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December 12, 2017


Posted: Friday, December 1, 2017
Community forum entry by: Aaron Cohen

Keep Hebrew at ETHS. Evanston residents who cherish the Hebrew language and its 3,000-year old culture cannot accept the decision by Evanston Township High School to end its Hebrew program (Nov. 30 Roundtable).

For 50 years, Hebrew at ETHS has offered thousands of students of all religious and ethnic backgrounds an immersive exploration of a unique language, which in antiquity shaped Western civilization, and in modern times gives expression to one of the world’s most diverse and dynamic societies.

At a time when people grapple with issues of cultural provenance and authenticity—and when forces advocating cultural boycott seek to delegitimize Hebrew’s stunning achievements—now is the time for ETHS to restore Hebrew to its place in the curriculum.

Proponents of Hebrew grasp the challenges and respect the administration’s efforts to recruit and retain a qualified Hebrew teacher, in order to rebuild a program that experienced diminished enrollment when its future was in doubt.

Were the school to apply greater effort and resolve now, and work in partnership with the community, solutions will be found, the Hebrew program will rebound, and the school will once again have a program that reflects Evanston’s values of diversity and inclusivity.

Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Community forum entry by: Frances Martin

‘Attached’ - “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the universe,” This is the quote I found attached to a plaque by an 11-foot steel and mosaic sculpture near the Evanston lakefront by Janet Austin, created in 2016. The public sculpture was recently installed near the lakefront between Hamilton and Lee Street at Elliot Park, as Evanston starts a new program to have more sculptures in the City.
The quote, which is attached to the large, heavy (about 250 pounds) metal wasp’s nest Janet Austin designed, sums up perfectly how I felt after taking a walk by the lake this morning, in the midst of autumn.
Today, the leaves were falling, a mixture of red, tan, yellow, and green. The lake’s waves were resonating a song as they splashed up and down the lake shore. The boats were docked in the harbor, reminding me of boat trips I took with my father and brother. Mothers were jogging along with their kids in strollers: Young guys and gals too were jogging. Older folks were walking and talking. In the distance, one could see Chicago’s many buildings, looking like part of nature too, as they loomed over the lake. That view reminded me of my daughter’s similar view when she looks out of her apartment window in Chicago, and forgets about the worries of jobs, guys, and moms.
As I walked along, my first thought was of my late husband Bruce. In autumn, he knew how to get away and forget the worries of the world by “attaching” to nature. Every autumn we’d head to the upper Michigan peninsula for a few days, traveling the roads and observing the gorgeous trees and colorful, falling leaves. My worries fell like leaves too. At that time, I worried about his health (he had trouble walking and breathing). Today I worry about mine: foot and back aches watery eyes bones and brain losing density, etc.
Bruce always treasured nature. He grew up in the farmland and mountains of Colorado and early on became attached to the wonders of mountains and trees.
Today, at the end of my walk when I saw the sculpture called “Attached,” memories of Bruce came falling back to me, and I felt more “attached” to his love and nature’s beauty.
We’re all “attached” to the rest of the universe. Enjoy it this autumn.

Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Community forum entry by: Marilyn Koch, Partner, Remark LLC (University Building)

Vermilion Development Project at 601 Davis. More than 70 years ago, my family purchased the land at Davis and Chicago Avenue, a property which is now home to a building that is recognized as one of the most historic and extraordinarily beautiful structures of Evanston: the University Building.
We are so proud to have partnered with Vermilion Development, in an effort not only to preserve the University Building, but also support economic development in Evanston through the construction of a new, 33-story building.
Allowing an old, elegant building to stand proudly alongside a new development, the Vermilion plan for the property at 601 Davis represents all that Evanston encompasses – history, success, and community building.
On Dec. 13, the Evanston planning commission will convene and discuss Vermilion’s proposal for the new building, which – if approved – will replace a vacant lot and an underutilized bank drive-thru adjacent to the University Building. The City Council will consider the project in January.
The City Council’s approval of this project is critical to the success of the City’s small businesses and restaurants, and also critical to maintaining an energetic downtown district. The proposed development would increase foot traffic and ultimately increase the number of potential customers, helping Evanston’s locally owned businesses thrive.
In addition, this complex is estimated to result in nearly $2 million in additional annual tax revenue for the City of Evanston.
I urge you to contact your local alderman and express your support for Vermilion and 601 Davis.

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2017
Community forum entry by: Constance Porteous

Mary - I appreciated the detailed way that you covered the meeting about the Family Focus site. However, I want to comment on the way the Family Focus Board did not come prepared in anyway to understand the needs of the community. They kept saying that they didn't have the money to keep the building and had thought for a long time about putting it up for sale. There was no prepared numbers they should have handed out to the community showing the costs of maintaining the building and what was owed in terms of the elevator. There was even a smart board, electronic means to present the expenditures and what the family focus brought in as well as salaries.
In my opinion, the board failed in a major way to understand the needs of the community and do their homework before presenting the issue of selling the building. Furthermore, why did they wait until November 12th to present this when they knew long before this that the situation was as dire as it is.
The emotions of the community was high, because they had been unprepared that this was the situation nor did they have any documentation in front of them to understand the problems.

Seriously, it seems understandable that the Family Focus Board is in the present situation if that is the way they work out their problems.

Sincerely Constance Porteous

Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Community forum entry by: Peter Gann

Generic Evanston. On November 13, lacking meaningful zoning ordinances or codified plans for the future of downtown Evanston, the City Council voted by 5-4 to approve construction of the 15-story Albion luxury apartment complex on Sherman Avenue. Sadly, this portends a short-term future in which massive development projects will be fought over repeatedly, and a long-term future in which Evanston’s downtown becomes just another generic place. There is no reason to assume that Evanston can escape what has played out so often in any community with precious assets that become “hot markets” for luxury housing investment: retail space affordable only to bland national chains, a ripple effect on housing costs, increases in property taxes, and loss of a human-scale environment.

Albion Residential, wholly owned by Sammons Enterprises (from their website: a “diversified global holding company, one of the largest privately held companies in the world, with assets approaching $85 billion”), shrewdly divided proponents of affordable housing from proponents of human-scale development, as if the two are not compatible. Moreover, the “public benefits” typically offered to the City by a developer as a sweetener for zoning variances became a free-for-all in which this developer held private discussions to design specific benefits suggested by some aldermen. No matter how well-intentioned those special benefits may be, the resemblance to the pork-barrel practices used by Congress should be alarming. Moreover, the chaotic and ad hoc nature of this whole approval process signals to future developers that Evanston can be played, if only the right strategy is employed.

I venture to guess that almost everyone who opposes over-sized luxury development in downtown also supports doing something about the scandalous decline in affordable housing for low and middle-income families in Evanston. In fact, I would argue that acquiescing to high-priced development in order to help these families based on some variation of “trickle-down” theory, will do exactly the opposite. Evanston citizens who are engaged on either affordability or gentrification issues must come together to address these problems at their common roots. It will not be easy, because the forces behind hyper-development extend far beyond our town, but maybe Evanston can demonstrate that it is special, not generic, after all.

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