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Woman Out Walking

At the end of the July 9 Administration and Public Works meeting, the City of Evanston received an award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for its Women Out Walking (WOW) program, a 12-week walking and health program that encourages healthy exercise and nutrition for all women in Evanston.

Jocelyn Bogen, director of the City Livability Awards program for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, along with Bill Plunkett and Mike Brink of Waste Management, presented the award to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. Jonathan Webb manages the Women Out Walking program. Ms. Bogan said the WOW program shows the “importance of partnerships between the City and its residents.”

Tax Bill Errors

Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson said that property taxes are due on Aug. 1. Bills for some senior citizens have been calculated incorrectly, she said, and notifications are being mailed out currently. She urged any resident who believes the recently received tax bill to be incorrect should call the Assessor’s Office, 847-332-2465 – to make an appointment. Walk-ins, she said, may have difficulty being seen by staff.

GO Bonds a Go

Aldermen approved the issuance of $16.22 million in general obligation (GO) bonds, of which $10.3 million is unabated and $5.9 million is abated debt. Proceeds from these bonds will be allocated as follows, according to City documents: $4.3 million for the Capital Improvements (CIP) fund; $4 million for the Sewer Fund and $4.4 million for the Water fund. In addition, the City will be able to refinance about $3.5 million of earlier-issued (2002) bonds.

Audit Report Received

The City Council voted to accept the audit performed by its independent auditor, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP. While the auditor made some recommendations, Jason Coyle of Baker Tilly said, “We’re not seeing anything added that wasn’t there in past years. … The recommendations were about how things were presented but they do not actually affect the money you have in the bank.” City staff prepares the financial report, which is “relatively rare,” he added.

New Restaurant ‘Found’

Found, a new restaurant at 1631 Chicago Ave., received its liquor license from the City. “Gio is closed, and Found opens,” said Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey. “They come and they go. … This restaurant is really exciting. This town is really moving,” she added.

Utilities Commission Role Expanded

City Council expanded the powers and duties of the Utilities Commission. The City’s Utilities Commission, composed – to the thinking of a long-time observer of the commission – of some of Evanston’s smartest and most forward-looking thinkers, now has the additional role of assisting the Office of Sustainability.

Patience and Speech

For the last 16 months Citizen comment at a City Council meeting, it seems, is not complete without speeches by Dr. Padma Rao and her mother, B.K. Rao. Dr. Rao and Ms. Rao have complained about the planned development approved by City Council for the former Kendall College property, bounded by Lincoln and Colfax streets and Orrington and Sherman avenues. The developer proposes to cut down at least one very old elm tree, and the Raos say they believe the City made an error and acted improperly in approving the development because it amounted to a death sentence for that and other trees. Their remarks often devolved into personal attacks.

After the matter was vetted by the City’s Ethics Board and no wrongdoing found, the Council declared that it had no jurisdiction over the Kendall trees. City Council rules prohibit comments by residents on matters over which the Council has no jurisdiction, so for the past few months, the Mayor, the Raos and the Council have been at odds.

When Dr. Rao or Ms. Rao or both have ventured into Kendall territory in their speeches, Mayor Tisdahl has turned off their microphones.

This time, their issues of free speech also touched on tree speech. Dr. Rao said she did not agree with the Council’s definition of “jurisdiction.”

“The world owes gratitude to those who demand to be heard,” she said, mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and others. “This Council chose to follow the worn-out path of those who oppress people and silence ideas,” she said, naming Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. “That did not work out well and will not work in Evanston.” She prefaced her remarks by saying that they had been approved by her attorney and ended with what might be deemed the threat of a lawsuit. “My attorney has repeatedly put you on notice. Save the City’s liability and save the Kendall trees.”

Ms. Rao spoke in a similar vein. “My experience of free speech is my exercise of my religion.” She asked Council members why they did not object to the Mayor’s trampling on her rights and concluded her speech with the following: “Save the Kendall trees. Save all trees. I shall return.”

Neither Dr. Rao nor Ms. Rao commented on the Council’s approval of the purchase of 103 gallons of Arbotect fungicide at a total cost of $40,736.50, to inject 241 public elm trees against Dutch elm disease.