Alderman Steven Bernstein, 4th Ward, says he made a promise to himself when he first sought the job in 1997 that he would never change as a person despite the internal bickering and pressures of being an alderman.

But after three terms, Bernstein says, he is annoyed with the inner conflicts. That is why he will not be seeking another term as alderman.

Steve Bernstein

“I know how difficult it is to bring development into town, but I’m getting very frustrated, and I feel my attitude changing,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein said he has tried for many years to alleviate the city’s problems with taxes and crime, but has not seen the progress he would like.

He said he is currently looking to endorse a potential replacement he can trust to continue his work on the council.

Born in Chicago, Bernstein moved to Evanston after earning has law degree at DePaul University, and he soon became active in organizing a community group for the area near Nichols Middle School where he still lives.

He was elected to the part-time position of township assessor in 1991 and won 72 percent of the vote to defeat incumbent alderman Anny Heydemann, an English teacher at Evanston Township High School, in his first aldermanic race in 1997. He won 68 percent of the vote in a three-way race for re-election in 2001 and faced only a write-in candidate in 2005.

Bernstein, who once represented developers as an attorney in private practice, said one of his main goals as an alderman has been to diversify the city’s tax base through new development while also creating more affordable housing.

He said he’s sought to increase the city’s revenue without raising taxes on city residents.

Bernstein said creating new development in Evanston is difficult because the city lacks large parcels of undeveloped land. “We don’t have anywhere for a Wal-Mart to move in.”

But he has frequently supported new condominium and retail projects in the city.

Bernstein also says Evanston should capitalize on its strong points, particularly its diversity. Bernstein said the diversity attracts a lot of retail and a lot of different interest groups and developers to the city.

“We have everything,” Bernstein said. “That’s what makes Evanston an amazing place.”


Aldermanic Snapshot

Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward
Born: April 18, 1946 in Chicago.
Lived in Evanston: 35 years
Education: Bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1968. Law degree from DePaul College of Law, 1971.
Public Service: Alderman, 4th Ward, since 1997. Evanston township assessor, 1991-1997.
Occupation: Attorney with the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority; formerly in private practice in Evanston specializing in zoning law and criminal defense law.
Family: Married, three children.

Contact the alderman
Steven J. Bernstein
Home: 943 Elmwood Ave., 60202
Phone: (847) 328-0800
Fax: (847) 475-0870
E-mail: ald4th@aol.com
 

Join the Conversation

19 Comments

  1. Developers to Lose another friend…
    Alderman Bernstein’s comment of ” we don’t have anywhere for a Wal-Mart to move in” is precisely the mindset that will not be missed in Evanston.

    These types of non-creative solutions to increasing the tax base is what is slowly turning Evanston into just another congested, over-burdened cityscape.

    We have enough generic ,over-developed, under-utilized reatil spaces on the West and South sides. Enough of this antiquated thought-process.

    This is one disgruntled 4th Ward resident that will not be looking to support a Bernstein-endorsed candidate. Former developer’s attorney indeed…

    1. overdeveloped and underutilized
      These types of non-creative solutions to increasing the tax base is what is slowly turning Evanston into just another congested, over-burdened cityscape.
      We have enough generic ,over-developed, under-utilized reatil spaces on the West and South sides. Enough of this antiquated thought-process.

      AsburyAnger:

      Over-deveoped , but under-utilized? I am not sure which retail spaces you are referring to. Could you cite a specific example?
      I am also interested in hearing what sort of creative solutions to increasing the tax base you propose. ( Here’s a guess: does it involve taxing Northwestern?)

      Mr. Who Knows

      1. Have a look at the Plaza at
        Have a look at the Plaza at Dodge and Dempster. And while you’re at it drive downa a bit to the Plaza at Main and McCormick. Perhaps you don’t venture into these ‘unsightly’ areas of our beautiful city?

        Plenty of vacant store fronts in case you’re thinking of leasing some space.

        As far as creative solutions to increase the tax base I admit I would need to give this some thought. But unlike you I demand this type of creative LEADERSHIP from my elected representative. All too often Mr. Bernstein has relied on the tired old ways of the past which gets us nowhere near the future…

        1. Underdeveloped and underutilized
          Plenty of vacant store fronts in case you’re thinking of leasing some space.

