The beat goes on.
Although the Feb. 21 gathering at the Levy Center was the final town hall meeting for Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, she, City officials and residents all looked to the future – and the outlook for that future was mixed. Residents heard from City department heads about upcoming police-community meetings, Fire Department programs, and the status of the new community center on Main Street.
Mayor Tisdahl spoke about the City’s welcoming ordinance, the financial outlook for the City, and the need to continue sustainability efforts.
Police Chief Richard Eddington invited residents to attend two upcoming meetings of the Citizen Complaint Working Group Planning, scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 23 and March 2 in the fourth-floor Parasol Room of the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave. At these meetings, residents will learn more about the new policies presented at the Feb. 6 Human Services Committee meeting, including the implementation of body-worn cameras on olice officers.
Fire Chief Brian Scott described some of the services the Fire Department offers, in addition to the emergency fire/paramedic services: CPR classes; public safety classes at Evanston Township High School, where students learn about careers as firefighters and police officers; the Citizens Fire Academy for those 18 years and older who wish to learn about the Department; and the Fire Explorers program for 14-21-year-olds.
“We had 10,200 calls for services in 2016,” Chief Scott said. “It is our privilege to serve you.”
Youth and Young Adult Programs Manager Kevin Brown said his division is geared toward helping youth 18-24 years old but will try to help others who ask for assistance. He said the Youth and Young Adult division staff members not only try to help clients get jobs, they also work with the Moran Center to help get juvenile records expunged.
Mayor Tisdahl said everyone who attends the Summer Youth Employment Fair, to be held on March 11 at ETHS, will be able to get a summer job, particularly if they are willing to travel to Great America. Last year, youth who had jobs there were able to get a break on transportation costs.
Lawrence Hemingway, Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Service, answered some questions about the new Robert Crown Center. The plan is to build a new center west of the present Robert Crown, and keep that one in operation until the new one is completed – then raze it. Parking lots and outdoor recreation facilities would be located to the east of the new building. The center is envisioned as a private-public partnership, with a private entity operating and maintaining the facility.
Several types of meetings are planned, Mr. Hemingway said, with user groups, community members, and neighbors, etc., though no dates have been announced. He said he hopes by the end of the year to present to City Council a plan from the architects that includes this input.
Northwestern University has promised to donate $1 million in exchange for certain guaranteed ice-times for its teams, and about another $5 million has been pledged to the project.
The City’s Welcoming Ordinance
In December, City Council approved a welcoming ordinance, and last month both School Districts approved similar resolutions. These resolutions essentially guarantee that neither the City nor the School Districts will condition their services on the immigration status of those requesting services – including a public education. The City and the School Districts will not act as agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, except in criminal cases.
Mayor Tisdahl said she had recently attended church at St. Nicholas, which holds some of its services in Spanish, to assure the congregation that the Evanston police would not be acting as ICE agents and encourage them not to be afraid to call the police – even if they were undocumented – if they required police assistance.
Referring to the threat from the Trump administration to cut off federal funds from sanctuary cities, Mayor Tisdahl said, “The issue for me is not what the Feds will do, but to get as many other mayors and city councils to become welcoming cities, so the numbers will be so vast Donald Trump won’t dare to do anything.”
Chief Eddington said Evanston has been a sanctuary city since the days of the Nicaraguan civil war. He also said there are ways for undocumented persons to obtain valid identification cards or driver licenses or both, and urged them to do so. “People need to know that using a false I.D. jacks the issue from civil to criminal,” he said.
Financial Woes Persist
In addition to the possibility of losing some federal funding, Mayor Tisdahl cautioned that there would be little money coming from the State, which continues to operate without a budget. “Sooner or later, we’re going to take a hit. I’m not looking for any help from the federal government, and the State couldn’t help us is it wanted to. We’re on our own,” she said.
Local action on sustainability will continue to be key. As mayor, Lorraine Morton signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a pledge taken by many cities in the face of inaction by the federal government near the end of the last century. Under the agreement, cities pledged to reduce their carbon footprints. “We didn’t just sign the Mayors Agreement, we did things. We reduced our carbon footprint, and we can prove that we have done things. Local governments have to do what we can to have a better environment.”
At the end of the meeting, one of the audience members thanked Mayor Tisdahl for her service to the community, and the audience – about 60 people – applauded.
Mayor Tisdahl said, “I have loved being the mayor of Evanston.”