Darlene Cannon.

Aldermanic candidate Darlene Cannon Tuesday night questioned the City of Evanston’s practice of giving preference to local businesses in awarding contracts.

Asked during an online candidate forum sponsored by the Evanston NAACP about the city’s M/W/EBE program — which awards a preference in contract awards to firms that are minority-owned, woman-owned or Evanston-based — Cannon, who’s running for 2nd Ward alderperson, suggested that Evanston-based firms should also have to employ minorities to get the preference.

Citing a contract awarded to last month to G.A. Johnson & Sons, with offices at 828 Foster St., for construction work to rehabilitate the municipal storage facility, Cannon suggested it would be better for the city to look outside of Evanston for minority contractors “so they could earn some of this revenue.”

The city’s program encourages contractors to have at least 25% of the work in any contract done by either minority-owned, women-owned or Evanston-based businesses. As a business based in the city, G.A. Johnson received 100% credit for M/W/EBE participation under the program.

The firm’s bid for the work, at $717,550, was also one-third lower than the only other responsive bid received, which was also from an Evanston-based firm.

None of the other candidates at the forum voiced an objection to the preference for local businesses.

Krissie Harris.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said she sits on the M/W/EBE Committee and believes the city should do more outreach to recruit eligible firms to bid on city projects.

Patricia Gregory.

Patricia Gregory, who’s also seeking to represent the 2nd Ward, said sometimes African Americans get lost in the mix when the city talks about minorities, but said achieving the hiring goals “is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Juan Geracaris.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) noted that the city now doesn’t look at the demographics of a firm’s employees or “whether they treat employees right.”

But he said that trying to determine “whether vendors share the same values as us” involves trying to gather a lot of information that’s hard to find.

Kathy Hayes.

Kathy Hayes, who’s challenging Geracaris for the 9th Ward seat, said the city needs to put a process together to ask how many people in the commuity are being hired and how many of them are people of color.

If a company “is not diverse at the top, more than likely it won’t be diverse on the bottom, Hayes said.

The 2nd and 9th Ward aldermanic seats are up for election this April because the incumbents were appointed to fill vacancies. Other city offices won’t be on the ballot until 2025.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Darlene Cannon is Devon Reid 2.0. Only difference is she pays her rent/mortgage.

    If you want more nonsense from our city council then Darlene Cannon is your alder.

    I’m sorry if that’s mean but she’s an activist/politician. That’s a bad/scary combo, IMHO.

    We, in the 2nd ward, don’t want chaos, we don’t want unrest, we don’t want parks open 24/7, we don’t want boobs flopping all over our beaches, we don’t want our local gov’t to get in the way of our local businesses.

    We want everyone to handle their business, take care of their own and if you need help, reach out, we’ll help.

    We want common sense & clear thinking. Focus on the future, focus on kids, focus on the schools.

    Ald. Harris is the closest thing to Ald. Braithwaite (Previous alder for 2nd ward). She sees things clearly and uses common sense. She’s got my vote and I know she’s got my blocks vote.

    – Frank

    1. Frank’s comments are on target, well reasoned and actually make sense. Perhaps Frank could run for Reid’s seat in ’25. Would be an overwhelming improvement and might even go towards making our city council (at least somewhat) more responsible.

    2. Ald. Krissie Harris is fantastic, she is the “real deal”. She carefully weighs both sides of any issue, and she is respectful of differing viewpoints; just wish I lived in her ward so I could vote for her…

      Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

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