Alderman candidates debate city issues at public forum


Julia Jacobs/The Daily Northwestern

Kristin Brown, who announced her candidacy for 9th Ward alderman on Wednesday, speaks to a crowd of 80 alongside her opponents. Five candidates for the vacated 9th Ward seat debated at Levy Senior Center on Thursday.

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

Five candidates for the 9th Ward alderman spot shared Thursday their visions for the ward and solutions to city issues, such as affordable housing and public transportation.

About 80 people attended the debate at the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., where one candidate, Kristin Brown, debuted her candidacy after entering the race the previous day.

“Why am I doing this? It’s the next logical step,” said Brown, a lifelong Evanston resident and member of Rotary International, who will vacate her position on the McGaw YMCA board of directors in June. “I want to take my community involvement to the next step.”

Coleen Burrus left her 9th Ward alderman seat this month for a position at Princeton University.

All candidates spoke about prioritizing the $5 million that Northwestern will give the city over the next five years, with the majority of them honing in on needs for infrastructure and mental health programs.

“Good government is good infrastructure,” said candidate Brian Miller, chief of staff to Cook County’s 13th district commissioner. “The day-to-day face of government is our streets, our parks, our police cars, our fire trucks … We have an aging infrastructure that we need to address.”

Brown highlighted a need for the Northwestern funds in the wake of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts. She said she would devote some of the grant money to enhancing transportation for lower-income residents, including adding transportation for youth in afterschool programs.

Candidate Shawn Jones, an attorney and former reporter who said he brings an “outsider’s perspective” after moving to Evanston in 2008, is focusing his campaign on small businesses and improving affordable housing.

Candidate Schona Buranda, a human relations expert who works at an affordable housing organization in Chicago, said the city has a long way to go to achieve socioeconomic diversity and improve the quality of life for homeless people in Evanston.

In the part of the discussion that focused on senior citizens, Candidate Dan Coyne, commissioner of south Evanston’s Ridgeville Park District, suggested a city-run shuttle system with 14-passenger buses to bolster transportation for senior citizens who are often left “stranded.”

Attendee Anna Christina Nelson has heard support for new shuttles from senior citizens in the Ridgeville Park District, where she works as an office manager and corporate secretary. Nelson said she appreciated the forum’s focus on Evanston’s senior citizens and youth.

“Those two groups of people really have to be paid attention to because someday we’re all going to be seniors and the youth are our future,” Nelson said.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, who will ultimately choose the new alderman, held a meeting at the beginning of the month to gauge opinion from residents on the aldermanic race. Although the public debate wasn’t required by law, Tisdahl chose to hold it by popular demand of 9th Ward residents, Tisdahl told The Daily.

“The mayor did not have to do this, and I think it’s very telling the way she chose to set up the forum to give the candidates a chance to create some input … and consensus,” said Jane Dowd, who works in Evanston in learning and organizational change in health care. “That was a wise move on her part.”

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