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Several dozen people spoke at the Feb. 1 public hearing on the proposed 2010-11 budget. Most requested Council members not to cut funding to a particular service or program. Some few, however, spoke in favor of the budget as City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz presented it last month to the City Council: balanced without an increase in the City’s portion of the property tax bill. Below is a sampling from citizen comment at the public hearing:

On the Budget Overall

Christopher Ernst said he spoke to “add his support to the budget cuts. … The City has [in the past] spent money on non-essential services with money we don’t have.”

Jason Hayes said he thought people requesting funding for programs and services proposed to be cut were “clamoring for luxury items. … Difficult choices must take priority. No one wants to sacrifice quality of life, but we must not make decisions that put lives in danger.”

Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber “endorsed the principles” of the City Manager’s proposed budget.

On the Children’s Dental Clinic

Brad Weiss said, “Oral health cannot be separated from overall health. Dr. Weiss, a dentist in Evanston, said he did not have any affiliation with the dental clinic and did not know the personnel and added, “The dental clinic is a critical part of what makes Evanston work.”

Carolyn Murray, who said she was in the reserves, said she counted on the dental clinic for her children, both while she is in Evanston and “while I am away, serving my country.”

On the Cuts to Community Development:

Jim Wolinski, former director of community development for the City, said, “These [three proposed] cuts I do not understand. Ed Julian is the only structural analyst the City has. The head of the building department is the only licensed architect on staff – and having an architect on staff is mandated by the City Code.” The third proposed cut, the executive secretary to the community development director, he said, would “alter the heart of the building department.”

On the Library Branches:

 Karen Terry, president of the Library Board and chair of the task force on branch libraries, said there would be Citywide recruitment for the task force. “We want to have a representative task force that will look exhaustively at funding,” she said.

On the Cuts to the Levy Center:

“There is a small staff there; we’re family.” Sid Charlotte Abarbanel. She said the cuts in personnel amounted to a “closing down” of the Levy Center.

On Mental Health Board Cuts:

“It’s clear to me that this it the most difficult [budget] year ever,” Don Baker, executive director of Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.), told the Council. “This is an incredibly difficult time for the people we serve.” He said the City had continually cut Mental Health Board funding – by 23 percent since 1997. With the new proposed cuts, he said, the cuss would be 41 percent in dollars, or 65 percent when adjusted for inflation.