Message from the Mayor
Photo: Evanston Fights for Black Lives March on May 31, 2020 and City / AMITA St. Francis public testing event in Evanston.
In the last month, following the horrifying murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, people in Evanston and across the country have taken to the streets and rightly demanded justice, called for an examination of policing in America, and demanded greater efforts towards racial equity. All the while, we have continued our fight to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It’s clear that we have two pandemics requiring our immediate attention: one, a virus, and the other, an insidious form of bigotry that’s infected this nation since before its founding.
Today, I want to provide an update on our efforts to slow the spread of the Coronavirus, and our actions to address racial injustice, police brutality, and racial equity. Both will require a sustained effort by everyone in Evanston.
Due to the efforts of all of you, we have seen a significant decline of new confirmed COVID-19 cases. In Evanston, we have had an average of two new cases per day over our last 7-day operational period, with a test positivity rate of under 2%.Testing remains steady, with 8,000 residents tested so far, including 75 at this week’s first Evanston community testing event at James Park in partnership with AMITA Health St. Francis Hospital. The effective reproductive rate continues to decline, with each COVID-19-positive person infecting less than one other person, on average. And our cases per 10,000 residents is holding steady at 102, less than Skokie and Chicago. All this good news is due to your collective sacrifice for each other.
To date, we have had 775 confirmed cases and 68 deaths. (View mobile data dashboard). Currently there are 25 active cases of COVID-19. Our fatality rate continues to be high relative to Skokie and Chicago, due in part to the fact that we have 11 IDPH-licensed long-term care facilities in Evanston with 1,360 beds, significantly more than nearby communities.
These fatalities are a reminder that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to stem the spread. I cannot stress this enough – we are susceptible to a second wave, as happened in 1918. This means we must continue to wear face coverings, physically distance, stay at home when sick, and frequently and thoroughly wash our hands. This will be even more important as we move into Phase 4, Revitalization, this Friday, June 26. As one meme recently put it, “The relaxation of isolation rules doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. It means they have room for you in the ICU.” Keep that in mind and keep up the good work.
Racial injustice and inequity
Unlike the novel coronavirus, there’s nothing new about racism. It has been with us 400+ years and has caused untold deaths, injustices, unfairness, inequality, and anguish to people of color. It has not only held African Americans back, but our entire nation back from its ultimate potential. Its harm to this country is enormous and its eradication is essential.
To do so requires a willingness on the part of each of us and our institutions to acknowledge it, systematically remove it, and establish means by which we can uplift our Black residents through greater investments in housing, education, jobs, workforce development, and healthcare. With the encouragement of our residents, over the last three years in Evanston, the City Council has been working on efforts related to racial equity and improved policing. So far, we have:
- Unanimously adopted a Commitment to End Structural Racism and Achieve Racial Equity, acknowledging the City’s past discriminatory practices and affirming the City’s commitment to eradicate systemic racism.
- Committed to create a $10 million Reparations Fund, the first of its kind in the United States, using cannabis tax revenue.
- Established the Equity & Empowerment Commission to identify and eradicate inequities in City services, programs, human resource practices, and decision making.
- Established a Citizen Committee to review our police complaint process and recommend improvements.
- Implemented body cameras for all Evanston police officers.
- Established the Alternatives to Arrest Committee to reassign misdemeanor charges from the Criminal Courthouse to the local Administrative Adjudication process; automatically expunge juvenile municipal records; and connect youth with Family Advocates who help them and their family assess their needs, navigate public health benefits, and access restorative justice.
- Expanded the Youth and Young Adult Division to focus on workforce development opportunities through the creation of the Mayor’s Employers Advisory Council (MEAC) partnership.
We recognize these efforts are only a beginning. Since the peaceful protests in Evanston, including the Evanston Fights for Black Lives March on May 31 and the Black Evanston Men’s rally at Fountain Square, the City has:
- Established a Police Frequently Asked Questions page to provide greater transparency into current policing in Evanston.
- Committed to conduct a 90-day evaluation of its Police Use of Force policies as part of my pledge to the Obama Foundation.
- Appointed nine residents to serve on the Citizen Police Review Commission, which will review complaints and investigation of complaints and provide a report to the Evanston City Council’s Human Services Committee.
- Conducted an investigation, including a review of all body worn police video, into a May 2020 use of force (take down). The findings and recommendations will be reviewed by the Citizen Police Review Commission and the City Council’s Human Services Committee, which will both be public meetings.
In addition, the City will conduct a review of the City’s Police operations, which will be directed by the City Council. This review will include an examination of the police budget, functions, and practices. I will also help organize a series of community listening sessions, conversations, presentations, and idea generating sessions on policing and racial equity starting in July. Finally, the City Council will identify its initial Reparations Fund investments during the second half of 2020.
Advancing equity in our community is as important as our collective fight against the Coronavirus. Both disproportionately affect residents of color and manifest themselves in health, economic, housing, and education disparities. If we want to remain a vibrant, diverse community that provides equal opportunity and fairness to all our residents, then we must recommit and sustain our efforts, understanding that our differences – and there will be some – are genuine and come from a place of critical thinking.
Together, we can overcome these two pandemics and emerge as a stronger, healthier and more equitable community.
Mayor Steve Hagerty