ETown Sunrise, EFBL host mayoral candidates in town hall


Daily file illustration by Jacob Fulton

Saturday evening, ETown Sunrise and Evanston Fight for Black lives hosted mayoral candidates in a virtual town hall. Afterward, EFBL officially endorsed Sebastian Nalls for Evanston mayor.

Olivia Alexander, Reporter

All three Evanston mayoral candidates committed to defunding the police at a town hall Saturday hosted by Evanston Fight for Black Lives and ETown Sunrise, an Evanston Township High School organization dedicated to climate justice.

Following the town hall, EFBL published a statement officially endorsing Sebastian Nalls for Evanston mayor. The group said Nalls represents what the future of politics could look like.

Nalls, an ETHS graduate and current Purdue University junior, highlighted on Saturday his plans to create a police reform committee and reallocate funds to other city services.

In support of defunding the police, former State Sen. Daniel Biss said the city could be “providing a far greater sense of shared safety for all but at a much lower cost.”

In their voting guide, EFBL wrote that local activist Lori Keenan wanted to the dialogue sound defunding the police to be “more ‘positive,’” but that “we, as Black activists, can define our own movement with the language we see fit, and do not feel the need to appease our white counterparts!”

Keenan apologized on Saturday for her past criticisms of the term “defund,” and said she supports a forensic audit of the police budget.

“I did not mean to denigrate the movement at all,” Keenan said. “I have nothing but respect for your organization.”

EFBL asked candidates about their plans for affordable housing and retaining the city’s Black population. Nalls mentioned creating a community land trust for low-cost units and developing a mixed-income housing plan in collaboration with local activists.

Keenan emphasized the inclusionary housing ordinance, which requires residential developments to include a certain percentage of units priced affordably for low- and moderate-income households. She said she is committed to working with existing landlords to ensure residents are not driven out by rent increases and luxury developments.

Biss also favors “tightening up” the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, getting rid of exclusionary housing paired with ensuring different wards have equitable access to city resources.

“We’ve got to work on both sides simultaneously,” Biss said.

An ETHS student asked candidates whether they thought Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan was ambitious enough. All candidates agreed the initiative is outdated.

Nalls emphasized the intersections of race, climate action and community involvement with climate.

“That’s the role of mayor, to be this organizing force, going forward having boots on the ground talking to individuals and pushing for climate action and education,” Nalls said.

Biss said the city should focus on fully implementing the current plan before overhauling it and working toward the goals the city “ought to have.”

Keenan said “climate action is really racial justice” and highlighted her experience with sustainable integrated architectural work as a business owner. She said she looks forward to doing similar work for the city.

“I understand how LEED works. I understand about the urban heat island,” Keenan said. “A lot of what we’re going to be talking about with the Climate Action Plan is work that I’ve already done professionally.”

In a statement Sunday morning, EFBL challenged other Evanston organizations to consider whether they endorse the candidates they do because they conform to the identities most politicians hold.

EFBL said a candidate like Nalls, who is confident enough to run for office, should be backed by community support.

“Politics must be a place where young, progressive, BIPOC can be supported,” the statement read.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oliviagalex

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