Ald. Grover (7th) talks first-term success, Evanston-Northwestern relations


Source: Facebook

Ald. Jane Grover (7th) represents NU students who live east of Sheridan Road, as well as Elder Residential Community and Delta Chi Fraternity. Grover is running unopposed for re-election in this April’s election.

Manuel Rapada, City Editor

On election night in April 2009, Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said one of her friends at a Northwestern polling place reported she had beaten her opponents 2 to 1.

“I said, ‘Well that’s really — that’s a great margin, I like the percentage.’”

That friend clarified: two votes to one. A fourth student would also show up to Patten Gym to vote for one of Grover’s opponents.

Four years after winning the 7th Ward City Council seat with more than 59 percent of the vote, Grover faces no challengers in the upcoming April 9 election.

Grover admitted Tuesday that it is difficult to get students excited about Evanston government while they work toward academic and extracurricular success. The key, she said, is to find overlap between the University and the city’s extracurricular offerings.

Haven Middle School students, including Grover’s seventh-grade son, worked on “The Snow Queen” with more than a dozen Northwestern students. The 7th Ward alderman said it was a good opportunity for her son to work with talented NU students.

“I saw, just with my son, how much he grew from that experience,” he said.

Grover also meets regularly with Associated Student Government officials, including Steven Monacelli, vice president for community relations.

In her coming term, Grover said she hopes to hold another joint ward meeting on campus with Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), whose ward represents many NU students living off campus, to discuss city issues with NU students.

Aside from working on the same off-campus housing committee, Grover said she has not often worked with Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) when reaching out to Northwestern students. Fiske is being challenged by resident Edward Tivador.

“Ald. Fiske and I are working toward the same purpose, but on different tracks,” she said. “But there’s an opportunity to coordinate more.”

Fiske and Grover were on opposing sides in October when City Council voted to grant NU a certificate of appropriateness for the proposed visitors’ center. Days earlier, the city’s Preservation Commission denied a request for a certificate of appropriateness.

Grover explained Tuesday she looked at the overall landmark lot of record to provide context for her vote to not follow the Preservation Commission’s non-binding decision.

There are a number of architectural styles in the same landmark lot of record that part of the new visitor center would partially enter, including the modern Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, 2133 Sheridan Road, Grover said.

“The landmark lot of record is the larger context, so the welcome center was not out of place in the larger context,” she said.

Many residents also did not want to lose the bike path connecting the lakefront path to the University, which was addressed through the fire lane.

In a 2009 blog post on Evanston Now, Grover wrote, “This is the time to change the tone of the discourse in Evanston.”

She said Tuesday that it has indeed changed since she first wrote that. Out with thinking about a “town-gown” relationship, in with thinking of a University-city partnership, she said.

Grover cited her work with NU athletics to coordinate sporting events, as well as Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and University President Morton Schapiro’s ability to resolve issues before they become much more serious.

“It’s like there’s this mayor-presidential hotline,” she said. “And it’s well used.”

One of the highlights of Grover’s first term include the passing of a ban on using handheld devices while driving, which she said brought heightened awareness to distracted driving. In her next term, Grover hopes to pass a ban on hands-free devices.

The 7th Ward alderman also noted the selection of city manager Wally Bobkiewicz, who she said brings forward-looking solutions to addressing city finances and developing an attractive, innovative city.

In her next four years as aldermen, Grover said she wants to change the tone of the discourse at City Council meetings. Referencing what a friend called the “negative blog swamp,” Grover said negativity from anonymous online posts overflows into City Council meetings, something that “comes from both sides of the podium.”

This year, Grover said she has resolved to calling out bullying that takes place during meetings.

“There are polite and kind ways to take up issues and to be a passionate advocate that are entirely consistent with civil discourse and respect for everyone,” Grover said.

Among other issues, Grover said she also wants the city and the University to work together to ease the burden on businesses affected by the recently announced Chicago Cubs-NU partnership, as well as working with Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) to provide “financial empowerment” to low- and middle-income families by offering alternatives to “predatory” payday lenders.

“I gotta tell you, there’s no better place to do this kind of work than in Evanston,” Grover said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the number of students voting at Patten Gymnasium in 2009. The Daily regrets the error.