Seven candidates speak at forum to fill Evanston’s vacant 2nd Ward seat


Photo by Jacob Wendler

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City Council approved Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) as the council’s newest member and supported a contract for Streetplus to clean and maintain Evanston’s business districts at Monday’s meeting.

Selena Kuznikov, Senior Staffer

The seven candidates looking to fill Evanston’s recently vacated 2nd Ward City Council seat addressed issues like public safety, policing and affordable housing during a forum on Tuesday, 

The event served as the latest move in the city’s search to fill the seat after former Ald. Peter Braithwaite retired in July. Mayor Daniel Biss hosted the event, asking questions based on submissions by Evanston residents.

A total of 12 candidates applied for the position through an open application process that began in July, and seven remain. Biss said he will announce his selection Friday after considering public input, and City Council will vote on confirmation of the new councilmember Monday. 

The next 2nd Ward councilmember will serve through spring 2023. They will be required to run in a special election before serving an additional two-year term. 

Gun violence and police response dominated Tuesday’s conversation following shootings in Evanston and Rogers Park last week. Kristian Harris, manager of student life at Oakton Community College, began by acknowledging the family and friends of individuals who have been affected by gun violence. 

Harris, a former board member at YWCA Evanston/Northshore, said she wants to encourage a proactive approach to policing within the Evanston Police Department. Right now, she said, EPD focuses mainly on reactive measures.

“We need to make sure we get people connected to the right resources,” Harris said. “We must continue to look for ways to bring our community together.”

Matthew Farrauto said he hopes to address violence in the city by creating a process for mental health intervention. He said he wants to build systems that utilize social workers and medical professionals when dealing with mental health crises.

Keith Banks said he also wants to focus on accessibility to mental health resources, including Evanston’s Living Room. Still, he said he would like to prioritize affordable housing in the 2nd Ward as well.

Banks, executive director of Reba Place Development Corporation, said he wants to work to create a range of affordable housing units such as mixed income affordable rentals, condos, co-ops and townhomes by repurposing old structures and encouraging new construction in the area. He said he plans to utilize tax credits and government grants in order to subsidize the creation of more affordable housing units.

“We’re losing a fight to help middle income families obtain affordable housing,” Banks said. “In order to maintain the diversity of the great city of Evanston, it is important to maintain affordable housing so that people that live and work here can afford to stay here.”

Darlene Cannon, local activist and commissioner on the Equity and Empowerment Commission, said it is important to prioritize equity while establishing affordable housing options. She wants to further policies that allow Black and Brown Evanston residents to remain in their homes. 

Cannon previously ran against Braithwaite for the 2nd Ward seat in Evanston’s 2021 election, falling short by just 71 votes. Earlier this year, she introduced a referral to the Commission that addressed issues like harassment that often push people to sell their homes. 

Blanca Lule, a member of the Citizen Police Review Commission, and Anya Tanyavutti, former president of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board and executive director at Chicago Volunteer Doulas, are also focused on equity in the 2nd Ward. 

Lule said she hopes to continue community outreach efforts with Latine and Spanish-speaking Evanston residents in particular. Tanyavutti would like to extend that outreach to Evanston’s schools –– investing in Spanish dual language programs and returning a school within walkable distance to the 5th Ward. 

Increased community engagement was a theme among candidates, with Patricia Gregory emphasizing the need for council members to know their constituents. She said she plans to meet face-to-face with residents and create a meaningful relationship with the community.  

Though their priorities range from public safety to affordable housing, each candidate said they are interested in combating inequity while serving in the 2nd Ward. 

“I’m so relieved to have a hard choice,” Biss said. “We’ve got seven people here who want to make their ward and our whole city better.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @selenakuznikov 

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