Jonathan Nieuwsma says the next Evanston City Council will be “very different than the current one” when it is sworn in next month.
Nieuwsma ought to know. He’ll be part of the new city government. Nieuwsma defeated Diane Goldring on Tuesday to win the 4th Ward aldermanic race. Nieuwsma and Goldring had beaten veteran incumbent Don Wilson in the February primary to advance to the general election.
There will be at least three new aldermen on the incoming City Council, and four if Clare Kelly maintains her slim lead over incumbent Judy Fiske once last-minute mail-in ballots are received in the next couple of weeks.
Plus, there will be a new mayor, Daniel Biss, and a new city clerk, Stephanie Mendoza.
Nieuwsma told Evanston Now that the “new members means new energy and fresh blood” at City Hall, balanced with returning veterans.
The alderman-elect said he’s “excited to get to work,” and noted that this is now “springtime in more ways than one, after four years of Trumpism and the winter of COVID.”
Nieuwsma credited the current council with taking on issues such as the Harley Clarke mansion, the Robert Crown Center and establishing the nation’s first reparations program. Nieuwsma said a key goal is to “make sure the next steps in reparations support the community.”
The “next big issue,” he said, is what to do with the Civic Center. Some have suggested selling the former school which is now City Hall. Nieuwsma said he has no preconceived notions on what to do, but public engagement is necessary.
A long-time environmental activist and partner in a renewable energy company, Nieuwsma sees the new council “taking additional steps to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Niuewsma said there was a combination of anti-incumbent sentiment in general, as well as specific ward issues that led to the changing makeup of council.
He noted that voter turnout was “abysmally low,” particularly in a community like Evanston which considers itself politically active and aware.
Still, he said, those who did vote sounded a “bit of a wakeup call that Evanston was ready for a change.”