Change to come to Evanston after November elections

Ben Geier

Change was the buzzword in November’s presidential election. As April’s Evanston City Council elections near, change will confront Evanston voters again.

Four council members – Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th), Ald. Edmund Moran (6th), Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) and Ald. Anjana Hansen (9th) will not be seeking re-election. Mayor Lorraine Morton has also announced her retirement after 16 years in the position.

Tisdahl, who has served on the council since 2003, is in a unique position: She’ll still be on the ballot, but in the mayoral election. The other candidates have offered varied reasons for their retirements.

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years. It’s very time-consuming work,” Moran said. “I love doing the work, but I have some other life goals that I want to pursue, some of them of a personal nature.”

Bernstein, who has been an aldermen for 12 years, said the intensity of the job has worn on him. He said it’s time for someone who was “more objective than he has become” to take the reins.

As for Hansen, she was concerned she wouldn’t have enough time to serve on the council, she said. While working as an alderman, she also has maintained her job as an assistant state’s attorney for Illinois. She has expressed doubt about the feasibility of continuing both careers.

“They’ve kind of gone down a parallel path,” Hansen said. “I don’t know that they’ll continue to go down the same parallel path for the next four years.”

Hansen also said her family – with two young children – was a deciding factor. Her children are entering Evanston public schools, and she would need to be at home in the evening, when the council meets, she said.

There may seem to be lots of change coming to Evanston this year, but according to some, turnover is common on the council.

“It seems as though there are at least one or two (retirements every election season),” Moran said. “There may have been as many as three. Usually we get some retirements.”

With concerns about the economy and other important city issues swirling, there surely will be questions about how the new council will respond. The retiring council members have differing opinions on how successfully new members will adapt.

“They will all have a great chance to take on new leadership and have some new direction,” Hansen said. “Some new blood will help us move in that direction to make the economic development of town a positive thing.”

Bernstein, however, is less confident.

“I almost reconsidered (retiring), quite honestly, because we have such a dearth of experience,” he said.

Tisdahl, who hopes to lead the council as mayor, has no qualms about its future.

“There’s some very talented people running in each ward,” she said. “I have faith in the voters, and I think they’ll elect a good council.”

New council members would take the time to educate themselves before making any big changes, she said.

“People in new positions tend to be fairly savvy and don’t think they know everything,” she said. “They try to learn a little bit before they start passing ordinances.”

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