          No, I don’t want to lease some space, but this still doesn’t support the ‘overdeveloped and underutilized’ claim. The ‘underutilized’ part is right, but not ‘overdeveloped’. . What Dempster Dodge and Church&McCormick need are more businesses to fill those vacants storefronts

          A bigger problem is the ‘ underdeveloped and underutilized’ parts of Evanston. Let me cite some specific examples:

          a. 708 Church St and adjoining property.
          This lot, smack in the middle of downtown, is currently occupied by shabby two-storey buildings : 708 Church and the ‘Historic’ (not really) Hahn Building .Storefronts are mostly vacant on Orrington. Existing stores include low-budget places like Radio Shack and a bunch of 2nd class offfice renters. Developers have proposed replacing the shabby buildings with a beautiful tower. NIMBY’s are currently fighting the project.
          ‘underdeveloped and underutilized’

          b. Chicago & Davis (SE corner)
          Not much going on in the stores here. This would be a nice place for a high-rise. NIMBY’s opposed the project. Site is currently ‘underdeveloped and underutilized’

          c. Former Kendall College
          Pretty much an empty lot. A developer wanted to put housing here, which would have generated tax revenue and more housing options in Evanston. NIMBY’s came out en masse to fight it, citing the bizarre principle of ‘zoning continuity’ to deamand that only single family homes be permitted. ( There used to be college dormitories on the site) Mr. Who Knows thinks that this would be a perfect place for an IHOP,but it is currently undeveloped and underutilized.

          d. Central St. Theaters and 1881 Oak.
          Again, underdeveloped and underutilized. The NIMBY’s don’t get all of the blame here – developers have delayed their plans due to the natiowide downturn in the housing market. Perhaps the buildings would already be up if the developers didn’t face so many delays and obstacles from the NIMBY’s, but that is mere speculation. Still, the land is underdeveloped and underutilized.

          e. Former Marywood Academy site ( Ridge)
          This large plot of land is in a neighborhood with high property values. The site currently has large lawn, lots of parking, and a decrepit former schoolhouse that is being used by the City government. Despite repeated studies involving NPV calculations showing that it is too expensive to repair the decrepit former schoolhouse and that it would be better to move city government to a new site and sell the property and put it on the tax rolls, Darwin award-winning NIMBY’s have succeeded in delaying the inevitable. Underdeveloped and underutilized.

          f. 225 Greenwood
          This plot of land is currently occupied by a fire hazard commonly known as the ‘Dawes House’, so named because one of its occupants was Charles Dawes, who is generally recognized as one of the most ineffective Vice Presidents in US History. Even though this building is in disrepair and found by the fire chief to be a safety hazard, hundreds of schoolchildren were endangered every year when they visited the place until finally Northwestern, owner of the building, put a stop to this dangerous practice. This building, too, is underdeveloped and underutilized. This should be sold to a private owner who could live in it and pay property taxes, or use it for commercial purposes , or tear it down to build a skyscraper to generate tax revenue. Or, alternatively, Northwestern should use it as its president’s house, where donors, faculty, and students could come to delightful parties with fancy hors d’oeuvres.

          g. 7-11 store, Central St.
          This site, too, is not being used to its full potential. Owners wish to keep the store open 24 hours, which would generate more tax revenue for the city, and give residents more shopping options even at late hours. The notorious anti-development group, Central Street NIMBY’s Association, is opposed to the idea.
          Adequately developed, but underutilized.

          h. Northwestern ‘historic’ district.
          In an attempt to harass Northwestern and please the NIMBY’s, much of Northwestern’s land was placed in a ‘historic’ district that limits development options. Limited options for growth on campus have forced NU to expand off campus – including buying an office building at 1800 Sherman Ave and removing it from the tax rolls.

          1. Mr Who – are you serious?
            I have to doubt you know what you are talking about by proposing a IHOP on the site of kendall college – Or you comments about the city which make little sense -or was the Dawes house found as a fire harzard – as you claim – so many misstatements. Many of the people you are labeling NIMBYS have serious proposal and ideas not alot of nonsense and hiding behind a silly name “MR Who knows” what?

