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EVANSTON, IL (March 4, 2021): Elections Pop-up Newsletter

Local elections in Evanston, IL are on April 6, 2021. This is a pop-up newsletter to provide practical information, to facilitate participation, and to highlight big picture issues by connecting our local issues with larger jurisdictions (county, state, regional, national, world).

Evanston voters 
Evanston candidates
Evanston media
Evanston political groups
Evanston activists in my networks
Residents of my neighborhood (Nichols Neighbors)
Some non-Evanston voters with Evanston connections & interests

ABOUT this newsletter
Once or twice a month I try to put out an informal newsletter about current Evanston issues customized for people and groups in my networks. I try to:
—provide practical information to facilitate participation in our public processes
—connect local actions & issues to larger jurisdictions—county, state, regional (Midwest), national, world

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CONTENTS March 4, 2021
A. Post-Primary Reckoning Begins: Welcome to 60 new “subscribers”!
B. Peace as an election issue?
C. My Primary Endorsement for City Clerk: Reader reactions
D. Reparations
— Federal Reserve Board national event featuring Ald. Rue-Simmons & Evanston’s plan
— Evanston’s current proposal: concerns & resources 

A.  POST-PRIMARY RECKONING — Buckle up, Evanston!

After two long-time City Council incumbents (4th & 8th wards) got knocked out of the race in the primary, anyone who was paying attention should have expected that the remaining long-time incumbents (who also polled badly in DPOE’s endorsement session) would try to re-energize their campaigns. I’ll have to admit that I didn’t think it would happen in such an ugly way, spearheaded by supporters who, it seems, haven’t been paying attention and definitely did not get their facts straight.

For anyone who missed the news of the last 24+ hours, here’s the basics, in “truth sandwich” form:
TRUTH: On March 2, five Evanstonians (Jane Grover, Pat Efiom, Delores Holmes, Dick Peach, Kelly Marcelle) sent an email to about 60 other Evanstonians promoting some serious disinformation about three well-known, respected, and active grassroots political groups. 

LIES: The email says that there has been a “concerted effort to undermine our local government by a small and determined group of residents, organized under several banners (perhaps OPAL, Community Alliance for Better Government, Reclaim Evanston). They are promoting a slate of candidates to replace virtually the entire City Council. Take a look at the attached image from this group’s social media.”

TRUTH: The accusatory email, marked URGENT, was an invitation to join a Zoom meeting (March 3, 5:00 PM) to craft an emergency strategy to get long-time incumbents re-elected. Presumably this meeting took place, although the email was leaked some hours before 5:00 PM. Once the email was leaked, OPAL, CABG, and other Evanstonians called out the lies and bad faith tactics.

The “Urgent” Email
Evanston Fights for Black Lives Facebook page has posted the original email from Grover, et al. (see Betsy Wilson’s “share” of Kevin Brown’s post) plus numerous comments.

Local summaries and reaction: 
—Daily Northwestern article (March 4): 
Former aldermen organize meeting to combat “anti-incumbency”, draw backlash from candidates, residents
—EvanstonRoundtable article (March 4): 
Email to Community Leaders calls for ‘Counterpoint’

Additional information and updates:
—OPAL  Facebook 
—CABG  Facebook
—Evanston Patch
—my Twitter page, starting with this thread

In addition to the paragraph quoted above, there are a variety of offensive accusations and misinformation in Jane Grover’s email. Others have addressed many of those items in other places.

I would simply like to point out the civic inattentiveness exposed by the following:
—Characterizing the efforts of 3 distinct, independent groups as a single effort (yes, there are such things as coalitions, but this isn’t one)
—Characterizing the totality of 3 active groups with long-time, rich track records, both as individuals and as groups, as “small”
—Ignoring the DPOE endorsement session as an indicator of widespread voter dissatisfaction with the current Council
—Ignoring the tense citizen comment periods and voter protests of the last year, not to mention the last 4 years, not to mention as far back as I can remember (1980s) when I used to bring my young daughter to City Council meetings (I couldn’t afford a babysitter) to testify for increased funding to Family Focus
—Promoting long-time incumbents who have a proven track record of ignoring structural stresses on Evanston at the Cook County, State of Illinois, Midwest, U.S., and global levels (see Item #3—Our Evanston Bubble–in my first Elections Pop-up newsletter, EVANSTON, IL: Elections Pop-up Newsletter (Jan. 8, 2021)

This selective attention, along with the smears and self-congratulatory comments, smacks of Trump-like projection and lack of self-awareness. At the age of almost 70, I finally have to agree with Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin & Hobbes comic strip): “Most ignorance is willful.” Or, as Dan Froomkin recently quoted in his article (why older white men who run newsrooms don’t listen to constructive criticism): “If they haven’t gotten the message this late in the game, it’s on purpose.”

