In mayoral race, Brian Miller aims to offer an ‘independent’ voice to Evanston politics


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Brian Miller (9th) speaks at an event. Miller says he wants to bring an “independent voice” to the mayor’s office.

Sam Krevlin, Reporter

Less than two years after being appointed by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl to 9th Ward alderman, Brian Miller (School of Law ’08) is hoping to bring an independent voice to the mayor’s office.

Miller, who was born in Evanston and attended Evanston Township High School, currently works as chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin. Suffredin — while refraining from endorsing anyone in the election — praised Miller’s work as his chief of staff, saying he has a “keen legal mind.”

Miller said his election would “change the establishment” in the city. Although the first-term alderman has received criticism for occasionally voting against the majority in council, he said it’s time for a change in the city.

“I have not sided with everyone in every instance on the council,” Miller said. “We need an independent person to say maybe we have to look at things differently.”

Against the grain

Miller is not without his critics. When he announced his candidacy for mayor, Tisdahl told The Daily she had concerns with the Miller’s ability to work with others. Tisdahl criticized him after a Mental Health board member allegedly resigned after an argument over funding with Miller.

Miller denied that an argument had ever occurred with the former board member in a September interview with The Daily, but said he apologized to her after she stepped down from the board.

Miller said while he has been in the minority on the council many times, he stands by his decisions. Miller said it will be important to have an independent voice as mayor to address the “hard questions” that Evanston needs to solve as a community.

Trisha Rich, an attorney who “runs in the same political circles” as Miller, said the first-term alderman was in politics for the right reason.

“His heart is in the right place,” she said.  “He has a reputation for being a rabble rouser, but that is because he feels so strongly that he is not going to be the go-long, get-along guy.”

Miller also received criticism after he filed his nominating petitions in November, a few weeks before the predetermined filing period. Miller did so citing state law that requires a primary in a municipal race with more than four candidates. The three other candidates who planned to run at the time — Steve Hagerty, Gary Gaspard and Mark Tendam — all rushed to file in November.

A supporter of Miller then filed objections to the three candidates’ petitions in December and ultimately pursued objections on two of them because their petitions were filed for a general election rather than a primary.

Rich said Miller was just acting like any other lawyer would.

“Brian’s a lawyer, and when he realized the process wasn’t being followed, he went to the city clerk; he did all the things that as a lawyer — anybody — would do,” Rich said. “No matter who wins the election, that is going to be one of the first issues to come up.”

Prioritizing policing

Last month, Miller gained national attention after pushing the city to release dashboard video of the 2015 arrest of Northwestern graduate student Lawrence Crosby. Miller said he will prioritize police accountability as mayor and push for de-escalation training.

Additionally, Miller wants to change the process of reviewing police complaints. He said the police fail to adequately address many reports.

“Many of these people file complaints and the police have an internal review process,” Miller said. “We need an independent police review board to ensure the process is accurately and effectively reviewing these complaints.”

Police Chief Richard Eddington told The Daily in January he didn’t see a need to change the way complaints were reviewed.

In addition to addressing police relations, Miller said he hopes to increase the number of outreach staff working with at-risk youth in the city. He also said he wants to increase funding for mental health programs in some of Evanston’s under-resourced communities.

Suffredin said Miller’s plan to work on reducing violence and building relations between the police and the community if elected is worthwhile.

“He is very concerned with violence in our society and the interaction of police with our citizens,” Suffredin said. “That is an area where he will work to have better and improved relationships and trying to make the community safer.”

Welcoming immigrants

After President Donald Trump was elected in November, Tisdahl stressed the importance of Evanston continuing to be a welcoming place for immigrants and putting the debate of sanctuary cities at the forefront. She pushed City Council to approve a “welcoming city” resolution that prohibits any city officials from inquiring about a person’s legal status.

Miller voted for the resolution and said he supports Evanston’s status as a sanctuary city. Miller said he will stand by immigrants despite Donald Trump’s recent executive action barring some from entering the country.

“It is a question of civil rights,” Miller said. “Everyone has a right to due process. Everyone has a right to basically not have adverse enforcement actions brought against them only because of the suspected immigration status. We should be standing up for immigrants.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @samkrevlin