Evanstonians have already begun casting ballots in early voting for the municipal election, and we’ll all have to make up our minds by election day April 7, or leave our voices unheard.
I hope our city government over the next four years will:
- Make Evanston more affordable by halting the spiraling increase in city tax rates.
- Welcome new development that strengthens Evanston’s appeal as an ecologically sound, transit-oriented community with a strong job-creating economic base in education, health care and new technologies.
- Halt the guerilla warfare campaign against Northwestern and build a stronger, mutually beneficial relationship with our city’s largest employer and driving economic force.
Here are some thoughts on how I believe the candidates in contested races stack up against those goals.
We are blessed with an extremely strong field of candidates for mayor. I believe any one of the four could serve competently in the office.
But since we can’t vote for all of them, we have to make distinctions.
I’m leaning toward a vote for Barnaby Dinges, who has waged a grass-roots campaign with more on-the-ground energy than any of his opponents. As a newcomer to Evanston politics, he has made some bone-headed remarks — like suggesting metal detectors at the high school. And his ideas for solving downtown parking problems need more refinement.
But his willingness to tackle the cost structure of city government and his support for economic development seem clear cut and genuine. And as a marketing professional, he seems well qualified to tackle the ceremonial and promotional aspects of the mayor’s job.
Elizabeth Tisdahl has generally been a moderate voice on the City Council and was first among the aldermen to recognize that building a new civic center was a pipe dream given the city’s financial limitations.
But I am not convinced she can break free from her deep entrenchment in the community’s culture of expansive municipal government to provide the budget-cutting leadership the city needs.
Stuart Opdycke has been a constructive voice on the city’s Plan Commission and has also indicated a willingness to tackle the city’s budget issues. But his campaign does not appear to have caught fire. Were Dinges not in the race, Opdycke would be the logical choice.
Jeanne Lindwall has strong professional credentials as a city planner. But her record of opposition to new development projects and her effort by lawsuit four years ago to disenfranchise Northwestern students make her a poor choice to lead the city forward.
It’s time for a change in the assessor’s office, and it appears Bonnie Wilson can bring a personnel management style to the position that will stop the drain on taxpayer assets created by the current assessor’s history of hostile relationships with her employees.
One can only hope that Ms. Wilson will also launch a successful effort to abolish the assessor’s position.
First Ward: Cheryl Wollin has done a solid job of negotiating the difficult cross-currents of ward interest groups during the past four years and deserves re-election.
Fourth Ward: This ward features three well-qualified candidates with generally similar views, but I’m inclined to think Donald Wilson offers the best balance of focus on fiscal responsibility and business development.
Fifth Ward: Delores Holmes has been an effective voice for progress in her ward and the city as a whole and merits re-election.
Sixth Ward: The three candidates in this ward seem highly qualified and offer similar platforms. No recommendation.
Seventh Ward: John Zbesko‘s business management experience should bring useful financial discipline to the City Council, although I’m troubled by signs he’s fallen ill with anti-development fever.
Ninth Ward: Michael Drennan would add to the council a welcome focus on environmental issues.