2nd Ward candidates discuss safety, economy, engagement at League of Women Voters forum


William Tong/The Daily Northwestern

Left to right: Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) and challengers for the 2nd Ward councilmember seat Patricia Gregory and Darlene Cannon at the Feb. 18 League of Women Voters Evanston candidate forum. As NU and Ryan Family affiliate money entered the races, candidates agree city approval for Rebuild Ryan Field depends on community input.

William Tong, Assistant City Editor

Candidates for the 2nd Ward councilmember seat discussed public safety, economic development and more during a League of Women Voters of Evanston candidate forum Saturday.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 teacher Patricia Gregory and Equity and Empowerment Commission member Darlene Cannon are challenging incumbent Krissie Harris. Mayor Daniel Biss appointed Harris to City Council in September after former Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) stepped down in July. 

All three candidates said addressing businesses that are leaving the 2nd Ward is a top priority. They also agreed the city could do more to assist local businesses. 

“Promotion (of businesses) is really good, and any funds that the city has to help these businesses,” Gregory said. “The city can help … some of these small businesses find loans.” 

Harris and Cannon also voiced support for the city aiding businesses in locating and applying for grants. Cannon mentioned publicizing the city’s Legacy Business Program in particular, a form of financial assistance that would offer grants to businesses that have historically operated in the city.

Gregory and Cannon identified parking issues in the 2nd Ward, like vehicles left on the street for months at a time, as another priority for the city to address. 

Harris, however, said the ward’s largest issue is with safety.

“We have an element that has come to our community that’s not welcome,” Harris said. “I’m meeting with the police chief, we have two community officers … we’re on the phone or email every two weeks. It’s a community effort in which we all take ownership.” 

Later in the forum, Cannon said she also wants to focus on public safety given recent shootings in the 2nd Ward. She suggested the city work on youth outreach to prevent violence in the ward. 

Additionally, the candidates proposed different approaches to managing finances. Harris and Gregory said because the spending process is complicated, community members shouldn’t pass judgments too quickly on who to blame for fiscally irresponsible projects. 

Cannon said the city could cut spending on areas like consultants and unfulfilled projects. 

“What can we do to cut back on that?” Cannon said. “We need to go over the budget to ensuring that we are spending the city’s funds for the betterment of everyone in this community.” 

One audience-submitted question focused on how City Council can pass initiatives more efficiently. 

Gregory said she would need to know more about City Council’s process to recommend any changes for improvement. Meanwhile, Cannon suggested shortening council meeting agendas. Harris, however, said current procedures work, though they “could be improved.”

About 30 community members attended the event, including LWV volunteers, residents, local officials and community organizers. 

Jevoid Simmons, who has lived in the 2nd Ward for 40 years, said he went to the forum without a preference for any candidate. 

“I want to know their priorities when it comes to this position, why they want this position,” he said. 

Early voting in this year’s consolidated election starts Mar. 20. Election day is April 4. 

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