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Highlighted by a private meeting with Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Tisdahl and Evanston Aldermen Braithwaite, Burrus and Grover, led a group of distinguished education, business and civic leaders to Springfield to discuss important city matters on Wednesday, March 7th for the Third Annual Evanston Day in Springfield.
Participants were welcomed to Springfield with a lunch at the Governor’s Mansion with comments by Evanston residents Michelle Sadler, Secretary of the Department of Human Services, and Julie Hamos, Director Department of Health and Family Service. Evanston residents had the opportunity to talk to numerous leaders including Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Ann Schneider and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) Interim Director John Kim.
Evanston officials stressed to the IDOT Secretary that the IDOT controlled portion of Church Street shows signs of surface distress and base failure. Evanston officials pushed IDOT to speed up its repair because the adjacent land use is a mix of residential, institutional and commercial uses, and the road’s condition is hampering development.
Additionally, Mayor Tisdahl, Alderman Braithwaite and city residents met with IEPA officials with Evanston elected officials supporting their residents’ concerns over the Veolia Waste Transfer Station located in Evanston on Church Street.
Attendees also met with Evanston Senator Jeff Schoenberg, Representatives Robyn Gable and Daniel Biss. Senator Schoenberg met the participants on the Senate Floor where he lamented that this would be his final Evanston Day. Senator Schoenberg has been a tireless advocate for the city where the fruit of his work can be seen in the three new CTA viaducts being built in Evanston this summer.
Representatives Gabel and Biss took a wide variety of questions from residents ranging from state pensions to the upcoming budget process. Additionally, Senate Appropriations Chairperson Heather Steans met with the group in the Senate Chamber as well. Due to constitutionally mandated redistricting her 7th Senate District will pick up portions of Evanston’s 8th Ward in 2013 to which she expressed excitement. Other topics discussed with legislators and leaders included the state budget, potential cuts to education and a push to tax the property of non-profit hospitals.
The day’s final meeting was with Illinois Governor Quinn. The Governor talked about a wide variety of topics including his earlier meeting with Northwestern University President Morty Schapiro; the university was part of Evanston Day in Springfield. The Governor highlighted this discussion, and suggested that NU and the City of Evanston apply for the state Gigabit Community Challenge Grant. It is part of the Governor’s Illinois Jobs Now capital initiative where any private or public organization will compete for up to $4,000,000 in prize funding to the most promising plan to build ultra-high speed broadband connection in Illinois. The City of Evanston will explore partnering with NU to compete for this grant.
The day’s activities were important for many different reasons. 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 and this was his last chance to meet with many of these community residents as a member of the State Senate. Representatives Gabel and Biss are following his example as outstanding advocates for Evanston.