Evanston Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, says he doesn’t plan to run for reelection next year.

Bernstein, 61, is in the home stretch of his third four-year term on the council and previously served six years as township assessor.

“I just feel myself getting short-tempered,” Bernstein said in an interview today. “I promised myself I’d be the same human being coming off the job as going in, and I’m not sure I could say that if I stayed another term.”

Bernstein, who in 2006 closed his Evanston law practice after 35 years to take a job in downtown Chicago as Assistant General Counsel of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, said he would consider running for a judgeship if a slot opened up in the district.

“I used to say I would like to be mayor,” he said, “If it was a full-time job, I’d love it, but I might be more frustrated as mayor the way the job is now. Unless somebody is absent and there’s a tie, the mayor doesn’t have a vote.”

“I think the city should go to a full-time mayor,” he said, “It’s big enough and urban enough.”

He said he hasn’t yet started talking to people in the ward about a possible successor, “but hopefully I’ll find somebody I can relate to.”

Being on the council “is such a commitment. A lot of people don’t understand what a commitment it is,” he added.

He said he’s concerned about the loss of institutional memory happening in the city with many senior city staff members retiring. “It’s not good. People coming in” to consider taking one of the empty jobs will “look at the exodus away from the city and say, ‘Why would I want to work there?’”

He said he doesn’t believe the city can afford to raise the property tax rate 15 percent this year as proposed to fund public safety pensions.

“It’s just too much in one lump,” he said, “I think we have to do something about pensions, but I don’t know if we can afford to do it so quickly.”

He said he anticipates that city officials will reach out to various non-profits in the community to ask for some contributions to help out. “All non-profits use police and fire services,” he said.

“The city manager has a laundry list of things that could be cut,” Bernstein added, “But people are not going to be happy about any of them. Any time we presume to cut anything constituents are going to come up screaming.”

He said the council has to set priorities. Comparing the failed real estate transfer tax referendum for affordable housing with the similar proposal on next month’s ballot to fund public safety pensions, he said, “The pensions must be paid. Affordable housing must occur, but in the short term that’s a choice. The pensions aren’t a choice.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Sayonara Steve
    As a 4th ward resident I’m sad to read of Steve’s decision—he has served his ward and city extremely well…Steve’s about the most enthusiastic supporter of Evanston as I’ve ever known—A tireless worker who thinks through decision making very carefuly and always makes time for his constituents….Easily one of the most dedicated and effective member’s of the City Council, his presence will be sorely missed—Best of wishes toward all future endeavours Steve…

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