One speaker at the May 5 budget meeting said she and others were confused between the City’s “Engage Evanston” budget effort and the private but communitywide Evanston150.

The two programs are alike in that they challenge Evanstonians to be thoughtful and innovative about the future.

There are, however, differences between Engage Evanston and Evanston150. One is oriented only to the business of the City of Evanston; the other encompasses everything in the Evanston community.

Engage Evanston is immediate and cost-oriented. It seeks input for the 2012 City of Evanston budget. The question from Engage Evanston is “What programs, personnel or services (or all of them) can be cut or trimmed and what taxes or fees can be increased or implemented so the City can have a balanced budget for fiscal year 2010?” In other words, what can we do without – or how much more can we pay – to have the quality of life we want here for another year?

Evanston150 is long-term. It asks Evanstonians to envision the future but without a price tag. The question from Evanston150 is “How do we want Evanston to look in the next 10 to 15 years?” Evanston150 is also a celebration of the community’s first 150 years and an invitation to envision and perhaps help shape the next 150 years.

Both programs are important to the Evanston community, and residents may find that, as they sift through their ideas, some will overlap. But there is no need to choose between the two programs. Both seek your ideas. Both need your ideas. Evanston will be a better place because of your efforts.