          2. Robie House
            Junad wrote:
            -or was the Dawes house found as a fire harzard – as you claim

            Actually, Junad, the Dawes House was found to be a fire hazard. The fire chief ordered EHC to get it up to code. Rather than subject visitors – including the precious children of Evanston – to these dangerous conditions, Northwestern decided to close the Dawes House.

            So my statements about the Dawes House are accurate. If you seek inaccurate statements, I suggest that you direct your attention to generaldawesreturns.org , where Mimi Peterson’s speech at the rally is reprinted.

            Here is what Mimi said:
            “Funny thing – the university of Chicago owns the Robie House in Oak Park.
            They appreciate the value of a local history museum. “

            The Robie House is not located in Oak Park. “It is located at 5757 S. Woodlawn Avenue, on the campus of the University of Chicago, Chicago”
            Also, the Robie House is completely maintained by the F.L. Wright Preservation Society – they have total responsibility for repairs – they don’t try to steal from U of C’s endowment. ( They get their income from donations and tours…unlike whatshisname who designed the Dawes House, Wright was a famous and innovative architect…people actually pay to see his buildings ) See gowright.org to verify these facts.

            The General Dawes group clearly hasn’t researched the history of either the Dawes House or the Robie House. They are spreading misinformation.

            As for an IHOP at Kendall: Skokie & Golf is too far away. The Howard&Asbury IHOP isn’t nice and that street is dangerous at night. We need a 24-hour IHOP, where Evanston residents could have brunch on Sunday morning and NU students could study at 3 a.m.

  2. Crime and taxes -please explain what the alderperson has done?
    The statement “Bernstein says, he is annoyed with the inner conflicts.” I would like to know what those conflicts are to me there are far to many closed meeting – which appear to voliate the open meeting act – it appears maybe these council members need to air their dirty laundry in public? There appear to be several examples of meetings the council should not have had that voilate the public trust!

    please explain this comment “Bernstein said he has tried for many years to alleviate the city’s problems with taxes and crime, but has not seen the progress he would like”

    I would like to know what alderperson Berstein has done to reduce crime in this town? I recall he is a strong support of using our tax dollars to aid the criminal element.

    Also beyond the pro – development stand what has he done to really improve the tax base other than to give developers alot of TIFs?

    Finally the statement “Bernstein also says Evanston should capitalize on its strong points, particularly its diversity. Bernstein said the diversity attracts a lot of retail and a lot of different interest groups and developers to the city.” –

    The over use of diversity as a high point of Evanston by misguded public officals – is interesting. I have been hunting for years to figure out why these people think Evanston is so diverse – other than it is a political statement to influence weak minded.voters.

    1. what are you referring to please
      junad — you reported “I recall he is a strong support of using our tax dollars to aid the criminal element” in your “concerns” about ald. bernstein. i believe that i have heard you make those allegations before. and i think i know what you are going to refer to. but for once, would you please be specific about your derogatory comments before i decide whether or not to respond to your accusations?

      1. anonymous posters need not respond
        You need to tell me what you think Alderperson Berstein has done to prevent cirme in this town. Maybe you should ask the ice cream vendor who was rob here – or the poor women who was raped – about how effect the council has been in preventing crime here – plenty of people have been hurt here and most of it has been met with coverup – identified yourself it you want to have a discussion on crime.

        1. Junad, give it a rest
          Can you PLEASE stop with the whole “I hate anonymous posters” bit? It’s really gone on long enough. If someone wants to post here and not reveal their real name, what difference does it make?

          1. I do not hate anonymous posters – I like to know who —
            I do not hate anonymous posters I like to know who I am talking to -what is a “Evanston RLA” – for all I know you could be a thirteen year old.

            Mr Who continues to show me he has no understanding of zoning, planning or buildings – suggesting a IHOP at Kendall college is just nonsense – I guess it is clear why he wants to hide – his name –

            Mr Who insulting of MImi Peterson is a joke – what book did he write on Evanston historical architecture?

