Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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NU employee’s nomination to zoning board sparks protest

Evanston activists are protesting one of Mayor Lorraine H. Morton’s latest proposed appointees, saying the man would be biased toward Northwestern.

Morton nominated NU’s associate vice president of facilities management, Ronald Nayler, to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Former co-chair of the now-defunct Fair Share Action Committee Mimi Peterson said Nayler’s job at NU would compromise his loyalty to the residents he would represent as a member of the board.

The appointment is up for confirmation at tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

“Mr. Nayler is the be all, end all for zoning decisions for Northwestern,” Peterson said. “Even if he recuses himself regarding a matter of the university, he will still be presenting the project for Northwestern. His colleagues will be under undue pressure because of him.”

Fair Share was founded in 1998 to urge aldermen to persuade NU to give more back to the city in return for the services the university receives.

Nayler did not answer or return more than 10 calls made to his office and home Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Zoning Board of Appeals makes decisions on how land in Evanston can be used. Members of the board serve unpaid 5-year terms.

Nayler’s job at NU involves zoning, planning, building, maintenance and administrative services for the university. And as part of his job, Nayler has appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals as a representative of NU.

In a letter in the Oct. 6 issue of the Evanston Review, Peterson called the zoning board of appeals the “most powerful board” in Evanston.

“The zoning board is unique in that it really has the final say – there’s no review by the council,” she said. “That’s power, zoning power.”

Peterson said Nayler “engineered” NU’s purchase of 1800 Sherman in November 2004 and has continually represented NU in conflicts with the city.

Peterson and Dave Ellis, another former co-chair of the Fair Share, spoke with the mayor Monday about her proposal.

Peterson said Morton was insensitive to her views.

“The mayor told me that the Lord was going to get me,” Peterson said. “It’s distressing to me that someone like myself would receive that sort of response from the mayor.”

The mayor should appoint someone committed to Evanston residents, Peterson said.

But Medill graduate student Hannah Jaycox said people need to remember that NU is part of the Evanston community.

“If the City Council votes for (the appointment), they’ll be representing the best interests of Evanston,” she said. “It would be fair to have someone representing the great part of land that Northwestern has.”

The mayor said she stands by her proposal.

“I’m so delighted Mr. Nayler applied for this position,” Morton said. “Anyone reading the credentials of someone like this would just be thrilled that he’s willing to work for us.”

Those credentials include 20 years of working for universities and 10 years for the City of Boston, Morton said. Nayler has also served on the Evanston Energy Commission, and has worked for NU since the late ’90s.

“One thing about him that I particularly like is that he has worked with a city before, in Boston,” Morton said. “This is a man who not only has knowledge but skills.”

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said Nayler’s credentials look good, but she knows nothing about him as a person.

“His qualifications look fine to me,” she said. “But I’m waiting to see whether the city staff sees a conflict of interest. I don’t have an objection to where he works.”

Two of the seven seats for the board are vacant, and finding people to fill those positions is difficult, the mayor said.

The second terms of two board members expired in February and May, and another resigned this summer. Only one of those seats has since been filled.

“The board is having a difficult time getting a quorum to do business,” Morton said. “I can’t tell you how many times they couldn’t do anything.”

Peterson said she cannot see how the city could fail to find a suitable applicant in a community of Evanston’s size. But the mayor said the city does not actively recruit members for the board. Applicants choose to apply.

“It was his own initiative that he sent me this application,” Morton said. “He saw a need and filled it.”

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected].

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NU employee’s nomination to zoning board sparks protest