Repair, Reconciliation ... and a New City Manager
Evanston's longest-serving city manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, resigned earlier this week to become City Administrator in Issaquah, Washington. He held the city manager position in Evanston for 10 years. During his tenure, Bobkiewicz has had many supporters--and many detractors as well.
With Bobkiewicz’s departure in September, Mayor Steve Hagerty and the City Council will begin the search for a new city manager for Evanston for the first time in a decade.
At last night’s Equity and Empowerment Commission meeting, commissioners, with Chief Equity Officer Patricia A Efiom, continued to discuss its ongoing "solutions-only" effort to urge Evanston's City Council to develop specific and actionable policies to begin to address and repair the unquantifiable loss of assets, wealth, and opportunity for Evanston's African American over many decades.
You can watch the meeting below (apologies, the sound is less than ideal).
During the wide-ranging discussion, Efiom emphasized that the City must move forward by looking at its hiring practices and taking the lead in making change by listening to residents who have been affected by years of disenfranchisement.
In response, Commissioner Kathy Lyons raised the subject of the imminent hiring of a new city manager.
"One way to think about system change is to make sure that this is part of the hiring process [for the new city manager]," Lyons said.
"The subject of reparations, of equity and empowerment, and that we not bring someone to the city who's never heard of this, that this be something the city manager is experienced in, and comfortable with, and a proponent of.
That's part of system-wide change. That throughout the system, we're engaging folks who make this a priority."
Commissioner and 3rd ward Alderman Melissa Wynne responded, "I just cannot imagine that we'd hire someone who does not completely understand this issue."
"Maybe it goes without saying," Lyons replied.
"But thank you for saying it," said Wynne.
"It's important that we make sure it's out there, that this is part of the hiring process, in this time, in this moment," Lyons said.
"The decision to hire a city manager is in the hands of the city council," Equity and Empowerment Chair Jane Grover added. "But perhaps [the Commission] can get involved in that process. Whether we host a meeting with finalists ... to offer up the commission as part of the process in hiring a city manager."
What other qualities and qualifications should City Council look for in hiring Evanston's new City Manager, in addition to the crucial application of a racial equity lens in this and other City positions?
PLEASE NOTE: This post is about how we move forward as a city toward repair and reconciliation. It's not an invitation to praise or criticize Wally or City Council members for past actions, but to offer productive suggestions for the future. Any ad hominem comments will be immediately deleted.
More on the Equity and Empowerment Commission's work on repair and reconciliation coming soon.
GET INVOLVED WITH REPAIR AND RECONCILIATION IN EVANSTON: YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED
If you'd like to keep up with news and information and get involved as the reparations process moves forward in Evanston, consider attending Commission meetings and City Council meetings so your voice can be heard, and join Robin Rue Simmons 5th Ward Alderman's Facebook group "Evanston Reparations/Solutions Only." You can find it here .
The Equity and Empowerment Commission comprises: Jane Grover, Chair; Julie Corbier de Lara, Pastor Pastor Monte' L. G. Dillard, Sr., Sr., Timothy Eberhart; Ald. Delores Holmes; Kathy Lyons; Max Weinberg; Ald. Melissa Wynne; and Alejandra L Ibanez.