Evanston has been through long and painful years: lawsuits for racial profiling, horribly shocking revelations of sexual abuse among beach workers, and the quick departure of a city manager, chief of police, chief of parks and chief of human resources. We are sharply divided: on development, on policing, on discipline in our schools; and most of these issues have racial overtones.
When choosing a new municipal manager, this is not the time to opt for what is safe and predictable. We don’t need someone telling us what they think we should do. We need a brilliant leader with vision, compassion, humility and the ability to build consensus and trust in city government.
We need Snapper Poche.
Both of our finalists are highly intelligent civic leaders with strong backgrounds. While the other candidate gave specific and detailed answers to a myriad of political questions, what impresses us about Poche is his willingness to listen, acknowledge a mistake and correct it. When discussing a plan he had devised to improve inspections of code violations on rental properties, Poche acknowledged that it “was a failure” because he did not involve the community. He went back to the drawing board, hiring inspectors who lived in these communities, acknowledging that this was not simply a job that anyone could be trained for, but one that “requires a deep understanding of the people and population you are serving.”
This is leadership: trying something new, admitting failure (instead of blaming others), learning from it, and then doing better.
When discussing budgets and programs, Poche speaks of values and even (sigh!) of morals. Budgets are not just numbers for him, he wants to “shift the discussion from dollars to values and invest in those values”. When planning business development, he emphasizes the need for “dialogue about values, identification of commonalities and opportunities to identify shared goals”. He sees the funding of social services as part of the city’s moral foundation.
Humility. Values. Moral. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard that kind of language from a city official.
We appreciate Poche’s commitment to public engagement and transparency. When discussing both the budget and the search for a new chief of police, he says, “Involving the community and the public will always get a better product.” When he talks about values, he acknowledges that “city officials shouldn’t be responsible for deciding what Evanston’s values are.” He realizes that engagement is more than sending out flyers or posting on social media: that “people are busy… and they can’t go to a meeting at 7 o’clock where they sit around a table with a buggy. Bring that engagement directly to residents where they are, so the plan is rooted in that engagement.”
Evanstonians have a strong interest in climate change, but few of us have been as directly harmed by it as Poche. The son of Louisiana fishermen, Poche’s family lost their livelihood from commercial fishing on Lake Pontchartrain because of the area’s declining natural resources. Climate change and climate justice are not abstractions for him. When he discusses our climate action and resilience plan, he wants to see accountability and results, openly stating that “a goal without a plan is meaningless”.
Finally, we are impressed by Poche’s honesty about the challenges of implementing racial equity. He speaks eloquently of the importance of individual learning around the race, freely admitting that this was an important part of his own journey. He emphasizes that all stakeholders and all departments really need to recognize that race is an issue and that it requires empathy. Also, unlike almost every other politician or city official in history, Poche clearly states that implementing equity means sacrifices and a shift in resources. True racial equity is more than simply having employees who speak different languages or implicit bias training; is transferring resources to those who have been marginalized.
Both candidates have impressive CVs and years of public service, but we feel that Poche’s values and long-term commitment to increasing transparency, community involvement, and racial equity in city services make him the best fit for Evanston.
The Community Alliance for Better Government proudly endorses Snapper Poche for City Manager.
Rick Marsh, President