NU Pic[K]s sponsors aldermanic debate at Norris

Ben Geier

Cheryl Wollin and Judy Fiske, candidates for First Ward alderman, spoke to about 40 NU students at Norris. Dan Fletcher/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston City Council candidates in the wards that include Northwestern students traded barbs Tuesday night in one of their last opportunities to sway the student vote.

In between hurling personal attacks, aldermanic candidates for the First, Fifth and Seventh Wards discussed town-gown relations, the 708 Church St. Tower and a variety of public safety issues at the debate, which was held at Norris University Center.

About 40 students attended the forum, which was sponsored by NU PicKs, a new student group aiming to increase student voter turnout.

During the debate between First Ward candidates, incumbent Ald. Cheryl Wollin and challenger Judy Fiske discussed their 2005 contest, which ended with Fiske suing NU for voter fraud.

“My opponent will undoubtedly try to make an issue of my legal challenge in the 2005 election,” Fiske said. “Please don’t let that distract you from the issues at hand.”

Pointing out that in 2005, she won every off-campus precinct but lost the lone on-campus precinct by 93 percent, Fiske said something was clearly wrong.

Wollin responded that she actually won three of the six precincts and said that she disapproved of Fiske’s legal tactics.

“In your lawsuit, you mentioned 240 students by name,” she said. “I consider that intimidating to students.”

Next, Fifth Ward candidates Adrian Dortch and Ald. Delores Holmes took the stage.

Dortch, who in 2007 lost attempts to join the school boards of both District 202 and District 65, focused his answers on the “West End Plan,” a ward housing development plan. He claimed the plan would result in expensive townhouses that would drive out the current residents of the ward.

“It is not a gentrification thing; it’s a rich against poor thing,” he said. “I know a lot of people that can’t afford to live in the Fifth Ward unless a moratorium is put on this.”

The rivals also addressed city-NU relations.

While Holmes acknowledged that money was not the only issue, she said NU’s ability to contribute monetarily was important.

“We have to remember that Evanston has some financial problems, and Northwestern may be able to help with some of them, like the salt dome,” she said.

Earlier this year, NU gave Evanston $100,000 to fix the city’s salt domes.

Dortch focused on the students’ ability to contribute to the community.

“Whatever you like to do or whatever you go to school to do, you could hook up with someone in your community and provide that service,” she said.

Finally, Jane Grover, Kevin O’Connor and John Zbesko debated for the Seventh Ward aldermanic seat.

While Zbesko focused on his plan to make Evanston a “better place to play” and Grover talked about a range of issues, O’Connor spent the evening focused on the poor shape of Evanston’s budget and relentlessly attacked the current council, specifically Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th).

Grover said she thought discussing the past council was not productive.

“I am looking forward, and I am not looking back to place blame,” she said.

The candidates also discussed negative campaigning, with Grover accusing the other two of not accepting her plan to ban yard signs. O’Connor said he felt Grover’s claim was disingenuous.

“What you have here is a machine candidate,” he said. “I don’t appreciate it. I like a good honest debate.”

He called her “Republican-ish or Fox News-ish.”

Zbesko suggested several ideas regarding parks and recreation, including a proposal for an Evanston bowling alley.

The conclusion of the event also signaled the end of formal events sponsored by NU PicKs.

Group member Alcina Lidder said she was happy with what the organization had done.

“This is our last major event,” the Weinberg freshman said. “Now it is up to the students to decide.”

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