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Over 75 Evanston residents and business leaders visited Springfield on Wednesday for the Second Annual Evanston Day in Springfield. The group was led by Mayor Tisdahl and included Aldermen Braithwaite, Burrus and Grover, board members and superintendents from Districts 65 and 202 as well as leaders from many of the city’s non-profit organizations. In addition, NU President Morton Schapiro and Athletic Director Jim Phillips were also in Springfield with us meeting with key leaders.
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The day’s activities were important for many different reasons. Some observations:
- The day allowed Evanston to make its mark in a very concentrated way on state issues and leaders. Not only were we able to meet and talk with Senator Jeff Schoenberg, Representative Robyn Gable and Representative Daniel Biss throughout the day, but members of the group also had meaningful discussions with other senior elected officials including Lieutenant Governor Shelia Simon, State Senate President John Cullerton and House Republican Leader Tom Cross. The NU part of the delegation also met with Governor Quinn and House Speaker Madigan. All these meetings reinforced Evanston as a presence on statewide issues,something that is still somewhat new.
- The trip strengthened the relationship between all of the groups and our state representatives. Senator Schoenberg has a long history of being responsive to community needs, but this trip reinforced an important aspect of the relationship: Schoenberg’s active, regular involvement with key stakeholders in a whole variety of issues. He is engaged on many local issues in a way I have never seen someone in his position before. Representatives Gable and Biss are following his example and they too are exceptionally engaged in many Evanston issues.
- As a group, we focused on issues important to the City, school districts , NU and our non-profits. President Schapiro pitched City issues in his meetings, Mayor Tisdahl talked about issues important to NU in her meetings and everyone joined together with District 65 and 202 officials to discuss school issues. I think we all were excited by working together in such a collabortaive way over the course of a very intense six hour visit actually on the ground in Springfield.
- Evanston was heard on many specific issues: we talked about the importance of state funding for all entities present, we talked with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency about revisiting the permit issued for the Veolia Waste Transfer Station; we talked with the Illinois Department of Transportation on CTA viaducts; we talked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on windfarms in Lake Michigan among other issues.
- The role of Northwestern University in all of this can’t be stressed enough. Two years ago the City and NU were not regularly talking at senior levels about much of anything. Yesterday in Springfield, President Schapiro hosted a luncheon for the Evanston group at the Governor’s Mansion after spending the morning meeting with state officials. As the Evanston group met with officials in the afternoon, we heard all about these meetings and saw the personalized NU football jerseys that Jim Phillips presented to each of them. NU was a full partner in Evanston Day and their presence solidly reinforced the messages that came from other Evanston partners throughout the day.