[VIDEO] Evanston mayoral candidates Stuart Opdycke and Elizabeth Tisdahl clashed yesterday over Tisdahl’s endorsement by the firefighters union.

The union met with all four candidates in the race, but ended up providing a $500 contribution and help distributing campaign literature to Tisdahl.

Opdycke said it was a conflict of interest for any candidate to take money and help from a union that will be negotiating pay and benefits agreements for city workers.

But Tisdahl denied she’d made any promises to the firefighters, other than trying to see that their pensions were funded to the levels required by state law.

The issue arose during a candidate forum sponsored by the Evanston League of Women Voters and held at the Norris Center at Northwestern University

During the session all four candidates said they had rejected approaches from a regional real estate agents’ group — with none seeking the group’s endorsement, and only one agreeing to fill out its candidate questionnaire.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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14 Comments

  1. The home page for the
    The home page for the Evanston Fire Fighters PAC Local 742 website states that it lends both financial and other support to local candidates..”who have showed their appreciation by supporting contracts..for firefighters..”
    I suggest this creates a conflict of interest for Ms. Tisdahl especially because she is a sitting Council member and will be called upon to vote either for or against any contract with the Firemens’ Union ..a contract which will doubtless run into many millions of dollars.
    It is a conflict in my judgment because it operates in many subtle ways to impair the kind of independence and objectivity that should be brought to the bargaining table.
    I do not want to leave the impression here that Ms. Tisdahl is anything but an honest and hard working public servant. But it is naive on her part not to recognize the purpose for which these favors from the Firemens’ Union have been bestowed. Stuart Opdycke

    1. Reference to “pay to play” is irresponsible and unfair.
      The Evanston Firefighters Political Action Committee’s purpose is simple and transparent – to help ensure that fire fighter-friendly candidates are elected to public office. Our only expectation is, once elected, these officials will give our issues fair consideration – nothing more.

      What are those issues you may ask? First and foremost is public safety. We are an undermanned department and we hope our elected officials will work with us to correct critical staffing issues in accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards so that we can better serve the public. Second is correct pension funding. For decades elected officials under funded the pension funds of firefighters and police while the employees made their required contributions (currently over 9.4% of their annual salary) without fail. The city has now accepted the correct actuarial assumptions relative to these funds and has moved in the right direction to do what is legally and ethically correct for those who put there lives at risk for the community. Lastly, is safe working conditions and fair compensation. Elected officials make critical budgetary decisions regarding equipment purchases, funding for training as well as vote on compensation that we negotiate in good faith with city management that we expect will reasonable and just.

      Ms. Tisdahl has proven during her tenure as Alderman that she will listen to our concerns and give these important issues fair consideration. There is no conflict sir.

      Your reference to “pay to play” during the mayoral debate is an irresponsible and unfair comment designed to play off the current troubles of Senator Burris and former Governor Blagojevich and has no relevance to our support of Ms. Tisdahl.

      Mr. Opdycke, the Evanston Firefighters Association is proud of its long history of political activism and has always acted honorably in its support and working relationships with the city’s elected officials.

    2. I agree with your comments on the fire fighters PAC
      Stuart – any one taking money from the fire fighters PAC, whose members bargins with the city is questionable. While it may be legal – it is clearly a conflict of interest.

      In fairness to Liz Tisdahl she is not the only one taking the support from the fire fighters, I think decent citizens should avoid all of these individuals and vote for the others.

      I would like to see the entire group give back the funds and ask the fire fighters not to work for them.

      By the way almost every fire station in town has been rebuilt at the cost of millions of dollars, and recently when I questioned the council on why the fire department created several new positions only one of them was questioning it. Ofcourse it could be their lack of intelligent versus being influenced.

  2. Fire fighters Union
    Amen to Stuart’s remarks
    We all should have the fine pensions of the fire fighters, particularly in hard times, but they should not be in any way influenced by campaign or other contributions to any candidates.

    good grief, is no one paying attention to this issue which is in our face daily??

    1. fire fighters and other special interests
      As if being a tower-hater were not bad enough, this is just more evidence that Tisdahl should not be mayor.

      It also demonstrates the problem with our elections in Evanston. Who is going to come out and vote in an April election in an odd year? Almost nobody. Not many people get all excited about city elections, so a small but determined minority can show up and carry the election.

      This happens in Chicago all the time, where Chicago city employees show up to support their aldermen and mayor – and the taxpayers get shafted. It looks like it is happening with Tisdahl too.

