As the search and public process to find a new City Manager for Evanston begins, I'm sharing a letter from Evanston resident Lesley Williams, whose comments are right on target.
Let the search team know what you want in Evanston's next City Manager by sending them an email.
Recommendations will be accepted until June 30.
Here's what folks at a recent 2nd ward meeting said they wanted in a city manager, as reported by Robert Seidenberg for the Evanston RoundTable.
Read about the search process and schedule here.
Evanston's city government has a long history of sowing discord and distrust in the Black community. The previous city manager was sued for racist harassment and firings of staff members, and under his watch several prominent African American city employees resigned or were fired. Evanston city services do not provide equitable service to black residents, and the police are widely viewed in the black community as prone to harassing and assaulting black youth while not providing any actual security. Meanwhile real estate initiatives creating more and more "luxury" high rises and exclusionary zoning are slowly driving many black families out of a community they called home for years.
This has to change. The number one priority for the new City Manager should be racial equity. While Evanston does have an Equity and Empowerment commission, there has been little meaningful action directed towards changing city policies and budgeting to increase racial equity and improve public trust in the city and the police.
The new City Manager should have a strong background in promoting racial equity in government. Preferably this person will have worked with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity and will be able to explain the importance of using a racial equity lens and toolkit for evaluating city policies and budgets.
The new City Manager should have a demonstrated record of working with, hiring, promoting and mentoring African Americans (note I did NOT say "people of color").
The new City Manager must be willing to challenge established orthodoxies and entrenched interests, and be able to confront the culture of "opportunity hoarding" endemic to Evanston.
The new City Manager should be open to learning and continuous improvement. They must be committed to transparency and respect in city government. They must be open to acknowledging their own weaknesses and areas of ignorance and be willing to follow the lead of those with more experience and learning.
While it is certainly possible for a non-African American to possess these qualities and skills, I hope the hiring committee will diligently pursue African American candidates.
-- Lesley Williams