Hagerty calls for law department to review city policy on primary elections


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Mayor Steve Hagerty attends a city meeting. Hagerty called on Evanston’s law department to review its guidelines regarding primary elections.

Kristina Karisch, City Editor

Following widespread confusion about filing dates and primaries during the last municipal election, Mayor Steve Hagerty on Monday recommended the city’s law department look into the city code to determine how to best approach the issue in the next election cycle.

In late 2016, the city decided to hold a primary in the races for mayor and 5th Ward alderman — both of which had five candidates — in February 2017.

A 1992 citywide referendum determined that if more than two candidates file in a race, the city must hold a primary election ahead of the consolidated general. After that primary, the top two candidates run in the general election, according to reporting from The Daily after the referendum was passed. If one candidate wins more than 50 percent of the primary vote, they win the entire mayoral election, the referendum mandated.

The referendum had not been consistently enforced after its passing, so many candidates were unaware of their need to file paperwork for the primary.

As a result, a supporter of mayoral candidate and former 9th Ward alderman Brian Miller challenged the bids of three of his opponents. The challenger, Evanston resident William Arndt, argued the other candidates — including Hagerty — had neglected to indicate the primary date of Feb. 28 on their election petitions.

The challenges were ultimately unsuccessful, and Evanston held a primary election in February.

At a Monday Rules Committee meeting, Hagerty said he wants to avoid that confusion from happening in 2021, when the next municipal elections are set to take place.

“I would like to see us task the city’s … law department to revise and update (the rules) to the extent that we can to avoid that situation from happening two years from now,” he said. “I think it would be a complete embarrassment to all of us up here if we didn’t address it now.”

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) agreed with Hagerty, calling 2017’s election a “debacle.”

Potential realignment of city boards sparks concern

Aldermen expressed concern about potentially realigning and combining 17 of the city’s boards, committees and commissions, saying they would be worried about overloading certain commissions.

Community development director Joanna Leonard presented a suggestion for how to realign the boards and commissions so they follow Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities guidelines more closely.

STAR is a set of principles on which communities across the country are rated. Evanston is a 4-STAR city and must engage in a review of its metrics every four years to maintain that rating.

Leonard stressed that city staff were not looking for action on this proposal, and were merely submitting a potential framework to aldermen.

Wilson said he thinks realignment should be looked at on a commission-by-commission basis. Some committees and commissions, like the Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, would have too much work on their plate if combined, he said.

Other aldermen agreed, and pointed out that newer commissions — like the Equity and Empowerment Commission — should be given time to find their footing before being assigned more responsibilities.

The process, if approved, would take six to 18 months and involve city staff, aldermen and members of each existing board, commission and committee to ensure that no work is lost during the restructuring process.

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch