Residents complain of lack of transparency at Mayor Hagerty’s town hall


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Mayor Steve Hagerty speaks at a town hall meeting Tuesday. Community members raised concerns over a lack of transparency from City Council to citizens.

Clare Proctor, Reporter

Evanston community members voiced concerns about the lack of transparency from City Council to local residents at a town hall Tuesday.

Mayor Steve Hagerty hosted the meeting at the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., to field questions and criticisms from an audience of about 80 people. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz was also in attendance and fielded occasional questions.

Some residents said they felt left out of important conversations regarding local issues.

Evanston resident Verzell James said he was never notified about the decision to build a new water pumping station in his neighborhood. James said he anticipates construction for the station at 2525 Church St. will decrease his property value.

He said he tried to contact Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) as well as Hagerty, but he has yet to receive a response.

“What recourse do we have when our elected officials do not listen to us?” James said.

In response, Hagerty said residents’ best option to enact change is through local elections, though he acknowledged that the next elections are three years away. In the meantime, he said he encourages citizens to continue to organize and advocate for issues they care about.

Attendees also said the Dodge Avenue bike lanes pose a danger to 8th Ward residents. Some audience members said there is not enough space for a bike lane, parking lane and car traffic on the road. The bike lanes were renovated in 2016 in an attempt to increase safety for bikers.

Hagerty said while some community members have reported enjoying the bike lanes, town hall attendees were not the first to voice criticisms. About 20 people voiced their opinions on the proposed changes to bike lanes at an October 2016 City Council meeting.

Evanston resident Barbara Kerrens said bikers on Dodge Avenue “act like they’re on cars” and ride too fast on the new bike lanes, increasing the risk of accidents.

Dana Pearl, also an Evanston resident, said elected officials often ask for input after a decision has already been made.

Pearl said the city should create a rule requiring a two-week notice prior to a meeting where city projects will be discussed and another two-week period after the meeting before any final decisions are made.

“They need to talk to the community first,” Pearl told The Daily. “There are a lot of knowledgeable people in town that aren’t just complainers, but really do have good ideas that the council could incorporate and use people’s suggestions.”

Hagerty did not offer a response to this suggestion, but said he wanted to maintain the transparency he prioritized when he ran for office in 2017.

“I do think that, if you can figure out how to increase citizen engagement, it’s better for a community,” Hagerty said. “It’s better for a public body.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote by Barbara Kerrens. The Daily regrets the error.

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