      And, of course, we all remember the “referendum”, in which an overwhelming majority of Evanston voters stayed home while the fringe element came out to support a non-binding feel-good resolution in favor of keeping the dilapidated Civic Center even though it is not cost effective to repair it.

      Dan Feldman recently wrote an interesting letter in the Evanston Roundtable (of course, Mr. Who Knows gets all of his news from Evanston Now), in which he correctly pointed out that having elections with such small turnout allows a tiny minority of noisy NIMBYs to get their way, and he has some good suggestions for reform:

      “One solution is to require that a winning aldermanic candidate must have 20 percent of the residents vote for him or her – 1600 votes. No one in the current crop can get that. After a year or two, residents would notice that the City Council has no members, and perhaps decide to do something about it. Or perhaps not, because the City Manager would be running the City without interference from the aldermen, and that would be better.

      Or Evanston could do what the whole world outside Illinois does, which is elect everybody on the first Tuesday in November”

      I really like the idea of having elections on Tuesday in November. I suppose that if the stupid Civic Center ‘referendum’ appeared in November 2004 or 2008, the anti-tax vote would have been even higher.

      Perhaps also the Australian system, where citizens are fined for not voting, would be effective.

      (Or instead of the stick, use the carrot, or in this case, pancake: perhaps we could serve a variety of pancakes, French Toast, and crepes from around the world with four flavors of syrup to everyone who shows up to vote. This would get a larger turnout, and it would ensure that the pro-IHOP voting bloc shows up at the polls)

      It is clear that the majority of Evanston residents do not care about silly issues like ‘saving’ the Civic Center or the silly Dawes House or elm trees,and the majority of Evanston residents are tolerant Tower-loving people. We can no longer allow a noisy group of NIMBYs to dominate our government.

  3. Unions do corrupt politics
    Does anyone wonder how the police and fire unions got the sweet pension deals at a time that few in the private sector even got pensions?

    Unions have been corrupting our local and state politicians for a long time. They support their favored political candidates with money, foot soldiers and votes. Then those politicians turn around and negotiate favorable contracts and support legislation and policy the unions want. The evidence is everywhere.

    One example – a few years back you might remember, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky used her staff and money to send out phone calls and mailings to support a referendum to take away the tax exempt status of St. Francis Hospital, part of the Reserrection Hospital system, because allegedly the hospital did not provide enough charity to the community. Of course, the referendum did not apply to the tax exempt Evanston Hospital.

    Guess which organization was responsible for getting that referendum on the ballot? The unions, which have been trying to unionize the Resurrection Hospital system for years.

    Now why would any union care whether a hospital provides a certain amount of charity to Evanston?

    Schakowsky did the union’s bidding by sending out those supporting phone calls and mailers.

    Now, one has to question how Tisdahl would handle the pension problem and other concerns where the union’s interests clash with the public’s?

    1. so do private businesses
      Does anyone know if any of the tenants in the 708 Church Building have contributed to any of the candidates?

  4. Tisdahl: Always Fuzzy
    I’ve noticed a trend on this forum: Tisdahl sure gets questioned frequently by citizens and candidates alike for her fuzzy ethics. We’ll revive campaign jargon from 2000 for this one (fuzzy math).

    I think Tisdahl should chime in and explain herself in writing since Mr. Opdycke and Mr. Dinges both have the gumption to post on here and defend their points. (Or maybe the actually understand social media.)

    Special interest groups don’t make me vote. It means you have one issue, one agenda and you’re willing to rule out any other factor to see that particular item through. Frankly I don’t care if firefighters, teachers or nuns support Tisdahl. It means nothing to me as an individual.

    Let us never forget there’s no free lunch. She will owe these interest groups and that will always sway her decisions down the road, or rather the pressure she puts on future alderman for their decisions.

    Does anyone know what groups support other candidates with a cash exchange for furthering their agendas?

