A Riverside woman is the first to officially announce she’s running as an independent for one of three village trustee seats up for grabs in next spring’s Consolidated Election.
Cristin Evans, who works as a public information officer for a state agency that seeks to improve criminal justice administration, says the village board has failed to engage with and listen to residents on important issues, creating divisions in Riverside.
“There have been a lot of issues in the last couple years, where what was missing was more of a community connection with village government,” Evans said in a phone interview on Oct. 10. “I think Riverside would benefit from a greater emphasis on community empowerment and engagement.”
Evans said her campaign would be a “village-wide movement toward community-driven government” that advocates a “ground-up approach that requires consensus building among all stakeholders.”
She said that village government had to be intentional about that consensus building by reaching out for resident input more than the bi-monthly village board meeting where public comment is welcome.
Evans said in her experience emailing elected officials has not been particularly responsive and said that officials, elected and otherwise, needed a more open-door policy toward receiving community input, perhaps hosting town halls or question-and-answer sessions and engaging with residents more on social media on important topics facing Riverside.
“The doors need to be open a little bit wider,” Evans said. “That takes some intention. I think we do what we’re supposed to do, but I think by modernizing a little bit with new tools that are available to us, that we can reach more people.”
One subject where Evans said elected officials could do a better job informing residents about future challenges is regarding budget deficits that are being projected in coming years.
“A greater understanding of budget issues and community buy-in on solutions are going to be vitally important,” Evans said.
She identified red-light cameras as an initiative where some trustees are whitewashing the need for the cameras, downplaying the revenue pressures while talking up safety benefits.
“I think some board members have been very inauthentic about why they support installing red-light cameras,” Evans said. “If the issue is revenue, we need to say that, and we need to explain to people why that’s important.”
Raising fees incrementally won’t solve the deficit projections themselves, said Evans, and she doesn’t support “punitive revenue generating strategies” like red-light cameras.
“I think we need to open the conversation a little bit,” Evans said.
Evans has lived in Riverside for the past 13 years and has been actively involved in the Riverside Junior Woman’s Charity, Riverside Friends of the Library and has served on various committees and groups in Riverside School District 96 and at Ames School, Hauser Junior High and Riverside-Brookfield High School.
For the past couple of years, she also has been active with the Indivisible West Suburban Action League, a progressive group that has taken positions on issues facing local communities such as the Cook County minimum-wage ordinance and progressive social issues, such as LGBT inclusion and welcoming initiatives.
Evans said her run for local office is not related to her involvement in Indivisible. Public service, she said, is something she learned from her parents as she grew up in west suburban Wheaton. Her father was a local school board president.
“I’m excited about it. I want the opportunity to serve the village,” Evans said. “It’s a privilege to sit at that table. I really have no hesitation whatsoever about throwing my hat in.”
For the past 20 years, after a stint as a journalist, Evans has been public information officer at the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, a state agency whose board is appointed by the governor and whose charge is, according to its website, to “identify critical issues facing the criminal justice system in Illinois, and to propose and evaluate policies, programs, and legislation that address those issues.”
The only other person to indicate he might be running for one of the three open trustee spots next spring is incumbent Trustee Michael Sedivy, who said he is exploring putting together a slate of candidates.
Incumbent trustees Scott Lumsden and Joseph Ballerine, whose second consecutive term ends next spring, have not committed to running yet. The nominating petition filing period for the 2019 Consolidated Election is Dec. 10 through Dec. 17.