Aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray looks to reform policing, affordability for Fifth Ward

5th Ward aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray. Her campaign focuses on expanding dialogue between Evanston police and residents.

Courtesy of Carolyn Murray

5th Ward aldermanic candidate Carolyn Murray. Her campaign focuses on expanding dialogue between Evanston police and residents.

Jason Beeferman, Reporter

Carolyn Murray says she’s the candidate for a ward recent City Councils have left behind. 

“I’m a lifelong Evanston 5th Ward resident,” Murray said. “My history, and my reference points, and my knowledge of the 5th Ward far extends everything I’ve ever known.” 

Supporters say Murray has been a community fixture for decades. Murray is also known for her gun control advocacy and her work to organize the city’s gun buyback program. She launched the initiative after her son Justin was shot and killed in the 5th Ward at 19 years old.

But beyond a resume full of local activism, Murray says it’s her deep roots in Evanston and the 5th Ward that would make her an asset to the Council. 

“Not a week goes by without me getting a phone call, or someone ringing my doorbell and asking me for some type of resource in my ward,” Murray said. “People know me, and they know that they can count on me.”

Doug Whitmore, a lifelong resident of Evanston who has lived in the 5th Ward for over two decades, said Murray’s connection to the ward sets her apart from other candidates.

“She’s an Evanstonian,” Whitmore said. “This is a small community, and Evanstonians know Evanstonians.”

Beyond her abstract goal of strengthening community, Murray says her concrete plans include holding two new monthly ward meetings in addition to regularly scheduled ones.

Murray plans to add a monthly ward meeting with the Evanston Police Department so 5th Ward residents can “come together and collectively take responsibility on how to police.” She also wants to add a meeting for 5th Ward business owners, whom she believes should receive as much support as possible from local government in the wake of the pandemic.

Another one of Murray’s priorities is making Evanston more affordable for low-income residents, many of whom reside in the 5th Ward. She plans to make the city more affordable by reducing city recreation fees and other penalties, which she says disproportionately burden low-income residents.

“We want to make everything more diverse, but when you’re systematically pricing out a demographic that lives in Evanston, you’re not looking at that diversity anymore,” Murray said. “You’re going to tax the people so much, or create these fees, that people are just going to move away.”

This isn’t Murray’s first time running for 5th Ward alderwoman. Murray ran in 2017, but lost to Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) after former Ald. Delores Holmes endorsed Rue Simmons. 

Holmes’ backing of Simmons came in spite of the fact that Murray worked closely with Holmes and helped her run ward meetings.

“I think (it’s) a huge slap in the face to someone who shows you loyalty — but that’s politics,” longtime resident Carlis Sutton said. “Carolyn really wanted to work for the fifth Ward (in 2017), and was genuinely hurt that she wasn’t given that opportunity by the person who had involved her in politics in the first place.”

Holmes declined to comment on Murray’s campaign but said she hasn’t yet decided which 5th Ward candidate she will endorse. 

Murray said her campaign’s current goals haven’t changed much since her 2017 run — but the pandemic has made her key issues, like affordable housing and business support, more pressing. She is also looking to center the 5th Ward during City Council meetings, as she believes the ward has been ignored in discussions and policymaking for too long.

“A lot of the businesses in my ward feel that the city neglects the 5th Ward and pays more attention to the downtown businesses, and I want that relationship to be improved,” Murray said. 

Sutton said he shares Murray’s belief that Council has overlooked the 5th Ward. He said Murray can change that.

“I always referred to (the ward) as the forgotten 5th,” he said. “For the last four years, our vote in the 5th Ward has been taken for granted, and it’s time now that we become a priority.” 

Whitmore also said City Council has historically treated the 5th Ward as a “dumping ground.” He said he wants to see better housing policy and increased economic investment in the ward.

One of Murray’s central goals is to cultivate a strong sense of community within the ward, something she says reflects the “Evanston of (her) youth” but has dissipated in recent years.

“If there were issues, (the community) would try to take care of them,” Murray said. “I don’t see that anymore. A lot of people feel like they’re (not) being listened to or heard.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jasonbeeferman

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