Evanston’s five candidates for mayor offered hints Wednesday night about the actions they would be most likely to support early on in their term if elected to succeed the current mayor.
The five appeared at a forum sponsored by the city’s two Rotary clubs and moderated by NBC Chicago news anchor Christian Farr in the auditorium of the Rotary International headquarters in downtown Evanston.
Steve Hagerty, 48, noting that Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl had improved relations with the administration of Northwestern University, said he would like to encourage more involvement of the students in helping the city solve some of its problems.
At the same time, he expressed skepticism that “a good neighbor does not take more properties off the tax rolls.”
While rejecting the idea of giving financial help to businesses to locate in the city, he said that Evanston should provide an environment, through beautification and public art, that would encourage more shoppers and visitors to come to Evanston and shop at local retailers. A performing arts center downtown would help do that as well, he said.
Mark Tendam, 62, who is currently completing his second term as alderman from northwest Evanston’s Sixth Ward, said that housing and homelessness are issues that most often keep him awake at night.
“The services are here,” he said, “but getting people to take advantage of those services is something else.”
Brian Miller, 37, who represents the Ninth Ward, advocates using the sale of water to neighboring suburbs as a means of financing growth.
Miller said he would like to help fight violence in the community by expanding the mayor’s summer youth job program to reach those young people who are not getting the summer jobs. More outreach workers and mental health counselors would help as well, he said.
Miller also advocates better “police accountability,” and vows to see that “all of our citizens are policed properly.”
Gary Gaspard, 54, said he would establish a “Living Mayor Advisory Board,” consisting of former Evanston mayors who have a deep understanding of community issues.
On dealing with violence, Gaspard warned that “we cannot fight violence with violence. We need to fight violence with workforce development.”
Jeff Smith, 60, said he would introduce a “lakefront protection ordinance” in his first 30 days in office.
On the issue of violence, Smith vowed to build “a culture of peace,” which he said begins at the top.
Because there are five candidates on the ballot for mayor, there will be a primary on Feb. 28 to whittle the field down to the top two. However, if one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, he will be declared the winner.
The general election, for mayor, city clerk, and nine aldermen, as well as for school board members, is scheduled for April 4.