Two challenge long-standing 3rd Ward alderman


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) at a candidate’s forum.

Nora Shelly, Print Managing Editor

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) is facing two challengers in her reelection campaign in a race that has focused largely on affordability issues and the responsibilities of aldermen to their residents.

Her two challengers are Alex Morgan, who is involved with the Democratic Party of Evanston and has a background in education and political work, and Alex Block, a 3rd Ward native who has earned the endorsement of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston). Both have said that if elected, they would seek to be a more responsive alderman than Wynne.

Morgan, who grew up in Michigan and recently moved to Evanston, said he was excited to become involved in local politics when he first arrived in the city, but had trouble connecting with Wynne. Block echoed Morgan’s criticism.

But Wynne disagreed with the characterization, saying she was among the first aldermen to hold a town hall for her ward and that she meets two to three times a week with residents. She also said she is planning on holding “office hours” in local coffee shops, an idea Morgan has also included on his platform.

“My record is clear that I am responsive,” she said.

Wynne said over her 20 years as alderman, she has gained experience and expertise about problems facing the city and how the council works, and that she hopes to form the council’s “moral compass.” Wynne, a graduate of Pritzker School of Law, worked for Common Cause in Washington before moving to Evanston.

As alderman, Wynne said she prioritizes protecting the lakefront, ensuring responsible development and affordable housing in the city.

“When we have the right building in the right place and the right development, then I think that can be right for Evanston,” she said.

In a League of Women Voters of Evanston candidate survey, Wynne said she supports finding more sustainable funding streams for the Affordable Housing fund.

Source: Alex Morgan
Alex Morgan

Morgan is also supporting a more robust housing fund.

“We’ve got this affordable housing fund that isn’t really being put to work,” he said. “We really have to make sure those funds are going towards relief for those in the community.”

Morgan said he believes affordability issues are primary for 3rd Ward residents at the moment, and that the city needs to be careful about asking for a raise in property taxes year after year. Additionally, Morgan said that if elected, he hopes to set up a 3rd Ward “service office” to let residents know what services are available to them.

Morgan, who has organized with the Sierra Club and works as the executive director of Progressive Turnout Project, an organization focused on increasing voter turnout, said he has proved he would be a “hard worker” for 3rd Ward residents.

“Our City Council members really have an opportunity to dig in and engage with our residents, and that’s really what I want to do if I’m elected,” he said.

For his part, Block is running on a progressive platform he said was inspired by his upbringing in the city, which includes improving Chicago Avenue and the lakefront in the ward.

Block, who works for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, is also looking to work on a living wage ordinance and initiatives to ban employers from asking potential employees about their arrest history on a job application.

Source: Alex Block
Alex Block

“Evanston had instilled in me a lot of progressive, forward thinking, smart ideas about how the world should be organized, taught me the value of diversity, the value of how the least-privileged among you should be lifted,” he said.

Additionally, Block said he is hoping to reduce Evanston’s footprint by installing a carbon-neutral energy system and start a microfinance program, wherein residents in lower-income neighborhoods can invest in local businesses and receive a return on their investment.

“The bottom line is we have to figure out what we want to become as a community,” he said. “It’s not about looking backwards … it’s really about who is going to lead this ward into the future while preserving its character and its vibrancy.”

The three will face off in next Tuesday’s general election.

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Twitter: @noracshelly