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. Incumbent Mayor Steve Hagerty is stepping
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.
Incumbent Mayor Steve Hagerty is stepping down after a single term in office and three candidates are vying to replace him — Daniel Biss, Lori Keenan and Sebastian Nalls.
If any of the three candidates receive more than 50 percent of votes cast Feb. 23, they will win outright and the office will not be on the ballot in an April runoff.
Age (as of Election Day)
Town/City of Residence
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
High School/Completing BS and BA
Student (current), Program Director (2 years)
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
The single most pressing issue facing the Evanston’s city government is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The equitable economic recovery of Evanston. COVID-19 highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of Evanston’s city government. I will work with City Manager Erika Storlie to create an economic development plan that Evanston can follow to close our deficit and better manage our budget for the future. When it comes to our local businesses, it is the Mayor’s job to communicate with them and discuss their needs so we can implement them in our economic development plan. However, it is important that when creating this plan, we are doing so with an equity lens. We must analyze programs across the city to understand their accessibility and benefits to residents. Using that information, we can tailor new programs to fill those gaps: broader access to Wi-Fi, early childcare programs, CARP intersectionality etc. This also allows for the introduction of new policies such as police reform, an implementation plan for CARP, and affordability in Evanston.
There is an opportunity to redefine the way Evanston provides services for its residents. By making these changes now, we can positively change the lives of Evanston residents for decades.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
All three candidates will work for Evanston residents, however, I believe what differentiates myself is that I will use my position as mayor as a platform for minoritized communities across Evanston. Every policy and position we have crafted was done so with incredible community involvement. Our police reform packet was molded from the work done by Evanston Fight for Black Lives including solutions to issues raised by residents and advocacy groups such as BlackUp. Our approach to reparations is based on the wants and needs of our black population. Our fiscal policy is based on concerns raised by Evanston on ever rising property taxes. We have created feasible policy and plans that can run with on Day 1.
From the words of Evanston Fight for Black Lives, “We can clearly see that experience and age does not equate to the best candidate.” My age and unique experience is what makes me qualified to work with individuals across Evanston, and that is exactly what this city needs.
What do you consider the official duties and powers of the City Council as a whole? How about individual aldermen?
I consider the official duties of the City Council as working to create and vote on policy that have positive impacts on the Evanston community, but the City Council must do those duties while maintaining maximum community engagement. Individual alderman must listen to the community and communicate with residents so they understand and are aware of current events.
What steps would you take to address the city’s budget challenges?
There are three immediate steps that can be taken: a comprehensive audit of our budget, police reform and reallocation, and negotiations with Northwestern University. A comprehensive audit of our budget will allow us to know which departments are spending more than they need and what programs are inefficient. There is room to cut without compromising quality of service. Similarly to the comprehensive audit, our police department can be reformed and funding will be reallocated. This can be seen in our police reform packet. Finally, negotiations with Northwestern University need to begin. Residents cannot solely shoulder the burden of generating revenue for the city. Our full plan can be seen on our website.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community?
Even though the incumbent mayor is not running, it is important to note where they have failed the community. Residents have felt that their voices have not been heard for the last four years. That is unacceptable for elected officials. As public servants, it is our job to serve the public and engage with them whenever possible, and I intend to do just that.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I was previously a program director in the Evanston Parks and Recreation Department with 30+ employees underneath me and hundreds of youth going through my programs. I had the opportunity to use my leadership skills to collaborate with employees across the Parks and Recreation Department and work with senior leadership. This combined with my work in the community prepared me to come in on day one and push for positive change for Evanston.
Why should voters trust you?
I am a lifelong Evanston resident that has done hard work in the community. My various positions have remained the same throughout my candidacy. I have laid out exactly what I plan on achieving in office, which cannot be said for other candidates. This is important because I want Evanston residents to hold me accountable on my promises to them.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the handling of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
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?
Yes, I do support Black Lives Matter. These protests became the largest civil rights protests since the 1960s, which signifies their importance. We need to change the way we police, especially in Evanston, to protect our residents. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Other candidates that I am running against believe that we can’t make these changes now. However, I believe that this is the perfect time. We must capitalize on the work done by advocacy groups in Evanston and across the nation.
Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?
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?
The national COVID-19 response has been lacking; however, there has been a turnaround in policy since President Biden’s election. Evanston’s COVID-19 rates have been lower than the surrounding community, and I believe this is due to the policies in place. I fully support following the direction of public health officials. We should continue with our mask mandates to prevent rates from climbing.
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?
I believe that it is important that we are equitably distributing vaccines. Local government has an opportunity to assist in this because of our knowledge of the community. We know which communities have been hardest hit by COVID-19, and it is important that we serve them first.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
No. I am fully committed to this community through and through. My age allows me to serve the community for multiple terms without the need for a career change.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Be yourself. Others will question your age or where you came from, but those that listen will do neither.
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