Newly elected may placate tensions

Evanston’s new aldermen hope to alleviate some tension present in the Evanston City Council and make city politics more effective.

Newly elected Alds. Cheryl Wollin (1st), Delores Holmes (5th) and Anjana Hansen (9th) will be sworn in May 9. They will replace retiring Alds. Arthur Newman (1st), Joseph Kent (5th) and Gene Feldman (9th).

“Personality issues” stalled forward movement among current aldermen at council meetings, said former Ald. Steve Engelman (7th), who retired in 2002.

“Certainly the rhetoric is likely to be softer,” he said. “The mistrust that permeated some of the issues over the previous eight years will not be there.”

The new council makeup could bring more productive debate at council meetings, Hansen said.

“We’ll be able to work a little bit better together and hopefully get more things accomplished in the next four years,” she said.

Wollin — whose ward houses many NU students — may help ease the “stalemate” that existed between NU and Newman, who questioned the legality of NU’s February purchase of the building at 1800 Sherman Ave., said Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th).

“When you change people there’s a natural tendency to start fresh,” Bernstein said. “I think Newman has become sort of a lightning rod for Northwestern. My guess is they’ll be happy to work with someone who’s not Art Newman.”

Alan Cubbage, vice president for university relations, said he also thought NU will have stronger relations with the new city council.

“The new council is one that we’re looking forward to having good discussions with,” he said.

More trust and friendliness on the council also might mean shorter meetings, Engelman said. Council meetings often last past midnight.

“It would be nice if the new council could conclude business on the same day meetings began,” he said.

New aldermen may have to deal with a learning curve, City Manager Julia Carroll said.

“It’s normal as they learn the inside workings of an organization better that there will be some time for them to get up to speed on how things are handled,” she said.

Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) said he hopes the new council will discuss ways to improve neighborhoods besides the downtown area.

“The west side in the city of Evanston has not received adequate attention on the council,” he said. “We need to lead the charge and turn the council’s attention westward.”

Reach Greg Hafkin at [email protected] and Tina Peng at [email protected]