Open Letter to Mayor Stephen Hagerty:

When I joined the Board several years ago, I was enthusiastic to lend my skills as a mental health professional to help support the good work of the City in funding social service agencies and providers. I really felt that the City of Evanston valued citizen input and appreciated residents lending their expertise and volunteer hours to help craft a more livable city.

After campaigning and fighting to preserve funding for the Mental Health Board during budget cycles, I began to question just how committed and invested the City Council is in truly hearing and representing the needs of the community. Key observations during my tenure are:

- the City Manager position is granted too much unchecked power

- countless hours are spent championing the ideals of equity, yet very few elected officials and City employees have a true understanding and commitment to anti-racist practice.

- there is a loss of trust from residents toward their elected officials, in part because nearly all of the elected officials do not value the importance of transparency and accountability in sharing their voting rationale with constituents.

 

The City’s most recent move to hire Erika Storlie as City Manager has confirmed for me that I can no longer in good conscience volunteer my time and professional knowledge to help support any future efforts of the City of Evanston. This hire goes against every espoused value of this alleged progressive City.

 

I also will not be complicit in encouraging my Black or Brown neighbors and colleagues to consider volunteering on a City Board, Commission or Committee. I believe their labor and contributions will be in vain and may further add to experiences of marginalization and tokenization.

 

Before closing, I would like to acknowledge the professionalism and sound administrative support provided by Jessica Wingader during my tenure. She has represented the City very diligently and in no way has she contributed to my desire to leave.

 

This nationwide search for a new City Manager had the potential to chart a new course for Evanston. It grieves me deeply that the opposite has happened.

 

Jessica Sales