Still not clear to me
Despite 24+ hours’ media attention on this bad faith, desperate organizing attempt, we still don’t have all the facts:
a. What image & what group does this sentence refer to: “Take a look at the attached image from this group’s social media.” OPAL, Reclaim Evanston, CABG? other? Is there something that the rest of us should know about “this group” and the image? Or about the intentions of the writers?
b.  Is there a working name of the Grover, et al., group?
c. Who in the Grover group leaked the email? (Thank you, whistleblower.)
d. What happened at the Zoom meeting last night?
e.  I have received mass election emails from Jane Grover in the past (just as she has been on my email list for these newsletters). Does the fact that I did not receive her email to “community leaders” (the Roundtable’s term) mean I’m not one of Evanston’s “anointed & appointed” (Lori Keenan’s phrase)? Thank goodness for small favors.

Being a “community leader” of a certain kind seems a heavy burden. Repetitious invocations of institutional memory and leaders who think they’re indispensable lead to collective and oppressive paralysis, in which case life has a way of taking care of things—rot, decomposition, and upheaval if necessary. The last four years have been a non-stop slideshow of watching our U.S. institutions finish rotting from the inside. White supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, dominionism, hypocrisy—the stench is undeniable.

I’ve been calling 2021 the year of the Great Composting. If the compost ripens in time, we could have a great growing season. Even if it doesn’t, the new seeds and buds are already sprouting.

First, some apologies are in order.
Otherwise, buckle up, Evanston. We’re in for a rough few weeks.
Someone just removed my yard signs.

(how’s that for a segue?)

For a variety of reasons, since January I have been thinking of trying to make PEACE an election issue during our local elections. I hadn’t intended “peace as an election issue” to become so salient and timely all of a sudden, but here we are.

As a way to gather my thoughts and respond to current events, I recently posted a blog on the subject: Camp Auschwitz and an Ancient Women’s Peace Center (Chicago) (Feb. 28, 2021).

If anyone has any ideas about how to craft PEACE as an election plank for the Evanston elections, I welcome all ideas, messaging, action items, etc. FYI, as my blog makes clear, I’m not talking about “civility” or “anti-militarism”.

Reader Reactions

In my last newsletter right before the primary, I endorsed Cynthia Beebe for City Clerk. I got some pushback from three readers who deserve responses and further dialogue. Both Stephanie Mendoza and Cynthia Beebe are equally unknown to me, except for the forums, interviews, and campaign messaging.

I will try to address the readers’ concerns in my next pop-up newsletter (in about 2 weeks). Meanwhile I look forward to continuing public discussions about the office of City Clerk and the candidates. 

D. REPARATIONS: Kudos, Concerns, Resources

The City of Evanston is getting a lot of national attention on the issue of reparations, thanks in large part to Ald. Robin Rue-Simmons, who is also getting well-deserved national attention. Evanston’s local press has highlighted some of the articles and events featuring the City’s efforts and Ald. Rue-Simmons.

On the other hand, there is a growing movement to “reject” the “fake reparations” program. The City Council is scheduled to vote on an implementation program on Monday (March 8, 2021). Here are some hyper-current resources that may add to the conversation. 

1. Federal Reserve Board: National event video featuring Ald. Rue-Simmons (March 1, 2021)
In addition to adding context to the reparations issue, I recommend this video for two reasons:
— as an excellent primer on national housing issues in general
— I think Evanston’s many real estate agents and professionals (e.g., appraisers) will find it especially interesting
The event was sponsored by all 12 offices of the Federal Reserve Board, hosted by the Minneapolis office.

Racism and the Economy: Focus on Housing
The link connects directly to:
— Video (2 hours)
— Detailed agenda: very well organized around 3 housing proposals, followed by expert questioning
— Details of 12 speakers, including Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (one of the keynotes and a former Chicago resident, now based in Philadelphia and professor at Princeton). Also includes Ald. Rue-Simmons making a presentation and answering questions.
— “Handouts” from the speakers, including the 4-page handout on reparations

2. Evanston’s current reparations proposal
I would like to add my support for the concerns about the March 8 vote and add some resources for discussion. For background see this Evanston Roundtable article (March 4, 2021).

a. Renters
The event mentioned in #1 included some good questioning about why Evanston’s program doesn’t include renters.
—Ald. Rue-Simmons’s presentation is at the 50-minute mark.
—Questions about not including renters are at the 73-min. mark (1:13)

b. Fungibility of money
As a food & farm activist for the last 15 years, I have strenuously objected to the soda tax and similar restrictions for SNAP. The whole point of the invention of money is its fungibility—its ability to be traded for anything of value, according to the values of the person who has the money. Anything that interferes with that fungibility decreases the value of someone’s money-time-freedom.

c. Reparations: A women’s comprehensive viewpoint  (it’s not just about $$) 
An inspiring understanding of reparations is presented in a recent panel discussion by Farah Tanis, Exec. Director of Black Women’s Blueprint (based in New York City).

Her description of comprehensive reparations starts at 40-minutes in this 1.5 hour video:
Envisioning a Feminist Economic Future (Feb. 22, 2021)