Aldermanic candidates address Evanston Together LLC in Election Day Eve forum

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Daily file illustration by Jacob Fulton

Candidates were asked questions by local journalists in the final public forum before Election Day.

Alex Harrison, Reporter

Just one day before the April 6 municipal elections, aldermanic candidates addressed Evanston Together LLC, the recently formed political organization that has sparked citywide controversy, in an Evanston Live TV forum.

Evanston Live TV Owner Meleika Gardner hosted the forum, joined by local journalists Jonah Meadows from Evanston Patch, Heidi Randhava from the Evanston RoundTable and Jacob Fulton from The Daily Northwestern.

Candidates from nearly every general election race attended, including city clerk candidate Stephanie Mendoza, 2nd Ward candidate Darlene Cannon, 4th Ward candidate Jonathan Nieuwsma, 5th Ward candidate Bobby Burns, Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th), 6th Ward candidate Katie Trippi, 7th Ward candidate Mary Rosinski and 8th Ward candidate and City Clerk Devon Reid.

Some of the questions centered around Evanston Together, which sent a series of mailers endorsing four incumbent aldermen and one challenger. Last week, Mayor Steve Hagerty was revealed to be one of the organization’s top donors

According to the mailers, Evanston Together challenger candidates would promote “radical change” to the city’s government if elected. The advertisements allege 1st ward candidate Clare Kelly, Cannon, 3rd ward candidate Nicholas Korzeniowski, Rosinski and Suffredin are looking to potentially overhaul Evanston’s current form of government to a manager-council form in which an appointed city manager would be responsible for the administrative tasks of the city’s day-to-day operations. 

The mailers contained language critics have described as “dog whistle phrases” — including, “Don’t let Evanston become like Cicero,” a suburb where a strong leadership government format is in place and whose residents are nearly 90 percent Latinx. 

“I was completely disappointed to even see that come out,” Rosinski said. “I don’t buy that three flyers had to come out before someone knew about it, when it was all over Facebook.”

Trippi, who is challenging incumbent Suffredin in the 6th Ward, was the only candidate present endorsed by Evanston Together. 

She said she did not speak out against the mailers sooner because she wasn’t aware they were being sent until someone brought them to her attention.

“You can’t answer for something that you don’t anticipate,” Trippi said. “I absolutely agree there is no place for that kind of negativity in our local elections.”

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) was unable to attend the forum, but provided a statement to Gardner disavowing Evanston Together’s endorsement.

Cannon, who is running in the 2nd Ward race, said she was disappointed to see Hagerty’s involvement with the group and challenged Trippi on her continued acceptance of the mayor’s endorsement.

“It was disappointing, but not surprising after what I’ve seen over the last four years,” Cannon said. “I’m sorry (Trippi), but I would’ve denounced any association with (Hagerty) altogether, and any donations too.”

Underlying much of the controversy of this election cycle is the competitive field. Fulton of The Daily said the current field of candidates is the most crowded in thirty years.

Suffredin, the only incumbent present, said he believes residents’ want change because the government has failed to meet their expectations on issues including permitting and ticketing, and that the city must do better to earn their trust back.

“The government that we have is adverse to its residents way more than it needs to be,” Suffredin said. “That’s why I think all these people are running, because they feel like the government needs to match up with what people really want.”

The full forum can be viewed on Evanston Live TV’s Facebook page.

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Twitter: @alexhairysun

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