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The second post-election City Council meeting brought little controversy, highlighting perhaps why so few aldermanic races were contested. Aldermen found little if anything to disagree on while cascading through the items presented.
Council began, as it often does, with a celebration of sorts. The League of Women Voters will sponsor a suffrage rally on June 14, the 100-year anniversary of the date women received the vote in Illinois, six years ahead of the nation as a whole. The rally will echo what Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said has been called “the largest demonstration in the history of Evanston” in 1913. The rally will take place at the Francis Willard House, 1730 Chicago Ave., from 5 to 7 p.m.
The Administration and Public Works Committee quickly approved an expenditure for the Police Department’s dispatch-system software. The sole-source agreement costs about $73,000. Council also quickly approved $22,500 for golf instruction, but took care to note that the program actually generates a bit of a profit for the City by brings in about $33,000.
The story regarding trees was less rosy, with the City’s Director of Forestry, Paul D’Agostino, saying that within five or six years the emerald ash borer will have destroyed every ash tree in Evanston. While preventive measures do exist, he said it was too late for them. For the past several years, he said, the City has been planting a diverse assortment of new trees, in contrast to prior plantings in which an entire block would be a single species. The ash borer, however, has put the City three to five years behind in replacing trees.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, encouraged citizens to donate toward tree purchases, suggesting a program similar to the park bench dedication program. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, publicly thanked St. Francis Hospital for planting replacement trees along Ridge Avenue. The City will plant 200 trees this spring, costing just over $55,000.
The Farmhouse Tavern is coming. An offshoot of a popular restaurant near the Chicago Avenue CTA Brown Line stop, the restaurant focuses on locally sourced ingredients and drinks and will be in Orrington Hilton restaurant space last occupied by Futami some five years ago. TJ Callahan of Farmhouse said they hope to open by the end of May but added that early June was more realistic. He praised the City’s economic development staff calling Evanston far easier to work with than Chicago.
A similar restaurant concept, Found on Chicago, will be getting a sidewalk café as the weather allows. Amy Morton of Found said she hoped to create a welcoming, garden-quality atmosphere. Her goal is a “one with nature” concept that she hopes will be “pleasing to the eye.”
A tweak to the zoning code designed to allow sports and recreation facilities in industrial zoned areas created a bit of a stir when Ald. Rainey protested the proposed removal of the word “commercial” from the code. Her fear: that a not-for-profit could move in such spaces and take them off the tax rolls. Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, long a proponent of indoor sports facilities, ultimately agreed to Ald. Rainey’s proposed amendment. The term “commercial” will remain in the code, but sports facilities will be allowed as a special use.
Finally, Council bid farewell to Steve Griffin, the Director of Community and Economic Development. Mr. Griffin recently accepted a position as the Administrator of the City of Gulf Shores, Ala. He was credited by multiple members of Council with turning around Evanston’s Economic Development Department during his two-plus years with the City. He will be missed, as he heads toward warmer climes.