Hate, annual volunteer; Evanston Northshore YWCA, past board member; Dajae Coleman Foundation, photographer for Foster Seniors Fashion show; C&W food share volunteer; served as the UNITY Treasurer; African American Youth Achievement Award, co-coordinator.

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?

Budget and Finance: The city needs to use a rubric to forecast and allocate finances and spending. It is important that we have mechanisms in place that help us stay fiscally sound while prioritizing the needs of the city. Being the most junior council member, I am trying to understand how this system works. Transparency, a recurring theme for me, is key.

Zoning: There’s a disproportionate number of single-family units in some wards while the opposite may be true in others. We need to create comprehensive zoning so that each part of the city can accommodate and serve the whole community. This concept is being looked at and we will have many serious discussions on what this vision might be for the city as a whole.

Equity and inclusion: This is a national issue that has challenged Evanston for decades. I have always been committed to having hard discussions. I’ve made suggestions to the city manager on how to move forward. I have asked that comprehensive strategies be looked at, and that drastic measures be taken where needed. I believe the system that perpetuated this type of harm must exhaust all options to find a solution. This is not an overnight fix. We must be steady and strategic. The types of changes we need must be structured, enforceable and sustainable.

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. 

What council has done well or better is try to provide checks and balances within the council to ensure all angles of an issue are at least heard. We have diverging views and are working to be better able to hear each other and ultimately provide resolutions that we hope satisfy most.

We need to be transparent. This work is not done in a bubble, however. Because everyone is not able to be a part of the process, for some, it appears that information is being withheld. Let’s be clear, in the running of any council, as with business or personal affairs, it’s not possible for everyone to know everything. That’s why I, as an alderperson, am committed to fair and equitable dialogue and outcomes. We can do better helping our constituents understand how decisions are made. When the answer is not what they want, giving the why behind the answer may help them understand.

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?

Property taxes are composed of five taxing bodies, which means for every $1: 17 cents to city operations, 3 cents to EPL, 41 cents to District 65, 26 cents to District 202 and 13 cents to Cook County and other taxing districts. Yes, we had reserves that allowed us to not have to raise our part of the levy. I don’t believe in taxing to gain revenue. Tell me the cost upfront, don’t nickel and dime me. Taxes, fines and or fees should be clearly stated so everyone understands what they are and why, otherwise it feels arbitrary. As an educator, I will say that fining for the sake of a fine does not change behavior.

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

Our small businesses took a big hit during the pandemic. They lost customers, they’re losing employees and inflation is making it even more difficult. I’m not in favor of the Fair work week ordinance. We are still working our way out of a pandemic; physically, emotionally, and most definitely financially. We should extend grace and allow our businesses to come out of this slump. To me, this means not imposing new taxes and fees.

Remember, many business owners are also residents of our city, further taxing them, currently, is not something I am in favor of. I’ve asked that businesses not go strictly cashless. This is a social issue not just a business issue. We know there is a section of our community who are underbanked or unbanked.

Cashless as the only option excludes a whole population. It’s not equitable. The human services training in me says we can’t box people out. On the other hand, I hear the businesses’ side of this issue. With that said, I am willing to work with both sides to come up with creative suggestions like, how to engage social service agencies to help get a population better financially secure.

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?

I graduated with my bachelor’s in construction, so this is kind of my thing. I love the Civic Center and the history it represents. The Civic Center was built in 1901 to be a boarding school. It was not intended to be used for what we know it to be today. Making any changes to the current structure will surely present a bigger challenge than what we can see with the naked eye. The cost of construction is not something we can currently absorb into our budget.

Civic centers should be accessible to the residents who need to use the service we provide, so downtown makes sense because we have public transit right there. Wherever we move, we come off the tax roll, so we need to lessen our footprint where necessary.

What should be done with it? I’ve heard talk of affordable housing but am not sure what that would look like. That requires research. I don’t just want it to go to the highest bidder with no thoughts or directives from the city.

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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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