Mayor, alderman clash over resident nominations for panel
Two candidates live on same street, Morton says
By Breanne Gilpatrick
The Daily Northwestern
A panel set up to ease tensions after the settlement of the four-year lawsuit between the City of Evanston and Northwestern already has sparked controversy over who will represent the city.
The panel was set up as part of the consent decree reached after the NU-Evanston lawsuit settlement in February. The decree states that the committee will include two representatives from the university and two from the city to discuss issues relating to zoning and future development of the university’s property west of Sheridan Road.
Mayor Lorraine H. Morton raised concerns with Ald. Arthur Newman’s (1st) appointment of two First Ward residents — Robert Atkins and David Schoenfeld — who live on the same block.
“The two names that he submitted, one lives at 2005 Orrington (Ave.) and one lives at 2039 Orrington,” Morton said. “They live in one little area of the community we’re talking about.”
But Newman said he suspects Morton is trying to appoint members who will support the university’s views rather than the city’s.
“The mayor’s top priority in office has been to please the administration of Northwestern University,” he said. “She wants anybody that I don’t want.”
Newman also said the final decision on the makeup of the panel lies with Evanston City Council and not the mayor. According to the consent decree, the city’s representatives on the panel “shall be chosen by and serve at the pleasure of the City Council and the alderman of the First Ward.”
“The dispute is basically over that the mayor resents the fact that the City Council did not give her the right to appoint citizens to the committee,” Newman said. “It was very clear that City Council was going to make the appointments and not the mayor.”
Morton said Newman’s claims were out of line.
“That is not true. He does not know why I wanted to do this,” she said. “How does he know what’s on my mind?”
She said she was not trying to appoint representatives that would be beholden to NU but was instead trying to get a broader community viewpoint.
“I want the committee to be able to do what it needs to do,” Morton said. “The only way it can accomplish something, first, is to have people who want to be on it, and second, to have people who represent the spectrum of the community.”
But Morton said her main objection wasn’t with the nominations themselves but with the nomination process. She said because the specifics of this process did not fall under any council rules, the city’s chief lawyer, Jack Siegel, had to help determine a special process. Aldermen and the mayor will submit names to the city clerk until May 20. The council will then select the two nominees at executive session on May 24 and will go before the public for a vote at the June 14 council meeting.
City Clerk Mary Morris said Newman and Morton have submitted seven names so far. She said no other aldermen have submitted names for the panel.
‘The Broader Community’
Schoenfeld, one of the two people originally suggested by Newman, said he disagreed with some of Morton’s objections.
“I’m keenly aware of the interests of the broader community,” he said. “It’s unreal to suggest that because I live in this area I don’t understand the issues affecting this community.”
Schoenfeld said his work on the city’s Housing and Community Development Act Committee proves that he is aware of issues outside his segment of the city. He did say, however, that anyone who serves on the panel should live near the area affected by the lawsuit settlement.
“The whole point of the committee is to foster communication between the university and citizens on these issues,” Schoenfeld said. “It wouldn’t make any more sense for someone from outside the area to serve on the committee than it would for me to serve on a similar committee down on Howard Street.”
Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) said although she didn’t want to comment on Newman’s nominations, she does think it would be good to have variation on the committee. She said she also would like to have the committee vote to include a resident of the Seventh Ward, which represents the northern portion of campus.
“It seems silly to have a committee that discusses all of Northwestern issues but not quite,” Tisdahl said.
Residents in that area also are affected by NU, such as those who live near Ryan Field, Tisdahl said. She said residents there must deal with problems related to tailgating, noise and crowds during football games. More communication would help resolve these issues, she said.
University officials said they have not chosen the NU administrators who will serve on the panel, but will do so once the city decides on its representatives. Lucile Krasnow, NU’s special assistant for community relations, said the university’s representatives would include someone in the senior administration and someone from Facilities Management.
Because the panel will focus primarily on land use and zoning issues, Krasnow said the Facilities Management representative would address any plans the university had for future property development.
She said many of the panel’s goals, however, remain up in the air.
“The main purpose of (the panel) is to share ideas and share information,” Krasnow said. “There isn’t any direct concept of what the committee is supposed to accomplish.”
Despite the controversy with appointing the city representatives on the panel, she said the university is willing to work with whomever the council chooses.
“We will go along with anyone the city appoints,” she said. “That’s the prerogative of the city.”
The Daily’s Chris Kirkham contributed to this report.