Are YOU Voting Today???

The polls close in just five hours. You probably won’t vote. But you should.

The April 6, 2021 election in the City of Evanston and its school districts is the most important in a long time. With a new mayor incoming and the recent replacement of a decade-long City Manager, there’s the chance for some fresh air in Evanston. Altho mayor is settled, 8 of the City’s 9 wards have contests, and there’s a pivotal race for elementary school district 65. So why do I say “you won’t vote”?

The reason for that provocation is that, if past trends hold, most voters* won’t vote in this election. Here are the turnouts from the last 5 off-year local elections:

April, 2015 school board elections:    9:1%
Feb. 2017 primary:            20.4%
Apr. 2017 general consolidated:    36.9%
Apr. 2019 school board elections:    9.0%
Feb. 2021 municipal primary:        20.1%

Not once in recent history have even half of eligible voters turned out for these local elections. In 2015 and 2019, an amazing 9 out of 10 registered voters did not cast ballots!

This year, that needs to change. From Evanston’s staggeringly wasteful $8 million legal-fee boondoggle of a failed lawsuit over James Park, to the enormous expenditure on the new Robert Crown center, to the $1 million+ in settlements paid to victims of alleged civil rights violations, to the resignation of practically the entire Ethics Board after the City Council refused even to censure an alderman for cursing at a resident during a hearing, to a series of controversial bypassing of City zoning requirements, to the unnecessary prolonged and deceptive soap opera over Harley Clarke, and the constant threats to sell off parts of our commons, this mayor and City Council have presided over and caused more citizen unhappiness than I’ve seen in a decade.

Meanwhile, over at District 65, the large “once-in-a-generation” tax hike voters supported in 2017 suddenly seems not to be enough, and we’re making national news, but not in a good way, for what amounts to infusing curriculum with ideology. Spending has gone up but scores are going down, reading and specialists and accelerated math are being cut while bureaucracy is increasing, and the too-common response to objection or question is name-calling. A local expert on Evanston schools told me that this was the worst Board they’ve ever seen, and that none of the incumbents deserves to be re-elected. But the belligerent tone of the District and bullying by a small cohort online has many parents and taxpayers afraid to even voice their thoughts — which should never be the case.

So there’s a lot on the line.

If you have already voted, thank you, regardless of whether you voted the way I will. If you (or your roommate, spouse, or adult child) haven’t voted: Please prove me wrong. The weather today is the nicest Election Day maybe ever. No excuses. Put on a mask and go vote. Our city and schools need you.

-- Jeff Smith 

*To be fair, if you are reading this piece on our little community organization website, you are probably an engaged citizen and will vote. So, I confess, that clickbait is me trying to move a last few off the fence and out to the polls.

The foregoing blog post is mine alone and not that of Central Street Neighbors Association. CSNA offers a forum for free expression to any neighbor who wants to engage in civil discourse.