Roger Carlson

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City Council said goodbye to a local legend with applause and a certificate as Bookman’s Alley, located in the alley between Sherman and Benson just north of Church Street, will be shutting its doors for good this week. The store’s owner, Roger Carlson, accepted the certificate and Council praise. Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, paid special tribute, saying that he took dates there years ago, and his kids more recently. Bookman’s Alley will be missed.

A two meeting cycle, June 11 and 18, began with a town meeting to approve the Evanston Township budget that had been introduced two weeks earlier. Town meetings have become generally hostile events of late since the Council, and two-thirds of the Evanston voting population, have made it clear that they would prefer dissolution of the entire entity. This meeting, however, was an exception. Other than a litany of objections and vitriole offered by town elector Padma Rao, discussion was
limited to a vote on the budget. It passed unanimously
and the Town meeting ended.

The hostile environment has not been limited to Town meetings. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced a City policy that should have been self evident. Saying that a citizen “assaulted a member of the City staff” during Citizen Comment recently, the City was adopting “a zero tolerance policy for this type of behavior. Future offenders will be removed, cited for disorderly conduct, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said. “The tone of Citizen Comments should be civil,” she said.

Her comments were in response to three individuals in particular. One person tapped City Attorney Grant Farrar three weeks earlier. While the blow was not injurious, it was audible and disrespectful. Mr. O’Connor has not appeared at Council meetings since. Padma and B.K. Rao have, however, to renew each week their objections to the Council decision in April of 2011 regarding the privately owned Kendall School property.

When citizen comment smoke cleared, Council addressed real estate and budget issues. The City may negotiate for the purchase of an environmentally contaminated former gas station at 1801-05 Church Street, over the protests of Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th ward. “I don’t think we should be buying property with such environmental concerns,” she said. The resolution authorizing the City Manager to negotiate the purchase passed 7-1, with the primary motivation for the purchase, as described by Paul Zalmazek of the City’s Economic Development department, being that the City can get a good deal on the property because it is about to be sold in a tax sale.

The City has no current plans for the use of the property once acquired. Rather, according to the staff memo, “staff will work with the Ward 5 Alderman [Delores Holmes] to develop a community process for planning and implementing a short-term interim and longer-term use. Acquisition of the property will likely lead to a greater overall redevelopment opportunity along this block, especially when assembled with the adjacent City-owned 1708-1710 Darrow properties.”

The proposed changes to the City’s bed and breakfast ordinance continue to flounder at Council. Confusion reined as to whether the new ordinance was even properly before Council, as staff, Council, and the City Clerk could not initially agree whether the ordinance had been introduced and held or needed to be introduced for a second reading in two weeks. Despite the confusion, debate raged over a requirement that bed and breakfast establishments be at least 750 feet apart. The remainder of the ordinance, it would seem, is ready for a vote – with the possible exception of an off-street parking requirement. The distance requirement, and possibly the parking issue, will be decided at the next meeting.

Council received a report on public safety, and the good news is that automobile accidents, and accidents involving pedestrians, have declined markedly over the past several years. Chief of Police Richard Eddington said that accidents occur at the City’s busiest intersections. “The first thing is traffic volume,” he said. Speed and failure to yield remain the primary cause of accidents, he said. Three intersection along Ridge Avenue were the main trouble spots. That said, Chief Eddington reported that crashes have declined for five straight years.

Pedestrian accidents have declined from over 100 in 1990 to 52 in 2011, and the decline continues. The most likely road for a pedestrian accident, according to a report submitted by Suzette Robinson, the City’s Director of Public Works, is along Chicago Avenue. Newalry all accidents occur at signalized intersections, said Ms. Robinson.

Despite the falling numbers and overall increased safety on the streets, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st ward, joined by Ald. Burrus, proposed a decrease in the City-wide speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph. Ms. Robinson pointed out that such a change would be costly in that signs across the entire City would have to be replaced. Nonetheless, look for a proposed change soon.

A report on the City’s Climate Action Plan showed significant progress in meeting the City’s goal in reducing its carbon footprint. Sustainability Programs Coordinator Catherine Hurley said that City government emissions have decreased by 24 percent since 2005, representing 5,898 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Emissions from the community as a whole have decreased a more modest
4 percent, with transportation emmissions barely budging. That gives the City an opporunity for more significant reductions in the future, she said.

Community activist Jeff Smith praised the report, saying the City was showing real progress and accomplishing goals.