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PART 3 of PUBLIC TRUST IN EVANSTON, IL: National Cracks being Exposed in Chicago Suburb

This is an update of an on-going issue in Evanston, IL, a citizen complaint against a sitting alderman. Original details are in my August 25, 2019 post, Part 2 of this series.

This update was sent to approximately 30 Evanstonians in my personal networks–media, political & justice groups, and individuals who I think are interested in the larger issue of public trust and this specific example.

CITY OF EVANSTON: Board of Ethics meeting
Tonight, Oct. 15, 2019, the Board of Ethics of the City of Evanston will be hearing the complaint against Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd ward) by two Evanston citizens (Trisha Connolly and Albert Gibbs).

In the meeting packet, you can read:
— the agenda
— minutes of the last meeting (Sept. 17)
— the complaint
—a Motion to Dismiss the complaint by Ald. Braithwaite’s lawyer, Shawn Jones

The hearing begins at 7:00 PM and there is a period for citizen comment before the complaint is heard. There is no mention of executive session on the agenda, so presumably this hearing will take place in public.

Unfortunately, it looks like this hearing is going to get very messy before it gets resolved. Here’s my take on the Motion to Dismiss.

Although Mr. Jones cites the “facts” of the case as indisputable, he makes a material error in his motion that the Board will have to deal with before the hearing can meaningfully proceed. The error should be embarrassing to Mr. Jones and Ald. Braithwaite and even more embarrassing to two experts whose statements Mr. Jones solicited and that are included in the motion.  These statements are from Prof. Jose Medina (Northwestern University Dept. of Philosophy) and Assoc. Prof. Robin DiAngelo (University of Washington; I believe Prof DiAngelo’s field is sociology).

The error is that the complaint is ascribed by Mr. Jones as an example of “white fragility”, a phenomenon popularized by Prof. DiAngelo in her book. In fact:
— One of the two complainants is Black
— At least one other supporter of the complaint is Black. Darlene Cannon provided citizen comment in support of the complaint on Aug. 20, 2019.
— At least one other supporter of the complaint is Jewish. On Sept. 17, I sent an official statement of support to the Board of Ethics. For the record, many American Jews including myself identify as both people of color and as white, as reflects our personal experiences.
— My statement consisted of my blog that was posted on August 25, 2019. In this post, having watched the entire July 15 Citizen Comment period livestream and a videotape of the August 20 Board of Ethics meeting (linked in my post), I identified the coalition of supporters as being “interracial”.

At least one member of the supporting coalition has contacted Prof. Medina and Prof. DiAngelo to provide them with these additional facts. I do not know if either professor has responded.

Mr. Jones appears not to have watched the citizen comments carefully, during which both white and Black people accused the City (or perhaps the general population of Evanston, the city) as being systemically racist or treating Clerk Devon Reid in a systemically racist manner.

Unfortunately, in his Motion to Dismiss Mr. Jones has sought to bring experts on “white fragility” into the conversation by devoting 4 pages (plus exhibits) to quotes and analysis about white fragility.. This was evidently done without notifying these experts about the multi-racial make-up of the complainants or of the supportive coalition or of the larger context of civic distrust in Evanston (as reflective of our national context of distrust).  More unfortunately, both of these experts acted unprofessionally, in my opinion, by not doing their due diligence and learning more about the complainants, the context of Ald. Braithwaite’s remarks (the motion to censure Clerk Reid), etc., before weighing in on the matter through email.

At the end of the Motion to Dismiss, Mr. Jones tries to shame the complainants for wasting City time, etc.  In my opinion, the false accusation of “white fragility” is the actual waste of City and citizen resources.

(not cited in the BoE complaint)
As you know from my August 27, 2019 email, I have other problems with Ald. Braithwaite’s Call of the Ward comments, problems that are not included in the original complaint. For your convenience, here again is the link to my my Aug. 25 blogpost, which I sent to the Board of Ethics on Sept. 17, 2019 as my official statement.: Part 2 of Public Trust in Evanston, IL: National Cracks being Exposed in Chicago Suburb

To summarize again, these additional problems are:
1.  Possible confusion between systemic racism and accusations of personal racism.
2.  Incorrectly describing the divisiveness about the decision to censure Clerk Reid “racial”.
The divisiveness rather falls along power lines, not racial lines.
3.  Seeming inattention on the part of an Evanston official
—to citizen comments during citizen comment period
—to national and local conversations about the rise of authoritarianism, value of racial and intersectional allyship in combating authoritarianism, mature citizenship inclusive of the mandate to criticize officials

I do not know if Ald. Braithwaite has in fact violated any City of Evanston ordinance or State of Illinois law. I do believe that he has acted unethically in a variety of ways and I stand with the complainants and other supporters on this matter.  If the Board of Ethics dismisses the complaint or otherwise has no problem with Ald. Braithwaite’s comments, we citizens might want to think about (a) rewriting the rules to make such behavior a violation, (b) reconsider our local election processes whereby we sometimes elect officials who are more supportive of elite power structures than real democracy that benefits all.

NOTE: Unfortunately, Evanston has no mechanism for including written citizen comments in the official record (an issue to be addressed at another time).  Anyone should feel free to share this with Mr. Jones and/or Ald. Braithwaite (and any other Evanston resident). As I do not know them personally, I am not including them in this email.