Before the winter sets in, there are a lot of ways to explore Evanston’s finances, ecology, geography, culture and politics.

Tonight is the second and final budget workshop for residents. Although the City now calls the budget a financial framework rather than a statement of values, residents should feel free to let aldermen and City staff know how they would like their tax dollars spent. There will be budget hearings and Council deliberations through the end of October, so residents can see how their own requests and needs are considered by the City Council members in the context of the needs of the community as a whole.

The annual Green Living Festival, to be held on Saturday at the Ecology Center, will offer tips and examples about how to incorporate sustainable techniques into everyday living. Thematically speaking, we all should get there by bike or on foot. Paths in the arboretum and nearby Twiggs and Butler parks border the North Shore channel and offer quiet walks in this changing season and the occasional glimpse of herons, ducks or deer.

But don’t hang up that bicycle helmet: Keep it handy for Sunday’s Bike the Ridge, the only time when bicycles are legal on Ridge Avenue. Scooters, skateboards, bikes and trikes will be welcome between 9 a.m. and noon along the avenue between Howard and Church streets.

October, which begins on Friday, is Arts & Humanities month. The kickoff will be at 7 p.m. on Friday at Design Within Reach, 1710 Sherman Ave. Those who attended Backstage Evanston earlier this month already had a taste of Evanston’s unparalleled performing arts. Visit to see the many opportunities to explore Evanston’s artistic trove.

On Oct. 21, the Evanston Community Foundation will offer its one-day “snapshot” of Evanston. Participants will meet with civic leaders and elected and appointed officials. They will also have a bus tour of Evanston neighborhoods to see first-hand the evolution of this grand community.

Those who would like to make a difference in their hometown (or chosen town) through the political system should consider running for School Board at District 65 or District 202. Packets for the nominating petitions are available at both District offices. The Public Service Challenge will offer a workshop in November, providing a history of both school districts and their challenges, strengths and opportunities.

Early voting for the Nov. 2 General Election begins next week, preceded by candidates’ debates. Evanston residents are candidates in elections for Cook County Assessor, Cook County Board, state representative and U.S. Congress. These are crucial elections, and we hope every voter will become informed about the issues. (Profiles of the Congressional candidates appear on pages 28 and 29 of this issue, and other profiles will appear in our October issues.)

Later this year there will be public forums about the proposed new District 65 school in the City’s Fifth Ward.

And there are always site visits. We encourage parents to arrange to visit their children’s schools and volunteer for a few hours there when possible.

We also believe that people who pay taxes here should attend City Council and School Board meetings at least once a year to see their elected representatives at work, listen to deliberations and see at a local level how decisions to spend public money are made.

Evanston is an amazingly innovative place to live. We all should get to know it better.