First ward alderman Judy Fiske, owner of the local pet supply store Fit + Frisky, is running for re-election to a second term on the Evanston city council. Here are her answers to the questions we posed to Fiske and first ward challenger Edward Tivador.
1. How long have you lived in Evanston/the first ward?
Five generations of my family have lived in Evanston & Wilmette. I have lived in the 1st Ward most of my life. For many years, I was a licensed Realtor on the North Shore, so I think I know the entire city really well.
2. How long have you served as first ward alderman?
I was elected in April 2009. But I've been active in local issues here for more than two decades.
Click here to read our Q&A with first ward challenger Edward Tivador.
3. What would you say are your greatest accomplishments so far as an alderman?
Being a “hands on” representative. Reaching out and engaging 1st Ward residents on the important issues facing our ward and Evanston. Making city government more accessible and transparent to my constituents and, for that matter, all of Evanston. Working collaboratively with colleagues on the council, city staff, community leaders and NU to achieve results. Setting balanced economic-development goals that will have long-term benefits and provide stability and growth in the downtown. Encouraging innovative thinking and action to bring new retail to downtown. Providing strategies for safe streets and sidewalks for pedestrians. Engaging NU students in local government. Writing the new tree-preservation ordinance and shepherding it through the City Council. Holding regular meetings (for the first time) with NU administrators and Evanston residents about NU development plans that affect residential neighborhoods. Delivering services to 1st Ward residents efficiently. Keeping the budget under control. Helping to restore Evanston’s AAA bond rating. Making sure we pay down the police and fire pension fund debt ahead of schedule. Knowing my ward, enjoying my job, and being independent.
4. What do you think are the biggest issues for first ward residents? How would you address those?
Quality-of-life issues in the 1st Ward are ongoing and important. They include pedestrian safety, maintaining the integrity of our residential neighborhoods, Northwestern University’s development plans, parking, traffic, lighting and effective policing. They are issues we discuss regularly at my quarterly ward meetings, at NU/City Committee meetings, and in emails and conversations I have daily with residents in my ward.
There are two major issues facing the First Ward.
Balanced development in the downtown. For the long-term health of the downtown, a complementary mix of office, retail, residential and restaurants is key. We have done well with residential and restaurants, but we need to focus our energy on office and retail. Staff and I have been working with two developers who are ready and willing to begin construction on separate office projects on Chicago Avenue -- and neither of which would require city money or incentives to build. And as the current chair of the Economic Development Committee, I have been working with staff to create a program that would encourage new retail startups in our vacant storefronts in the downtown.
Lakefront Protection. A lakefront open to all as a place for "passive" recreation and enjoyment is consistent with the Lakefront Master Plan. A lakefront free from commercial development enhances the entire community. As the City Council faces increasing pressure to consider the lakefront as a revenue generator, the new construction at Northwestern University should serve as a reminder that more concrete, glass and cars on the lakefront is not the answer. I have initiated the process in the Planning & Development Committee to develop a lakefront protection ordinance based on the Lakefront Master Plan that would establish policies to guide future development programs for Evanston’s lakefront.
5. What are the biggest issues for Evanston as a whole? How would you address those?
The single most important goal for the City Council is economic development. My particular focus is on the downtown, but I have also supported economic development projects in every ward in the city. After that, issues of safety, trust in government, and efficient delivery of services are paramount. I continue to work on those issues every day, as well.
6. How would you balance construction/expansion at Northwestern with community needs for preservation?
Northwestern University’s campus east of Sheridan Road is zoned U3 for a reason. There the university has wide latitude to develop as it wishes up to a height of 80 feet. When disagreements arise, they are usually where campus and community meet. The arguments are almost always the same: the university says it is “land poor”; residents are concerned about the quality of life in their neighborhoods, the acquisition of land and the university’s removal of property from the tax rolls. There will always be disagreements next to campus about what development is appropriate, but that doesn’t mean that the city and university cannot try to achieve workable solutions. In 1993, when the zoning ordinance was adopted, it provided for modest university expansion west of Sheridan Road, but also created transitional zoning districts so that university uses would not overwhelm and undermine the integrity of residential neighborhoods and the city’s property tax base. Several years ago, the university unveiled its new framework campus master plan. It was received as a very positive sign by neighbors that the university recognized that it is good public relations to share its development plans with the community. As we have seen recently at Clark Street Beach, that doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s a good thing.
7. What can you offer that your competitor doesn’t?
I am not beholden to special interests. I know the city and my ward and the issues, and I work hard for every resident, regardless of whether or not they supported me. I bring a lifetime of community service to my job, and I believe it is important to 1st Ward residents that they have an independent alderman on the council. I am a full-time alderman and small-business owner in Evanston, so I am here 24/7. When a problem arises, I can respond immediately. I understand the problems facing my ward and the city, and I know how to engage the community to work together to get the best results. Even those who may disagree with my position on an issue know that I am always respectful and willing to listen and that regardless of who supports my campaign, I will always do what I believe is best for the city and my ward. That builds trust.