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The Township of Evanston held its annual Town meeting Tuesday night, April 10, after the City’s Administration and Public Works committee meeting and before the regular City Council meeting.
As per state law, the township meets on the second Tuesday of April. Unless, as it turns out, that second Tuesday is an election day. In 2013, the Town meeting will be the third Tuesday of April – provided, of course, that the Township of Evanston still exists.
Tension bordering on and often crossing over into open hostility charged the atmosphere. Over the past year or so, City Council has explored the possibility of eliminating the Township.
A referendum found that about two-thirds of Evanston voters supported continuing to explore Township dissolution. A vocal and energized core of Township supporters, however, formed a pocket of resistance in Chambers.
A moderator for the Town meeting is elected at the outset by all Town electors present. The Township trustees, by law Evanston City Council, nominated Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl as moderator.
The Town supporters, led by Kevin O’Connor, nominated frequent City critic and Town supporter Dr. Padma Rao as moderator. The meeting then ground to a halt.
City and Town Clerk Rodney Greene called the halt in order to confirm that everyone voting on the moderator was in fact a registered voter in the Town. He confirmed each elector, 54 signed in, by consulting the registered voter rolls. The move was preemptive in order to avoid any allegation of voting by non-eligible electors, he said.
After a delay of about 20 minutes, elector status was confirmed, the nominations for moderator were closed, and the vote took place. Mayor Tisdahl was elected by a 44 to 8 vote, with 2 electors either abstaining or dropping their hands rather than waiting to be counted after the result became clear.
Mr. O’Connor protested the Council’s efforts to bring supporters to the meeting, but ultimately congratulated the trustees. He protested the four- minute limit on public comment listed on the sign-in sheet going so far as to scratch out the limit with his pen. He also protested the fact that the Town financial report was not included in the pre-released materials known as the “packet.”
Town Clerk Rodney Greene responded to the last point by saying that he did not include the financial report because he did not receive it in time. “It will be on line in the morning,” he said.
The meeting itself consisted of the financial report read into the record by Clerk Greene, a report from Township Supervisor Patricia Vance, and a report from Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson. Underlying all reports was the deep shadow cast by the Township dissolution referendum results.
“I stand for township government,” said Ms. Vance. The future of the township likely rests in the hands of the state legislature, however, because at least two proposed laws are before that body now. Whether there is an annual Evanston Township meeting on the third Tuesday in April 2013 is in doubt.