            I have live here for close to 30 years so – I am amused when people who poster here give me silly opinions – it is also quite clear many of those posting here have not been to any public meetings – so thier opinions are just plain meaningless beyond the fact they have no know of the fields they are talking about.

          2. Setting the record straight
            Mr Who insulting of MImi Peterson is a joke – what book did he write on Evanston historical architecture?

            Junad – It seems that among the ‘activists’ in Evanston, pointing out any inconsistencies or factual innaccuracies is considered an insult. How can you claim that I ‘insulted’ anyone? I merely pointed out that Mimi’s claim [Robie House is in Oak Park] is blatantly false. The Robie House is at 57th & Woodlawn in Hyde Park, Chicago. It is not in Oak Park, and the University of Chicago does not support its maintenance. Do you dispute this?

            I also pointed out that the Robie House was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, perhaps the most well-known architect ever, and attracts many visitors. The Dawes Mansion was designed by Mr. Who Cares? (no relation to yours truly) , a forgotten architect, and attracts few visitors.

            What book did you write on Evanston historical architecture, Junad? How is that relevant?

            As for your other claim, “suggesting a IHOP at Kendall college is just nonsense” – well, I haven’t seen any better ideas. The housing market is currently in a depression, and many people think that Evanston already has too many residents, why not put an IHOP on the site? What is wrong with IHOP? Everyone loves pancakes.

            Anyway, I think that EvanstonRLA and Anonymous are correct in calling your bluff on Ald. Bernstein. You have made unspecific accusations against him – and then when asked for details, you change the subject and attack anonymous people. I have asked you before for details about the nefarious ‘special interests’, and you declined. It seems that you are always making accusations that you are unwilling to back up with specific facts.

          3. Evanston Architecture
            For those of you who have not seen it, Ms. Peterson’s book is at Barnes & Noble. It is the only one that they have about Evanston. More than about architecture, it seems like a sweet history of the community that was presented in post cards. I don’t know where she dug them all up. But it is an interesting look at what used to be around town, and why we have of the districts we currently have. It gave me some sense of how the community was divided in days long ago (I don’t think that was the intent of the book) and how that might be dividing us on some local issues right now.

        2. not sure why you were so upset
          Junad — I believe that the question was not what an Alderman has done to prevent crime. It was about your allegation that the Alderman has spent City funds to aid “the criminal element. ” You were asked to provide the details about what you were referring to. In response, you chose to attack me and make another pretty empty allegation that crime in Evanston is being covered up. Seems that what is happening in town is pretty much in the open. I receive a daily email at home with the EPD’s Crime Bulletin.

          If I grant you that there is crime in town, and that I, too, am concerned about it, will you tell me what it is that the Alderman spent money on to “aid” the criminal element? That seems like a pretty outrageous and baseless allegation, and one I would like to know more about . . . if there is anything to it.

          1. I am not upset –
            You know who I am come to the council and talk to me ( I do not know who you are )- if you are interested in learning more – if you would like to do a little research you will find crime here in 1997 was actually higher than Chicago – that is index crime – as for the cover – read the article in the Tribune today about the ice cream vendor being attacked almost saids nothing.

            As for your statement ” Seems that what is happening in town is pretty much in the open.” – what is in the open is what the city is releasing to the public – this only shows me you have not lived here very long!

          2. “do not know who you are” – i am the egg man
            Junad — Enough already. I am going to try to get specifics from you one more time. But first, you bothered to try to undercut my comments by saying, “this only shows me you have not lived here very long!” For your sake, i registered with, for me, what is a very descriptive identifier — KPT02. You may not know exactly who i am, but you will consistently know it is me when I am involved in a discussion.

            And as for how long I have been in town, it is almost 25 years. But who cares? This is, after all, EvanstonNOW, and does not seem to require residency or longevity to participate. Perhaps, you and I — as old timers — may be carrying way too much baggage from the past.

