Rainey, Reid lead in charged 8th Ward debate


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

City clerk and 8th Ward aldermanic candidate Devon Reid. Reid made his case for the Eighth Ward seat in a Tuesday debate that escalated after Ald. Rainey made a racially charged remark toward the clerk.

Joshua Irvine, Reporter

Four candidates for 8th Ward alderman faced off Tuesday night in a debate that opened with bold calls for change and ended with a flash of hostility.

The three candidates on the ballot, as well as one write-in candidate, made their case for the ward seat in an online forum hosted by the Evanston chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Responding to questions focused on economic recovery, racial equity and community engagement, the candidates carved stances on policing, Northwestern-Evanston relations and ward politics in a spirited debate that culminated in a charged remark by incumbent Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) against City Clerk Devon Reid.

Early in the debate, the two lightly sparred over who could claim credit for the city’s progressive real estate transfer tax. Later, Reid claimed the current council has impeded citizen participation in council meetings through public comment, calling Rainey out by name.

The spat escalated in closing arguments, where Rainey criticized Ridgeville Park District commissioner Matthew Mitchell for “abandoning” his current position and then referred to Reid as a “very scary person.”

Reid responded, “Scary Black man, I get it.”

Speaking with The Daily after the debate, he said Rainey’s remark was racist.

Rainey defended her remark to The Daily, saying her comment was meant to reference human resources complaints made against Reid for harassment and retaliation.

“He needs to straighten out,” Rainey said. “Maybe he just needs to grow up, I’m not sure.”

She alluded to Reid’s repeated references to his parents’ incarceration.

“Every time he speaks, he has to remind us that his parents were in jail,” Rainey said. “Enough, already.”

In debate, Reid presented his four years as city clerk as a campaign for transparency and racial equity. He touted his endorsement from the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership, a Black-led Evanston advocacy group.

Reid called for the city to reallocate funding from the Evanston Police Department and toward social services, stressing that the 8th Ward is overpoliced. He repeatedly emphasized that more than 35 percent of the city’s General Fund is reserved for EPD.

“We have to make sure our budget aligns with our values,” Reid said.

If Reid pitched his candidacy on change, Rainey took the opposite tack.

“I will continue to do exactly what I do now,” Rainey said.

In discussing COVID-19’s economic impact, Rainey downplayed cuts to the city’s budget as a result of COVID-19 and said she will focus on aiding existing businesses on the ward’s Howard Street corridor. She also made a point to reject questions that aimed to differentiate the 8th Ward from the rest of Evanston, saying the ward and the city’s problems were one and the same.

The alderman emphasized the time and commitment she puts into addressing constituent needs, claiming at one point she has spent up to eight hours preparing for City Council meetings.

“I have always stood up for the 8th Ward and what is good for the 8th Ward,” Rainey said.

Mitchell also focused on policing in his remarks, saying the ward needs more input on how Evanston is policed, and pointing to his time as chair of the now-defunct Citizen Police Complaint Assessment Committee.

Mitchell also said it is time for the city to take a tougher stance against Northwestern, and said the city should use its municipal powers to force the University to pay for fire services.

“We need to renegotiate our relationship,” Mitchell said. “It’s been too long that it’s been imbalanced in their favor.”

In addition to the three candidates on the ballot, the debate also included Shelley Ann Carrillo, who is running as a write-in after being removed from the ballot in December by the city’s electoral board.

For their differences, the candidates found common ground on a few issues. Reid, Mitchell and Carrillo all criticized the police and called for greater accountability within EPD. Mitchell and Reid both made remarks in support of more affordable housing, while Mitchell’s call for the University to pay for fire services mirrored remarks made by Rainey in City Council in November.

Early voting for the 8th Ward primary, as well as the mayoral, city clerk and 4th Ward races will begin Feb. 8.

A previous version of this story misstated the committee on which Matthew Mitchell served as chair. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joshuajirvine

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