Ninth Ward aldermanic candidate encourages students to engage in local politics


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

9th Ward aldermanic candidate Cicely Fleming speaks in University Hall. Fleming, who is the president of Organizing for Positive Action and Leadership, emphasized the value of grassroots organizations at the event.

Syd Stone, Reporter

Candidate for 9th Ward alderman Cicely Fleming emphasized the value of grassroots organizations to create engagement with local government in a talk Monday.

Fleming, who launched her aldermanic campaign in October, spoke to a crowd of about 20 students and community members in University Hall during an event organized by the Center for Civic Engagement and the Women’s Center.

Fleming, one of the founding members of the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership, said she aims to educate and engage the community to enact governmental change. She spoke about issues facing Evanston residents like affordable housing, equity in school Districts 65 and 202 and representation in government.

She said City Council has tended to attract wealthier individuals with flexible schedules.

“When you have that kind of system, sometimes you have a limited perspective,” she said. “We want to support people to run for office because we know we need to have different perspectives.”

Part of OPAL’s mission is to develop strong candidates for local office, and Fleming said a majority of candidate development is just helping leaders understand what it means to run for office.

Fleming said voting in the upcoming municipal elections is more important than ever because of the city’s sanctuary status.

“We are at risk of losing federal funding based on Trump’s statements, so our City Council will have to make a decision,” she said. “Do we stick to what we’ve committed to our refugee population to protect them, or is that going to squeeze us too much financially?”

Fleming also spoke about the racial achievement gap in Evanston schools and cited the racial and gender biases that surround suspensions of students at Evanston Township High School. She said during the 2014-15 school year, 438 black students were suspended while only 48 white students were suspended.

OPAL is currently pushing the city’s school districts to examine racial inequity, but Fleming said officials aren’t moving fast enough.

Fleming said she decided to run for 9th Ward alderman because she didn’t see “passion” in the people running for aldermanic positions. Her only opponent in the 9th Ward is Shawn Jones, an attorney who officially launched his campaign in December. Current 9th ward alderman Brian Miller is running for mayor.

“We need to get some different perspective on our City Council,” Fleming said.

Katrina Weimholt, assistant director of NU’s Center for Civic Engagement, said she hopes to bring down barriers to voting and getting involved in local politics by educating students and improving the accessibility of the democratic process.

Fleming also encouraged young Evanston residents to become as involved as possible in local politics by doing research about candidates or even joining a board or committee.

Alecia Wartowski, interim director of the Women’s Center, said she has been actively working to bring in community organizers to speak to students about activism and political engagement.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for growth and change in Evanston,” Wartowski said. “So the more you can inform yourself and get involved in the political process, the better.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @SydStone16