Lee Cabot, Judy Fiske face off in 1st Ward race


(Top: Jeffrey Wang, Bottom: Daniel Tian)

Candidate for 1st Ward Alderman Lee Cabot (top) talks to the crowd during her campaign kickoff in January. Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) (bottom) attends a council meeting.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

The two candidates vying to represent the 1st Ward — which lies just west of Sheridan Road and encompasses most on-campus housing — have both said they prioritize frequent communication with residents and the university was essential to their campaign platforms.

The race pits incumbent Ald. Judy Fiske against challenger Lee Cabot (Kellogg ‘86), who works for a master’s program in the McCormick School of Engineering. Cabot earned 41 votes, just two more votes than Fiske in a poll conducted by the Democratic Party of Evanston Sunday of its members to gauge support for the candidates.

Fiske and Cabot both said they are prioritizing responsible economic development for their ward as the key for addressing the area’s other problems. The 1st Ward includes most of downtown Evanston and extends along the lake to cover a significant portion of Northwestern’s on-campus student housing, while most property east of Sheridan Road is in the 7th Ward.

Cabot said fully-funded schools were essential to the city.

“The challenge with all this, of course, is that it takes financial resources,” she said. “So how can we, in a community-sensitive way … grow our economy, grow our tax base so that we can protect what we cherish … without putting an extreme tax burden on our residents.”

The longtime 1st Ward resident said she supports the District 65 property tax referendum, which will appear on the April municipal ballot and raise the tax levy by $450 annually per property owner to account for a growing deficit in D65. However, Cabot said she would look at ways to ease the tax burden on low-income residents or spread it across more residents if elected.

Fiske said during her eight years as alderman, she has put economic development issues first. Rather than pushing for more development, Fiske said she tries to accommodate the neighborhood residents and developers to create a project that fits everyone’s needs.

A helpful way to do this is frequent communication, Fiske said.

“I don’t want to serve in a community where someone makes a decision and then tells you about it later,” she said. “Working with developers to help them understand what the needs and concerns of the community are and then have the community participate in the discussion, that takes a lot of effort and a lot of time, but I think it works in my ward.”

Fiske said she has also made communication with ward residents a priority over her term. Government works better when more people are involved, Fiske said.

“You can’t do anything in this town by yourself, and I wouldn’t want to,” she said.

However, Cabot said she would want to increase the communication between residents and their elected official if chosen. Cabot said she would do so with more frequent newsletters and ward meetings. People are often “surprised” by changes such as property development in the ward, she said.

“If people know about changes or plans affecting the 1st Ward upfront, we can get involvement and input upfront,” Cabot said. “Nobody likes a surprise.”

Cabot said frequent communication between the city and Northwestern would help improve relations and that the University should lend its expertise to Evanston when needed.

Fiske has criticized Cabot for being a Northwestern employee, saying it made her unable to properly serve 1st Ward residents on matters dealing with the University.

“You can’t serve on City Council and put Northwestern’s interests first. You really have to be impartial,” she said. “Anyone who doesn’t see the inherent conflict there is either kidding us or kidding themselves.”

Cabot said she is “not at all worried” that she will be compromised in making decisions regarding Northwestern, as she said her job is “removed” from the policy sector of the University.

Rather, Cabot said her connection to the University would “enhance” her abilities as alderman.

“I understand a bit how the University works, but I am a 21-year resident of the 1st Ward,” she said. “To be honest I’m much more personally impacted by what happens to my property taxes or my property values, or what happens in my neighborhood, than I am by my job.”

Both Cabot and Fiske said they wanted to serve on the council to serve their community. Fiske emphasized the importance of including Northwestern students in the conversation.

Citing concerns with the design of the bike lanes on Sheridan Road, Fiske said she has tried to include students’ perspectives.

“It’s common sense that you’d ask the people that are affected by stuff what they think,” she said. “I say to students all the time, ‘We need you.’”

Cabot echoed Fiske’s sentiments, saying she wanted to improve the experience of living in the 1st Ward and the entire city.

“I want to be a responsive, highly communicative and inclusive representative of everyone in the 1st Ward,” she said.

The race between Cabot and Fiske will be decided on April 4.

This article was updated to clarify the extent to which the 1st Ward encompasses Northwestern’s campus. It has been updated to reflect that the ward covers most of campus to the west of Sheridan Road.

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