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Members of the Human Services Committee on April 7 expressed their disapproval over the management of the Township Assessor’s office and discussed making additional cuts to assessor Sharon Eckersall’s budget for 2008-09.


Alderman Ann Rainey urged swift action to amend the City curfew to coincide with Chicago’s, saying residents in her ward have complained that juveniles cross Howard Street to avoid curfew violation.


“If I’m showing I’m frustrated, it’s because I am,” Alderman Steven Bernstein, 4th Ward, the committee chair, told Ms. Eckersall. “We’ve already spent thousands of dollars on a survey because of the actions of this office,” he said, adding that the City has also spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on legal fees due to the “actions of this office.”

Last June the Human Services Committee cut the assessor’s budget by $54,800, and Ms. Eckersall fired her deputy, Diane Benjamin, the following day. The City is currently paying Ms. Eckersall’s legal fees to defend her in a lawsuit brought by former deputy assessor Nash Castaneda, who filed a suit in 2001 alleging wrongful termination and defamation of character. The lawsuit is currently under appeal and, according to an interview Mr. Castaneda gave the RoundTable in June 2007, he is seeking $250,000 in damages.

After questioning nearly every itemized expense in Ms. Eckersall’s budget, Ald. Bernstein said, “I’m looking at a reduction of easily $20,000, maybe more.” He requested a further breakdown of the budget be submitted to the committee as soon as possible. The City Council, acting as Township trustees, must approve the Township Assessor’s budget by July.

Other items considered at the April 7 meeting:

• The proposal for the Citizens Police Advisory Committee was held in committee until the April 28 City Council meeting. The Council still must formalize the appointment process and term limits of the CPAC.

• Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, requested a change in the City’s curfew ordinance to reflect the changes made in Chicago. The proposed curfew hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., Sunday-Thursday; and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Ald. Rainey urged swift action, saying residents in her ward have complained that juveniles residing in Chicago cross Howard Street to avoid curfew violation.

• Chief animal warden Linda Teckler urged an increase in animal licensing fees and boarding impoundment fees to keep in line with the fees in surrounding communities. She also asked that the appeal process for owners of dogs deemed dangerous by the City be limited to 10 days.

• Committee members viewed the works of Evanston artists who urged that the Home-Grown Artists become a permanent event at the Farmers Market, with two days in August and two days in September. Now We’re Cookin’, an Evanston-based culinary services center, requested approval to give cooking demonstrations at the Farmers Market.

• The Playground and Recreation Board expressed a desire to explore a partnership with District 202 to build a shared-use indoor recreation facility.

• The committee considered emergency shelter grant funding recommendations for 2008-09.