EVANSTON, IL — Ahead of Evanston’s Feb. 23 primary and April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Evanston Patch provided candidate questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot. The primary ballot will contain races for mayor, city clerk , 4th Ward alderman and 8th Ward aldermen, according to the Cook County Clerk. One of the challengers to
EVANSTON, IL — Ahead of Evanston’s Feb. 23 primary and April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Evanston Patch provided candidate questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot.
The primary ballot will contain races for mayor, city clerk , 4th Ward alderman and 8th Ward aldermen, according to the Cook County Clerk.
One of the challengers to the incumbent in the 4th Ward recently submitted a questionnaire. His unedited answers can be found below.
Age (as of Election Day)
Town/City of Residence
4th Ward alderman
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
BS Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, 1992.
Engineer, renewable energy consultant. Working since 1993.
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
Evanston Utilities Commission (appointed) 2012-2020
The single most pressing issue facing the Evanston’s city government is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Our community is facing numerous pressing issues: a local economy and city budget foundering due to the pandemic, persistent and pernicious effects of structural racism, a growing housing crisis, the looming impact of climate change, and many other challenges. Choosing just one issue as the most pressing is impossible, but one feature they have in common is their need to be tackled by a responsive and trusted City government. I will represent the residents of the Fourth Ward as an engaged and responsive alderman so that the City of Evanston can confront these numerous challenges.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I offer the best combination of experience and change.
As president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston and chair of the City’s Utilities Commission, I have more than a decade of experience as a local policy advocate and community leader. I’ve in front of the City Council on numerous occasions, worked with City staff, collaborated with other local organizations, and developed relationships within the community. I would like to put this experience to work for the residents of the 4th Ward.
I am also a candidate of change. At a time when trust in the City Council has ebbed, I will build relationships with 4th Ward residents as an accessible, engaged, and transparent representative who is responsive to their needs.
What do you consider the official duties and powers of the City Council as a whole? How about individual aldermen?
As the elected representatives of the citizens of Evanston, alderman individually and the City Council as whole are responsible for the well-being our community.
The duties of the Council include passing ordinances, approving budgets, providing guidance to and oversight of City staff, and perhaps most significantly given the structure of our government, hiring the City Manager. The City Council must undertake these responsibilities in an open and transparent manner.
To advocate on their behalf appropriately and effectively, individual aldermen must be accessible and responsive to their constituents. In addition to the official duties, an alderman also plays an important unofficial role in building a sense of local community.
What steps would you take to address the city’s budget challenges?
Rather than raising taxes or cutting programs, I would eliminate wasteful and unnecessary expenses and look for ways to spend the City’s money more efficiently. One example of wasteful spending: $8 million spent on ill-advised and fruitless litigation (see article in the Patch on 7/3/2019). One opportunity to spend more efficiently: collaborative purchasing with D65, D202 and Northwestern.
To enhance the City’s revenue streams I will rebuild the local economy and promote Evanston as a destination for arts and entertainment. I will also insist that Northwestern University pays its fair share.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community?
A common complaint I have heard from residents of the 4th Ward is that the incumbent alderman has not been as engaged or responsive as they expect.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
Equity: As alderman I will work to dismantle structural racism throughout our community. I support the recommendations of the Reparations Subcommittee, operating transparently and inclusively, regarding eligibility and compensation mechanisms. I support a public safety budget that reflect our community values, with less money spent on militarized policing and more spent on social services. I support increasing the availability of affordable housing options in Evanston through a variety of measures.
Environmental sustainability: I will prioritize implementation of Evanston’s bold Climate Action and Resilience Plan which centers equity, cost, and effectiveness in its vision for a zero carbon/zero waste Evanston by 2050.
Economic Development: We cannot do all the good work we need to do if we cannot afford it. I will collaborate with local business groups to rebuild our small businesses as we emerge from the pandemic and promote Evanston as a destination for art and entertainment. I will drive a harder bargain with developers and support revisioning our master development plan.
