A guide to Evanston politics

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Evanston City Council, made up of nine aldermen and the mayor.

Sneha Dey, Summer Managing Editor

Evanston is divided into nine wards, but make no mistake — all wards are not the same. Residents in each ward have vastly different backgrounds and interests. Much of Northwestern sits in the 7th Ward, but a lot of off-campus students reside in the 1st and 5th Wards as well.

The residents of Evanston are brimming with passion and often fill the room at local government meetings. The city prides itself on diversity and equity, but some residents also say the city struggles with a “Not in My Backyard” mindset.

Who represents you?

The Evanston City Council consists of the mayor and nine aldermen, with one alderman elected to represent each ward: Mayor Steve Hagerty, Judy Fiske (1st), Peter Braithwaite (2nd), Melissa Wynne (3rd), Donald Wilson (4th), Robin Rue Simmons (5th), Thomas Suffredin (6th), Eleanor Revelle (7th), Ann Rainey (8th) and Cicely Fleming (9th).

But your alderman could change as soon as 2021. The city hosts aldermanic elections every four years, and the aldermanic primaries are set to begin in March.

Notably, Rainey, who has served as an alderman since 1997, won by a slim majority (just 15 votes!) in the last election cycle. In recent months, her stance against defunding the police has been met with significant criticism from youth activists and may even cost her this upcoming election.

Key players and locations in the city

City Council meets every other Monday evening. Before the pandemic, aldermen would gather at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, located at 2100 Ridge Ave., just a couple blocks away from campus. Now, residents can still tune in to meetings through Youtube. From affordable housing to historical reparations initiatives, council meetings are used to discuss important orders of business.

Evanston Public Library is a crucial resource for residents and plays a far bigger role than a just haven for books. EPL has offered free legal consulting, provided social services support and pushed residents to fill out the U.S. Census.

Robert Crown Community Center, located in the 4th Ward, offers recreational programs, a child care program and free wifi, among other services. During the pandemic, the center has served as a site for meal distribution.

The Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, a small but mighty organization, provides free legal services for youth in the criminal justice system and schools, focusing on restorative justice programs and other support systems.

Don’t underestimate the Evanston youth. Youth activist group Evanston Fight for Black Lives has led the recent movement to defund the Evanston Police Department. Even before that movement took off, E-Town Sunrise has been key in calling for action against climate change.

NU relations with Evanston

Northwestern is a point of both contention and pride in the Evanston community. Through what is called the “Good Neighbor Fund,” the University committed to donating $1 million annually from 2015 to 2020.

But residents often criticize the University, an institution with a tax-exempt status, for not contributing enough, especially when the city comes up short of resources or funds. In talks around funding a new community engagement center, for example, several residents said Northwestern’s $1 million contribution was not nearly enough. But at the end of July, the University expanded its commitment with the creation of a $500,000 Community Engagement Grant Program aimed at advancing racial equity and social justice.

For locals who are neighbors to Northwestern students or the Ryan Field, the rowdiness of apartment parties and football games has sometimes disrupted their quiet family lives.

The University also has an established partnership with Evanston Township High School/District 202. Most recently, as the district plans to start the school year with remote classes, school administrators have recommended it lean on Northwestern students for academic support.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @snehadey_

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