From left, Paul Hletko of FEW Spirits, Hecky Powell of Hecky’s BBQ, Harvey Pranian of Young Evanston Artists, Jill Brazel of the Evanston Arts Council and Dr. Stamata Blanas of the Kiwanis Club of Evanston. Photo By Evanston Photographic Studio

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Over lunch at the Orrington Hotel on, March 2, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl gave her annual State of the City speech in an event organized by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. The event also included the Mayor’s annual awards for the arts.

Mayor Tisdahl began by praising the City’s economic development efforts, highlighted by the recent announcement that Trader Joe’s will be coming to the former Blockbuster Video space on Chicago Avenue. “Economic development is the top goal of all [the City’s] aldermen,” she said.

The Mayor also praised the police department, and her own Safe Summer Summit, for working to reduce violent crime in Evanston. Aggravated battery was down 23.8 percent in 2011, she said, and reports of shots fired down 28.3 percent. Murder dropped 40 percent, from 5 to 3, and none involved Evanston youth. “No Evanston youth, no one in their teens or twenties, was murdered or became a murderer in 2011,” she said. [One Evanston youth, Omar Estrada, was murdered in 2011 but the crime took place in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood.]

The City is continuing efforts to expand water sales to neighboring communities, said Mayor Tisdahl, adding that sales should begin by year’s end. The City is negotiating with Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Park Ridge and Des Plaines, and continues to sell water to Skokie.

Mayor Tisdahl highlighted the City’s improved relations with Northwestern University, saying she hope that there will come a point when no one will ask about it. Northwestern will pay about $2 million to the City in building permit fees in 2012 for its new School of Music and visitors Center, she said.

Award for the Arts went to Young Evanston Artists (YEA), founded by Harvey Pranian; Dr. Stamata Blanas, creator of the Faces of Evanston photography project; and Jill Brazel, president of the Evanston Arts Council and creator of the Art under Glass project.