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April 19, 2018

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Posted: Friday, April 6, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Dr. Aaron Packman and Clare Tallon Ruen

Community and Youth Education Opportunities at Harley Clarke. On Monday, April 9, the Evanston City Council will vote on the granting of a lease to Evanston Lakehouse and Gardens (ELHG) to develop the Harley Clarke mansion and grounds as a community education and event center for the City of Evanston. Done well, Harley Clarke will become an Evanston landmark and a definitive resource for sustainability education and lakeshore recreation in Evanston. This setting is completely unique in offering a historical building and grounds next to a public beach, park, and lighthouse. Redevelopment of Harley Clarke can provide an important new resource for education programs for Evanston youth and adults on urban sustainability, lakeshore ecology, and the Great Lakes. The Lakeshore Sustainability Education Partnership is committed to developing programs utilizing Harley Clarke, the Evanston Lakeshore, and publically available environmental data to provide direct, hands-on sustainability education. Existing partnerships with ETHS and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 will allow us to integrate lakeshore education and indoor-outdoor programs at Harley Clarke into school curricula, providing critical environmental learning experiences that students otherwise would not have. These programs will enrich other types of environmental and sustainability education programs, such as those offered by the Evanston Ecology Center, by bringing in new partners, new expertise, and new experiences that can only occur on the lakeshore.

We believe that there is strong momentum for fundraising to support both the Harley Clarke renovation and education programs to use the house, grounds, and lakeshore. We therefore support the ELHG effort, and we hope that the City of Evanston will provide a lease to ELHG to enable this fundraising to occur. Ultimately, success by ELHG will be success for Evanston. It is important that the City support this effort in partnership with ELHG for the future of Evanston and the education of our children.

Posted: Friday, April 6, 2018
Guestbook entry by: John Foley

Save Illinois. Take the Pledge
As many people know, Illinois is a fiscal mess and a national leader in out-migration. According to, here in Evanston there are 436 homes for sale and 123 rental units available for rent. They aren’t all leaving--but some are and they will be missed. To what degree does this surplus inventory suppress the value of our homes?
We need to change things in Illinois for the sake of all of us. To turn Illinois around, how about our elected officials running for Illinois House, Senate and Governor Take the Pledge this November? Will our elected officials endorse these 8 suggestions? If not, which of these 8 suggestions will they endorse?
1) Illinois is sinking in pension debt. Moving to a 401K/403b defined contribution plan for all new State of Illinois hires with the ability to put all newly hired public sector (municipal, school, etc.) employees on a defined contribution plan as well will finally put a cap on the unfunded pension liability and give certainty to businesses and job seekers about the future for Illinois. The recent move to Tier 3 pensions that are a hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan includes the defined benefit component that hinders the ability for public sector employees to seek private sector employment without compromising their defined benefit plan—hindering THEIR ability to seek better opportunity in the private sector. According to Reuter’s (February 2018), Illinois has an unfunded public pension liability of $129 billion. This is up from $111 billion in 2016. Moving new public sector hires to a defined contribution plan caps the unfunded pension liability and, the funds that are in the public sector employee’s account belong to them—allowing them to move freely between public sector and private sector employment without the cost of losing their 35% funded Illinois pension. No more public sector job lock, no more collecting multiple pensions, a cap on the unfunded pension liability so that it is no longer strangling our future and driving our children and grandchildren away—a win for all.
2) Freeze public sector hiring until we have shrunk the State workforce by 11.5% via attrition. Assuming a 4% turnover, this should take 3 years. The average cost per State employee (wages, benefits) is $97,545, shrinking the payroll by 11.5% saves taxpayers at least $839 million in payroll cost and allows Illinois to start working down the size of the unfunded pension liability. Those in need of state services will receive their services at a slower rate while a greater role for technological efficiency is implemented—but they will get their services.
3) Repeal the 32% tax increase that went into effect July 1, 2017. In theory this income tax increase generated $5 billion of revenue. In reality, it just continues to drive productive citizens and businesses out of Illinois. With the recent tax reform, the $10,000 cap on deductibility of state and local taxes particularly hurts those of us in Evanston. Lowering the state income tax is a good first step to minimizing the impact of this capped deduction.
4) Reduce taxing bodies. How about the Lighthouse District right here in Evanston? The Richmond Cemetery District? Those 13 miles of road handled by the Vernon Township Highway Department (Michael Lofstrom Highway Commissioner)? School districts (yes D65 and D202) should be combined so that the school district is accountable for the student kindergarten through 12th grade. There is no reason for any community to have 2 highly compensated superintendents (and administrations) with limited accountability for the end result. Some of this is a local control issue which we need to address on a local basis. All the same, using the bully pulpit to advocate for less taxing bodies serves the interests of the resident and can only help in turning Illinois around.
5) Work requirement for SNAP/Medicaid. By requiring those that receive State assistance to work 20 hours per week, Maine was able to reduce the number of Medicaid participants by 80,000 people. Assuming Illinois was 65% as effective as Maine on a per thousand basis, we would reduce the Medicaid rolls by 500,000 people saving taxpayers $3.3 billion per year. Those that work in the cash economy falsely claiming the need for SNAP/Medicaid will now need to make a choice—work 20 hours per week to receive their SNAP/Medicaid or exit the rolls. It should be a point of pride reducing the SNAP/Medicaid rolls as this means more of our population is self-sustaining. Transitioning to the private marketplace and reducing the SNAP/Medicaid rolls is an accomplishment that should be celebrated.
6) Close the public/private pay disparity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average public sector employee earns $48.78/hour. The average private sector employee earns $33.55/hour. Yes, you read that right. Public sector employees make 45.4% more than you, Mr./Ms. Private Sector Worker. This unconscionable pay gap needs to be closed via slowing down the rate of pay increases below the rate of inflation, shifting more of the cost of their health insurance and pension onto the public sector employee—just as the private sector has done. It isn’t a race to the bottom it is a race to financial sustainability. There seems to be much conversation about the gender gap in employee pay. We need to address the pay gap between public and private employees and close it over the next 20 years.
7) Representative districts drawn by an independent panel as done in Iowa. Many states have gerrymandered their districts. To what end? Uncompetitive races that have only suppressed voter participation in our democracy. Other states gerrymander—that doesn’t make it right. Our gerrymandering has led Illinois to the depths of financial despair with people leaving the state at the clip of 114,779 in 2017. Over 563,000 citizens of Illinois signed the petition in 2014 (and again in 2016) for the Illinois Independent Redistricting Amendment for just this-only to be suppressed by our court system.
8) Term limits. Term limits are universally supported by people of all shapes and sizes. They are not supported by career politicians. Their magnificently gerrymandered districts guarantee them a political career that enriches their family (I won’t name names) at the expense of us.
None of these 8 suggestions results in the loss of public services to those in need. No one loses their job. It shows the needed maturity to address our challenges head on and a seriousness about turning our great State around.
You want my vote? Candidates Gabel, Cho, Gong-Gershowitz, McCarthy-Lasonde, Pritzker and Rauner, let me know if you are taking The Pledge .

Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Clif Brown

A litter story. Today I had to take a ride of a few miles to stock up on pasta that I buy from a specialty shop. On the way I stopped by the main post office and was ashamed to see the grounds cluttered with litter. How can the public walk by this collection of garbage, clearly in the making over months, and not do a thing about it?

What does it mean to make America great again if not at the least to clean up a mess? To say to oneself "I didn't do it, not my problem" is our problem as a country. Where is a feeling of community pride? Is no one ashamed? I spent five minutes and completely cleaned one "island" of those around the PO, dumping the garbage in a trash can right there at hand on the corner, put there just for the purpose of making it easy to get rid of litter! The time and effort involved in cleaning up is insignificant. People walked by oblivious, nobody offered to help, nobody said thanks for cleaning up...Americans in their normal self-absorbed state ignoring the actual land of the country they claim to love. But there's more to my story.

About half an hour later, I was riding near an alley downtown and I saw a guy with a small broom and a stick for snagging things on the ground. He looked ragged. Homeless? I watch as he stooped and picked up a piece of trash then dropped in in a dumpster as he continued walking. OMG, someone actually picking up litter as a matter of course? Of course he must be mentally ill to exhibit such abnormal laudable behavior. Unseen by him, I followed along on my bike to see if this was something he continually does. He arrived at the rear of a church where several men were gathered to enter. I recalled this church is the home of "Hilda's Place" that provides food for the homeless. Everyone filed in and I followed, determined to reward this guy with $20. No sooner was I inside than he was leaving after being given two home-made sandwiches in ziploc bags. I told him I wanted to thank him for his effort with litter and gave him the $20, but he was clearly more interested in the sandwiches than the money...a truly hungry man not more than 100 feet from half a dozen restaurants.

This homeless taking care of the country in this most basic way on the streets where he lives, and we "normal" people too busy to see what is right in front of our eyes and lift a finger to address it. We have the personification of selfishness in the White House now, but really, are we so different?

Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Lee Knohl

Why Evanston Needs a A Small Donor Match
The “Democratic Machine” just bought a seat in the Evanston 17th District State Representative race. According to several sources, Gong-Gershowitz, the Machine candidate, received 7,620 votes, compared with her closest contenders Chow at 7,023 and Mary Rita at 3,471.
The funding tells the smelly story: Madigan funded Gershowitz roughly $60,000 eight Machine State Reps added $359,000, for a total of around $420,000.
The runner-up, Chow, ran with $15,500 of donations, Mary Rita had $27,500. We don’t need this kind of one-sided competition coloring our representation.

Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Guestbook entry by: John T Tuzson

Reader Responds To ETHS Walkout: Instead of expecting someone else to do something, each demonstrating student should pledge to never, ever buy a gun and to persuade their family, relatives and friends to get rid of any guns they may have.

Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Bryant Wallace

Chessmen Gala a Success
I want to thank everyone who attended our 60th Anniversary Community Service Awards Dinner & Benefit and donated to the Chessmen Club. Because of your generosity, we raised over $150,000. That money will go back into the community, supporting our scholarship fund, hunger fund and social programming.
Let me also acknowledge our 2018 community service award winners Ann Balusek and Tim Rhoze. The Chessmen sincerely appreciate your contributions to the Evanston community. You make Evanston a better place. To our student honorees, Jaydlyn Rogers and Hakeem Quadri, I wish you continued success and hope to hear more about your good work in the future.
I’d also like to thank our event sponsors for helping make the gala possible: Hagerty Consulting, Northwestern University, First Bank & Trust, Infrastructure Engineering Inc., NorthShore University HealthSystems (In honor of Dr. Rudy Lombard) and Evanston Community Bank & Trust.
On behalf of The Chessmen Club of the North Shore, Inc., I thank each and every one of you for your continued support. Our Club would not be celebrating 60 years without you.

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