City Council candidates talk budget, city services and Ryan Field rebuild at virtual forum


Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler

Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City Council approved the introduction of an ordinance that would raise water and sewer rates by 17.5%.

Casey He, Assistant City Editor

City Council candidates for the 2nd and 9th Ward discussed Evanston’s budget, city services and Northwestern’s Rebuild Ryan Field project at a virtual forum Wednesday.

Candidates for the 2nd Ward seat — Darlene Cannon and Patricia Gregory — and 9th Ward candidate Kathy Hayes, participated in the forum moderated by Evanston Live TV host Meleika Gardner.  

The forum offered a chance for the candidates to engage with residents ahead of the upcoming April 4 election. Following the former 2nd and 9th Ward councilmembers’ departure, Mayor Daniel Biss appointed Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) and Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) to fill the seats, and they’re now running for election. Neither was present at the forum.

Evanston resident and social justice advocate Nicholas Davis, one of four panelists asking questions, asked candidates their plans to provide essential services with the city budget.

Gregory said Evanston has a wealth of nonprofit organizations that are supposed to assist the residents but aren’t fulfilling their promises.

“What I found is that most of them just build their companies on the backs of these people, and they don’t provide the services that they say they do,” she said.

Councilmembers should play a more active role in overseeing nonprofits that it supports, like Connections for the Homeless, to ensure city money is going to residents in need rather than organizations without accountability, Gregory said.

Cannon said she approves of how Evanston used the federal grants it received from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund social services like the Living Room, which will provide walk-in mental health services as an alternative to hospital emergency rooms.

She said the council needs to find other sources of funding from the city’s budget to continue these services after the ARPA money runs out. The city received more than $43 million to address the consequences of the pandemic, but only about $6.4 million hasn’t been allocated yet.

Sarah Liddell, another panelist, asked candidates their stance on NU’s plan to rebuild the Ryan Field stadium and how they would navigate differing opinions about the project. 

Hayes said she is in support of the project for enriching the city. However, she said it is crucial for residents to “sit at the table” and receive clear answers from the University on how it plans to give back to the community.

Hayes also said she’d be able to represent the 9th Ward residents in Ryan Field discussions. Her opponent Geracaris is an employee of NU’s Kellogg School of Management and has told The Daily he has been and will continue to recuse himself from “any major decisions having to do with Northwestern.”

“My opponent has already said that he can’t even articulate any voice on the matter because he is a Northwestern employee,” Hayes said. “I understand his plight, but we need representation, and we need everyone to be able to put forth great ideas that will help Northwestern do what they want to do and help Evanston thrive and survive.”

Cannon and Gregory both said their decision about how to proceed with the stadium would be based on input from residents, especially those who live near the stadium. Each said they would plan opportunities to hear from the community.

Cannon said her main concern is the concerts NU plans to host at the new stadium and their impact on the traffic and businesses in the area. But she also said the project would bring Evanston residents and NU to the negotiating table.

As an educational institution with nonprofit status, NU does not pay property taxes to Evanston, and Cannon said she’d like to discuss alternative forms of community contribution.

“We need to look at negotiating a payment in lieu of taxes that will be consistently given annually (to the city), and building this stadium is our opportunity,” Cannon said.

Gardner asked the candidates their thoughts on Biss’ endorsements of his appointees, Harris and Geracaris. The endorsements were criticized by some Evanston residents.

Gregory said she thinks people should be able to endorse whoever they want. She added that she chose not to publish her endorsements.

“(At) the end of the day, whoever becomes the alderperson, especially in the 2nd Ward, we should be able to come together and work together,” Gregory said.

Residents who are registered to vote can cast early ballots until April 3 at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Election day is April 4.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @caseeey_he

Related Stories:

The Daily Explains: Who’s running for City Council in 2023?

City Council candidates say Rebuild Ryan Field project hinges on public opinion as Ryan Family, NU-affiliated campaign contributions roll in

2nd, 9th Ward City Council candidates discuss local issues at Community Alliance for Better Government forum