Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl delivers the 2016 State of the City address on March 18. Photo by Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios

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Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 300 business and civic leaders after she reviewed the events of the past year. She delivered the annual State of the City address, sponsored each year by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, on March 18 at the Hilton Orrington Hotel.

“It means something to be from Evanston,” Mayor Tisdahl said. “There are shared values that unite us, and that is why we have been able to meet past challenges and will meet future ones.”

Mayor Tisdahl described, among other things, the City’s strengths in economic development and sustainability, and how the community is facing the challenges of violence, the fiscal uncertainty resulting from the gridlock in Springfield, and the community’s continued commitment to diversity

“Economic development in Evanston is happening everywhere,” the Mayor said:  Sixty-seven new businesses opened during 2015; Northlight Theater hopes to return to Evanston; Strawdog Theater Company is coming to Howard Street; the Main+Chicago complex will be completed; and Lulu’s and Taco Diablo will return to Davis Street in a new and soon-to-be-completed building.

Evanston led the world in one aspect of sustainability, as the World Wildlife Fund and the International Council for Local Government selected Evanston as the U.S. Earth Hour Capital. “This is like winning the Super Bowl,” said Mayor Tisdahl. “Reducing our emission and fighting climate change will continue to be a goal for the Evanston community, the City staff and the City Council,” she said.

Violence is everyone’s problem, said the Mayor. “But we are one City, eight square miles full of our homes, our community centers, our schools, our recreation programs and our residents, who must solve our problems in our City,” she said. She said the City is following the Centers for Disease Control in viewing violence as a matter of public health. “If we can change people’s behavior in terms of healthier diets, smoking cessation and safe sex, we can change violent behavior,” she said.

For cities, the unpredictability of revenues is major fallout from the standoff in Springfield between the Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. For Illinois residents, though, “The loss of confidence in government may be the most serious and damaging result of this stalemate,” the Mayor said. 

Confidence in Evanston and Evanstonians is strong, and Northwestern Univeristy continues to be a friend to the City, the Mayor said, citing a recent donation of $25,000 from Northwestern to refurbish the recording studio at Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, which will be named for Alderman Delores Holmes.

“You can be proud to be from Evanston,” Mayor Tisdahl concluded. “Our residents welcome Syrians, hold rallies for Muslims and had our first Latino Summit. Our commitment to celebrate diversity brings us together, as does a belief that we can create the community we want to have. … Evanston is an exciting place, and the best is yet to come.”