  5. Union Endorsement by the Evanston Firefighters Union
    What a great question by Mr. Opdycke! My name is Kevin O’Connor and I’m running for the 7th ward aldermanic seat against John Zbesko and Jane Grover ( Ald. Tisdahl’s longtime friend (as told to me by Ald. Tisdahl @ CSNA meeting in December) and informally endorsed by Ald. Tisdahl. I know, I was never interviewed by the firefighters union concerning their endorsement and I wonder if my fellow candidate John Zbesko was interviewed. Perhaps Ald. Tisdahl told the union that she wanted her formally unendorsed friend Jane Grover to receive the Union’s money ( 500.00 ) and manpower ( off duty firefighters to work the 7th ward for her ). Ald. Tisdahl says no promises were made and if we take the alderperson at her word, she should have no problem releasing to all Evanston citizens the questions and her answers. Jane Grover should do this too, unless she wasn’t even asked the questions due to her relationship with Ald. Tisdahl. I never even got to see the questions myself, so what quid pro quo was dealt. The firefighter’s union should release this information as well, while legal, it certainly is an unethical conflict of interest for our elected officials to accept such help. Evanston needs reform! Ald. Tisdahl is part of the problem and her friend Jane Grover is not the solution, only more of the same.

    Kevin O’Connor
    Citizen-Candidate for 7th Ward Alderman

  6. Brian– Except there’s a major error (Tisdahl Contributions 08)
    The Firefighters Association approached Mr. Opdycke as well. He didn’t take your pay and he won’t play. Had he, you would be singing a different tune, so don’t coo about the past merits of Tisdahl when you were shopping around.

    They say never loan your friends money, it tends to cause problems. I think in my elementary little mind that it is wrong to take money from a group you will be putting the squeeze on legislation for.

    Obviously no one here dislikes firefighters, you’re our heros from the time we were 5 at career day. But politics is a tricky animal, and for once I’d like to see the alderman do the right thing. She’s a player. She’s got cash. It’s looking like it cost a few grand for that photo opportunity with Schacowsky. Or maybe they’re tennis buddies. Either way, Politics As Usual. I don’t like politics as usual. I like people who question things extensively and exhaustively.

    Contributions via Tisdahl
    http://www.campaignmoney.com/political/contributions/elizabeth-tisdahl.asp?cycle=08

    In fairness, I tried to look up the other candidates giving but I cannot seem to find it. Post if you can.

    1. Hypocracy
      The level of ignorance and hypocracy that exist in Evanston is overwhelming sometimes. Mr. Opdycke would’ve taken both legal monetary contribution and pavement-pounding help passing out fliers in an instant if it were in fact offered to him. Perhaps the PAC of the Firefighter union didn’t agree with the platforms that were presented when Mr. Opdycke MET with the PAC. I wonder why he was seeking the PAC endorsement in the first place. Probably for the same reason that just about EVERY politician seeks support from strong influencial groups: Because running for office isn’t cheap or easy, contradicting the very spirit of what the Founding Fathers vision of the election process what supposed to stand for. The firefighter union has hard workers and when they back a candidate, they do so because of a strong ethical base and a positive platform that will do GOOD things for this community. One of the agenda items in the course of doing those good things for a community would be having a strong and well-provided for school system, public works, and public safety programs. There are those out there that would have the public safety sector withered away to a skeleton of the current set-up, even though those that have any knowledge or understanding of police and fire know that we are already undermanned compared to years past. All this with workload demand being higher than ever.
      Mr. Opdycke: Perhaps you should focus your approach to this election with what you feel your strengths are, and not waste time mud-slinging at a candidate out of envy for an endorsement you didn’t receive. Or maybe that is your strength, either way, you won’t be getting my vote.

      1. Sour grapes
        Dear Mr. Anonymous: You should know that the Firemans’ Political Action Committee called me.I did not call them. I was told by their representative, Mr.Timothy Gobat, that whomever the PAC chose to endorse for Mayor would receive a monetary contribution and other campaign assistance. I told Mr. Gobat that while I would love to have their endorsement, I could not accept any favors because I felt that it presented a conflict of interest. That is how it was left.It is not a question of sour grapes Mr. Anonymous. Rather,it is a question of whether public servants should allow themselves to be influenced by,in this case, Union favors.I think that they should not. Stuart Opdycke

        1. Thank you for not taking Union favors.
          Thank you for not being influenced by the union.

          Those supporting Alderperson Tishdal should be concern if she has been influenced by the union.

  7. Why did they ask for more and why did she accept the cash?
    To quote Alderperson Tisdahl from the clip

    Someone ask her at the meeting ” What else she was going to do (for the fire fighters)?

    She claims nothing! But then again she took the $500 and the fire fighters support. Why didn’t she just say NO!

    Frankly if the firefighters are so honorable, hold a public meeting with all those running for Mayor and the public and voice your concerns through questions.

    Don’t give elected officials PAC funds!

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