At an abbreviated goal-setting session at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting, Council members agreed to add three more to their rolling list of goals: “senior programs,” “at-risk individuals and families” and “services to the Latino population.” Council would retain the goals of “economic development, capital improvement program planning, safety issues, youth issues, climate action plan, development services/design review, innovation, Northwestern University, police and fire pension funding issues, Robert Crown Center improvements and visual and performing arts.”
With the NSP2 housing rehab and construction program and the implementation of the 311 call system, the “affordable housing” and “efficiency and effectiveness of [City] services” goals have essentially been incorporated into the City’s current operations, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, so they no longer need to be stated as goals of the City Council.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he “wants to see that the goal of affordable housing doesn’t disappear.” No one followed up on his suggestion.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested that the goal of evaluating the City’s role in providing services to seniors, Latinos and at-risk persons be one of engagement as well as providing services. She also suggested that the goal cover evaluating services provided by the township of Evanston and by the City’s Human Services Committee.
At Mr. Bobkiewicz’s suggestion, the Council agreed to discuss the “economic development” goal more fully in January. Among the Council members’ suggestions were to look closely at the types of economic development funding being used by the City, such as loans and grants using money from the Economic Development Fund and economic support from tax-increment financing district (TIF) funds.
“I think it would be helpful to get research on best practices from the economic development staff,” said Ninth Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus. “We’re becoming a bank for people who can’t get loans anywhere else. If we give people loans because we like them, that becomes a political process. [The request] bounces from ward to ward or to who’s got the alderman’s ear.”
Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, said, “The way it’s been implemented is not fair. I’d like to see us steer away from cash grants. We should look not just at return on investment but on how it will impact other business – and we should stick with our [economic development] budget.”
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes both said they would like to see cash grants continue on some basis.
Mr. Bobkiewicz said, “We can have an economic development discussion in the first quarter of next year without allocating economic development funds.” He told the RoundTable the topic in this “educational session” would be “direct financial assistance (either grants or loans) to individual businesses and business groups (like incubators).”
In the meantime, he said, “We will be mindful of the City Council discussion when considering funding items to bring forward. Several projects are in various stages of development and may need to be considered for funding prior to the first part of 2013. I understand my direction is to use my judgment on a case-by-case basis.”