In third town hall, equity coordinator stresses need for engagement with city

Maddie Burakoff, Web Editor

Evanston’s newly appointed equity and empowerment coordinator, Rev. Dr. Patricia Efiom, urged residents to “trust the system” and engage with the city to enact change during a town hall Wednesday.

The meeting, held at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, was the third in a series of five town halls scheduled for this month, which focus on issues of equity and empowerment and intend to gather community input.

“Let’s be clear,” Efiom said to a crowd of about 15 people. “City Council has power and authority, and we need them to give it to us whether we like it or not.”

Efiom told The Daily that the biggest surprise for her over the course of these meetings has been the amount of mistrust residents expressed toward the local government and its seriousness about equity and empowerment work. This wariness, Efiom said, could stem from residents feeling that the city often ignores their issues.

Evanston resident Nina Raskin said local government needs to hear a diversity of opinions. She cited the proposals for high-rise buildings in Evanston as an action that may raise revenues but would be hurtful to various groups.

“I hope (Efiom’s) voice becomes a viable one in City Council so the decisions made will reflect the needs of the entire population,” she said.

Efiom said she intends to have a written plan of action to present to City Council by June. However, she stressed that it would be a short-term proposal aiming to establish the direction and needs of her work, rather than a fully fleshed-out strategy for equity efforts.

Madelyn Ducre, a longtime Evanston resident, said equity is not only about economic equality but also about empowering voices. She said she appreciated the town hall as an opportunity for different people to come together and exchange ideas.

Still, Efiom admitted there is work to be done to reach all parts of the Evanston community. The attendees at Wednesday’s town hall were mostly white, which Efiom said was similar to the first two meetings.

To further gather citizen commentary about equity, Efiom said a survey will be put out within the next 30 days. Residents will be able to fill out the survey online, by mail, over the phone or in person by picking up a hard copy from city buildings. Efiom also said she anticipates a demand for more town halls following the five already scheduled, and suggested the possibility of quarterly meetings.

The search for equity constitutes “long, hard, lifetime work,” Efiom said, and doesn’t always feel rewarding. However, she said she won’t wait to win over opinions before getting to work. Equity doesn’t concern itself with what people think but with what they do, she said.

“People are going to be people,” Efiom said. “My job is to change behaviors.”

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