Engagement: As an engaged and accessible alderman I will earn the trust of Ward 4 residents by developing relationships through regular ward meetings, office hours, newsletters, and informal conversations in the neighborhood.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I led Citizens’ Greener Evanston’s successful campaign for community electricity aggregation, which made low-cost renewably generated electricity to all Evanston residents. That process started with a referendum which was approved with an 73% vote and continued with ongoing advocacy with the City Council and behind-the-scenes collaboration with City staff. In place since 2012, this program has been the largest single factor in Evanston’s carbon footprint reduction and over time has saved money for Evanston electricity customers. This work was recognized by the Evanston Community Foundation when I was named a Volunteer of the Year in 2013.
I led CGE’s successful advocacy for Evanston’s second climate action plan, the Livability Plan of 2014; and its successor, the Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) of 2018.
Under my leadership, CGE grew its membership to more than 2,500 people and expanded its emphasis on environmental justice, local food, and green transportation. This work included a program to promote energy efficiency and distribute weatherization supplies to marginalized communities.
As a member of the Environment Board’s CARP Implementation Task Force, I led a series of outreach events to engage the broader community in climate action.
As a member and later co-chair and chair of the Evanston Utilities Commission, I have worked collaboratively with City staff to continue to support and improve electricity aggregation. The Commission also played a key role in drafting the Energy Efficiency and Water Use Benchmarking ordinance. Under my leadership the Commission worked with Nicor and ComEd to ensure reliable service throughout Evanston.
Why should voters trust you?
Voters cannot develop a sense of trust in someone they do not know. I will build trust by developing relationships with the people of the Fourth Ward by being available and accessible, nurturing a sense of community, and operating transparently on their behalf.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
Institutionalizing of reparations, a balanced public safety approach, more affordable housing, continued reductions in carbon emissions and national recognition of Evanston as one of the most progressive small cities in America.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the handling of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
The City of Evanston must do a better job of handling taxpayer dollars. One example, which I mentioned briefly above, is the wasteful pursuit of ill-advised litigation regarding environmental issues at James Park. Had the Utilities Commission been consulted on the matter, or even appropriate City staff for that matter, the Council and then City Manager would have been advised that the allegations made by the City’s legal department were baseless, a conclusion ultimately confirmed by a by a federal judge after the City incurred $8.2 million in legal and consulting expenses.
Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?
I support Black Lives Matter and the peaceful protestors marching for that cause. I’ve been one of them.
Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?
The current Council has taken some appropriate and commendable steps to support racial equity, including a near unanimous vote to implement a groundbreaking Reparations program and tentative steps towards a public safety budget that aligns with the values of our community. The work is far from over, however. Reparations must be institutionalized, the public safety budget must be further realigned, and all remaining scaffolding of structural racism must be dismantled..
What are your thoughts on the national and local coronavirus response? Do you favor measures such as limiting operation of non-essential businesses and restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a local mask mandate?
I favor a science-driven approach to pandemic control that priorities human life over profit, and I support any science-driven recommendations for pandemic mitigation including mask mandates and curtailing businesses. The national coronavirus response under the former presidential administration was egregiously incompetent. By failing to comprehend that COVID *is* the economy and treating the former first, the latter has been left to languish.
What are your thoughts on the state and local coronavirus vaccine distribution, and how do you think local governments should work together to handle vaccine rollout?
At least initially, state, and local coronavirus response was as effective as possible given the constraints of failed national leadership. As the pandemic has dragged on, areas of improvement have been exposed, especially in the logistic of vaccine distribution. Better coordination between the school districts and City of Evanston, for example, would not have left some D65 teachers scrambling for vaccines and having to go out of town for their shots prior to returning to the classroom.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Answer every campaign questionnaire!
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
Voters can find more information on my campaign website: www.jonathan4evanston.com.