The scandals just won’t die (City Watch)

Breanne Gilpatrick

Ballot disputes, voter fraud, bribery, conspiracy. The April Evanston Aldermen election had as much drama as an episode of “Desperate Housewives.”

And I’m not just talking about First Ward candidate Judy Fiske’s lawsuit against Northwestern and First Ward Ald. Cheryl Wollin (1st). Sure, last week’s charges of a candidate-university “conspiracy” complete with an alleged “paper trail” were an event worthy of Sweeps Week – or at least a low-budget movie of the week.

But that’s just the tip of the crazy iceberg.

It started in February with the decision to remove two aldermanic candidates from the ballot for failing to fill out their nominating petitions with the precision of Certified Public Accountants.

The Evanston resident who filed the ballot objection against incumbent Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) spent 30 hours pouring over state and city election laws to remove Jean-Baptiste because of a “personal gripe.” The man said in interviews he was going to take it upon himself to make sure Jean-Baptiste wasn’t re-elected.

And forget alleged housing point offers for student voters. In March, mayoral candidate Peter Godwin offered to give incumbent Lorraine H. Morton $8,500 – half of the mayor’s yearly salary – if she agreed to drop out of the race and become the city’s “public liaison.”

And exactly six months to the day after the election, Fiske is still deep in her crusade to have 200 First Ward votes declared invalid.

Now, I know we’re in Chicago – city of stuffed ballot boxes and dead voters – but this is ridiculous.

In fact, it’s more than ridiculous. It’s infuriating and expensive. And it’s the residents of this city that will lose out.

These objections and lawsuits are a waste of money this city needs. Jean-Baptiste had to spend nearly $25,000 to finance his write-in candidacy. The Fiske lawsuit already has cost Wollin and the city more than $15,000 dollars in legal fees, with thousands more likely being spent by NU, and it hasn’t even gone to court yet. Evanston residents, if your property taxes go up this year, don’t put all the blame NU. You have one of your own to thank as well.

And let’s not forget that all of this also is a waste of city time that could be used, to, oh, I don’t know – run the city.

Then you have Godwin’s ridiculous offer that cost this city the first credible mayoral challenger it has had in 12 years. But who needs a choice in a democracy anyway, right?

And the costs are still adding up. I mean, why would someone want to run for office in 2009 when filling out nominating forms is more complicated than filing someone’s taxes? And it doesn’t exactly encourage voter participation when casting a vote places your name in a lawsuit.

I don’t even pay property taxes in this city and I’m annoyed. I’m all for upholding the election laws. But there’s following the law and there’s clinging to it to the point of absurdity.

But job search permitting, I won’t be here four years from now. So unless you want to see the next city election turn into another ten-ring circus, you have be the one’s to let the candidates of this city know that the next one of them that wastes your time, your money or your patience that person will NOT be getting your vote.

Let’s save the drama for television next time. There’s enough bad reality TV as it is.

City Editor Breanne Gilpatrick is a Medill senior. She can be reached at [email protected]