A proposed referendum that would place the future of Evanston Township in voters’ hands moved forward without much debate at the Sept. 23 City Council meeting, as even Township supporters on Council recognized that introduction of the measure could not be stopped. The matter will come before Council for full debate at the next City Council meeting.
At the Human Services Committee a week earlier, Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voted against placing the dissolution referendum on the ballot. The Township provides services to the very neediest in Evanston, they both indicated, and the City has no plan in place to take over such a role.
At that meeting, Township officials described in detail the intake, counseling, follow-up and hands-on service provided by Township caseworkers. Services provided go well beyond simply distributing checks, said Township Supervisor Gary Gaspard.
Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson, who is scheduled to leave office Jan. 1 and whose job would be eliminated if the referendum passes, urged Council to vote down the measure. She touted the services her office provides as a taxpayer advocate.
None of the Township’s efforts, nor those of Alds. Braithwaite and Holmes, swayed the Human Services Committee, which soon voted to send the measure on to Council.
The referendum is possible thanks to a new state law sponsored by State Senator Daniel Biss, passed this summer and signed by Governor Pat Quinn in August. The new law clears up confusion surrounding the process of dissolving townships in Illinois, a confusion caused by seemingly contradictory provisions in the Illinois Constitution and Illinois law. The new law allows voters in Evanston Township to dissolve Evanston Township in a referendum without other voters in the County weighing in. The referendum, if authorized by Council, will appear on the March 2014 ballot.
Concern remains over what will come next – who will perform Township functions once the Township is gone. Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, joined the opponents of dissolution in expressing the need to have a plan in place. The general sentiment, however, seems to be that the City has time to figure that out. If the dissolution referendum passes, it would not take effect for months.
Meanwhile, the Township will soon be without an assessor. Bonnie Wilson’s term expires at the end of the year. Her replacement, Sharon Eckersall, elected in April, died unexpectedly earlier this month.