            This is the last time I will try to get the details. I was not wanting to debate with you the issue of local crime. Like Mr. Geyer’s comments earlier, I also have a great deal of respect form Ald. Bernstein, and value the service he has provided to Evanston, not only as an Alderman, but also in revamping and streamlining the Township Assessor’s Office many years ago. I, however, do not agree with him in all matters. That being said, just what is it that he did do to spend City tax dollars to support the “criminal element” in Evanston? Or is this another one of your local issues about Evanston’s social services programs?

            I know that you do not like people posting without their names. (with total deference to Bill’s site authority) Might I suggest that when people post and make allegations, they also provide some facts or details. It would make some of the discussions easier to engage, instead of trying to tilt at windmills.

            To the rest of you, sorry to have taken up so much bandwidth in my being persistent. I’m outta this thread.

          3. KPT02
            “That being said, just what is it that he did do to spend City tax dollars to support the “criminal element” in Evanston?”
            Or is this another one of your local issues about Evanston’s social services programs?

            You seem to know what I might say – so please tell me about my “local issues”.
            It appears to me you have some connection to the social service agenies in town – maybe even you have benifited from our tax dollars in some manner?

            Actually since you have been here awhile – do you think Alderperson should sit on boards of agencies they give taxpayrer money to? Do you think Council members should make large donations to agencies with their own funds then also provide public funds? I would like to know what agencies you might be connected to that every year come and take taxpayer money?

            Recently there was a criminal event at an social services agency and the police should have label the agencys building a public Nuisance under the ordinance
            interesting enough one council member has been connected to this agency.

            Do you think council members should recieve awards from agencies they give funds?

            Look through all the agenies here and determine if any of them are supporting those involved in criminal activities and you will find your answer. Ofcourse that maybe more than you might like to admit.

            Here again – are any laws being broken or is it that the public interest is not being served? ( I like to think that the public interest here is not being served not that people are breaking the law)

            We all know how much expense is involved in convicting public officials on corruption charges- the state and federal attoneries are not lookjng for petty issues to slap public officials on the wrists- they want the big fish – and big convictions.

            By the way do you think we taxpayers should be paying $17,000 a year to cover these part-time council members and their families with a medical package which they pay $37 a month for?

          4. Response to KPT02
            Junad –
            Since KPT02 has stated that he will post no more on this subject, I will point out two things:

            a. Once again, you failed to specify how Mr. Bernstein is aiding the criminals. You made a vague charge, and then when asked for specifics , as usual, you try to change the subject or counterattack.

            b. I also note the following sentence:
            I would like to know what agencies you might be connected to that every year come and take taxpayer money?
            It seems like whenever somebody disagrees with the busybody activists in this town, they are accused – without any evidence, of course – of being on the payroll of the ‘bad guys’.
            So, everybody in Evanston is opposed to the tower – except for those of us who are on the payroll of the developers. Those EHC members who don’t want to fight Northwestern? They have conflicts of interest. Everyone who questions the activists about Honors Geometry or middle school starting times is cleary on the payroll of the school board. If Ald. Bernstein or Moran don’t follow the NIMBY party line on stopping development, it must be because they are being paid off.

            So it is with elm trees, Kendall, Evanston Hospital, and the decrepit Civic Center, the firetrap Dawes House. Everyone who disagrees with the self-righteous and altruistic busybodies is clearly being paid off by the “Special Interests”. Of course, no evidence is ever given to support these claims – but that doesn’t matter.

            If it is true that everyone who disagrees with the NIMBY’s is being paid off, I would like to know how I can get in on this racket. I could use some extra cash. If there are any developers, school superintendents, aldermen, tax-evading universities or evil corporations out there who are willing to pay me, please let me know.

            Mr. Who Knows

  3. A man of the community
    I first met Ald Bernstein in the living room of a home somewhere on Sherman. We were talking about the corner of Main and Chicago. This was 2005, 2006 maybe. Then again, another living room, another home, about the zoning process at the corner of Kedzie and Chicago. Was that 2004 or 05? Anyway, I’ve always found Steve would listen and engage with any point of analysis. Sure, he has he preferences and I haven’t agreed with some of his votes, but I have never felt like he pretended to listen to community members only to later ignore their opinions. He’s a good at arguing and has a robust sense of humor.

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