After Mayor Daniel Biss hosted an online forum for the two finalist candidates for city manager Tuesday night, Evanstonians at least know which candidate gives longer answers to questions.
Each candidate had roughly 45 minutes to tackle questions the mayor posed, with no time limit on their responses.
Snapper Poche, a program director for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, managed to respond to 14 questions, while John Fournier, assistant city administrator for Ann Arbor, Michigan got through just eight.
Biss posed the same questions in the same order to each candidate, saying he’d compiled them from the most frequently suggested questions submitted by city residents in the days before the forum.
Here are highlights of how the candidates responded to two of those questions.
Asked how he would advance the city’s equity goals, Poche said he’d worked with senior leaders in 10 cities across the state of New York to improve how those cities address distressed properties and learned that to get the most equitable results it’s important to have inspectors “who are of the communities they represent.”
“It requires a profound understanding of the people and population being you’re serving,” he added.
Fournier said he has played a key role in putting together Ann Arbor’s first diversity, equity and inclusion plan.
He said that plan makes important structural changes in city government, including hiring a new chief equity officer and a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator — positions that are being filled now.
Asked how he would address concerns about high property taxes and how to fund the city budget, Fournier said that he had read through Evanston’s budget documents and saw a need to right-size the city’s assets.
He said the pandemic has left Ann Arbor’s city hall 50% to 60% empty on most days.
He said, “It works, we can deliver excellent service without having all employees in the office all the time. That changes facility needs in a big way.”
He also suggested that the city might shift from ticketing people for overstaying on-street parking parking limits to just charging a higher rate for longer stays at meters. That, he suggested, could reduce the need for parking enforcement officers while increasing city revenue.
Poche offered more general suggestions, saying the city should focus more on outcomes and should develop a performance-based budgeting system to determine the right allocation of resources.
He also called for additional community engagement to help develop budget priorities.
A video recording of the interviews is scheduled to be posted to the city’s YouTube page soon.