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With more than half of City Council members in Washington, D.C., for the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference, City Council and committee meetings scheduled for March 12 were canceled. The Rules Committee and Human Services Committee, however, went forward on March 5 as planned.
“This is the last time I will be making this presentation,” said Senator Jeff Schoenberg, speaking to Rules. Senator Schoenberg announced his retirement from the senate in November. He will serve out his term and thus end a stretch in which, he said, “19 of the last 21 years I represented Evanston, first in the house, the last nine years in the senate.”
He did not bring cheery news. “We are looking at another round of significant [budget] cuts,” said Senator Schoenberg. The governor’s revenue projections would end up being higher than both the senate and the house, he said. An additional $900 million payment will be made to the state pension fund. The good news, he said, is that the pension money will not be borrowed this time. The bad news, of course, is that the money going to pensions is not available for other programs.
The senator expressed some optimism that efforts to cut state distributions to municipalities have dissipated. Lately, “those drumbeats have been muffled at best,” he said, crediting efforts by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
Senator Schoenberg also cautioned the City not to get its hopes up regarding a Springfield solution to the Township dissolution question. “I have no expectation that legislation [introduced to clarify the dissolution process] will become law.” Township officials of Illinois are lobbying against the proposed law, making “prospects of passage minimal at best,” he said. He supports the March 20 referendum, he said, but after that, “we as a community are going to have to decide the next best course of action.”
After a round of thanks from Aldermen and the Mayor, particularly for the senator’s successful efforts in getting the City’s viaducts repaired, Senator Schoenberg walked away from the dais to a standing ovation. He promised to return – as a citizen.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, made a referral to the Human Services committee regarding dog licensing in the City. She recounted the story of a constituent attempting to register a dog at City Hall. Registration went fine, she said, but when the dog owner asked for a Pooch Park token, she was told she had to go to Robert Crowne to get one. When she asked for a dog beach pass, she was told she had to go to Parks and Recreation. She had made trips to three different places and a total bill of over $100 when the transactions are complete, said Ald. Rainey.
“There’s no reason that you cannot also pay for [park and beach] options at City Hall,” said Ald. Rainey. “Also, we need to look at costs.” In Chicago, she added, $5 gets a citizen access to all dog-friendly areas, and licenses can be purchased directly from veterinarians. “We make it very complicated for people.” The Human Services Committee will be taking up this referral in the coming months.
At Human Services, as has become the pattern, no one appeared from the Township to explain the bills list submitted to the City for approval. “It’s Pulaski Day. Maybe that’s why they’re not here,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, though there was no indication that Township offices were closed. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, agreed to move the bills on to Council, provided someone from the Township addresses her questions there.
Ald. Grover’s questions included charges for a seminar conference in Virginia Beach, flights that stopped in Nashville on the way to Norfolk for the same conference, amounts spent by the Township on accountants, amounts spend on materials and other costs related to the March 20 Township dissolution referendum, and the continuing late fees accumulating on Office Depot accounts. The Office Depot issue has been raised previously.
Finally, the Evanston-Wilmette Golf course, Frank Govern Memorial, is operating in a more businesslike manner, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. Improvements, however, have not yet extended to their paying their water bills. “Those fees continue to increase,” he said. “They are “making progress,” and he said he was “in favor of continuing to hold fees in abeyance.” He needed Council approval to do so. “It’s up to you.”
Improvements include the possible addition of a miniature golf course south of Chandler Newberger and just off Lincoln Street, he said, as well as increased support from Northwestern Universit’y golf coach.
“I think we can all agree that a golf course is the highest and best use for that space,” said Ald. Grover. Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested the water fees be waived entirely, saying that other parks within the City do not pay for water. The City should view the course as “part of the park system,” she said.
Ald. Holmes asked what the water usage was in other parks. “I would have to see that before I could even begin to make a vote,” she said. The Committee agreed to revisit the golf course issue after looking at those numbers, though no one appeared to have the stomach to cut off the water or terminate the lease.