Elizabeth Tisdahl runs this town. And Evanston isn’t an easy town to run.
The city, marked by economic disparities among neighborhoods, a historically tenuous relationship with Northwestern, outstanding financial debt and largely unfunded pensions, has taken the brunt of national problems.
It is on the local level where residents can see the tangible effects of rising foreclosures and struggling small businesses-concepts that often seem distant when discussed by politicians in Washington and Springfield. Similarly it is on the local level where many residents expect change to be implemented quickly and effectively to address issues that have larger, national implications.
Fortunately Evanston has found strong leadership in Tisdahl to move forward. Last Friday the mayor delivered her first State of the City address, highlighting several of the city’s accomplishments in the last year.
“The State of a City cannot be judged merely by whether or not we have problems,” Tisdahl said. “We all have serious problems, but the issue is how we work to resolve those problems.”
Tisdahl noted the $18 million federal grant to build affordable homes, the adoption of a new economic development strategy and the Evanston City Council’s ability to balance a $9.5 million budget deficit without raising property taxes.
Tisdahl, a former Seventh Ward alderman and school board president, easily won a heavily contested election last spring to succeed longtime mayor Lorraine Morton. Many of the city’s improvements and success in the last year have been aided by Tisdahl’s leadership and ability to work with officials across governmental lines.
Since taking office in May, Tisdahl has made it clear preserving the city’s diversity, which she called in her speech Evanston’s most prized asset, takes top priority. She made personal trips to Washington and Springfield to lobby for funding for housing and environmental programs. Additionally the mayor has pursued improved town-gown relations, capitalizing on the opportunity to build a relationship with new University President Morton O. Schapiro and even coming to campus to address the Associated Student Government last month.
In her first few months in office, Tisdahl has worked well with aldermen and made herself visible to residents and fellow politicians. While Evanston will never be free of problems, at least as Tisdahl said in her speech, “The city that we all love is doing well.”
City Editor Nathalie Tadena is a Medill junior. She can be reached at [email protected]