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From his home in south Evanston, Fred Wittenberg keeps an eye on the City’s infrastructure projects and sustainability measures.
He does not mind letting the City know that he does not always like what he sees. The public, he says, is too often left behind in public process. He points to some recent street repairs, the ban on a certain weight of plastic bags, and lax enforcement of at least two ordinances aimed at keeping the air clean.
Mr. Wittenberg recalls the resurfacing of Oakton Street and the replacements of some water mains on Dodge Avenue. Crews did not take the time to dampen the area before starting work. “Sand and dust were blowing in the street. There was very little consideration for the public,” he said.
Dodge Avenue continues to be a sore point for Mr. Wittenberg.
For much of the south end of Dodge Avenue, there are no crosswalks except at stoplights – sometimes for a distance of three blocks because of the staggered streets. He advises residents to be vigilant when a construction project is nearby:
“Look for pollution; if you can see it or smell it, you’re already in trouble.”
The City’s ban on plastic bags, Mr. Wittenberg feels, was not a positive measure for the planet. Although fewer of these lightweight bags are seen streaming from tree branches, the paper bags now used in many stores require “100 times the water and four times the energy to create,” he says, generating much more pollution than the slim bags themselves.
Many shoppers, though, use a third option, bringing their own reusable bags to the store. More important than the ban on plastic bags, says Mr. Wittenberg, would be a ban on Styrofoam, used often in packaging meats.
Mr. Wittenberg would also like to see Evanston become a more breathable City. “What is the City doing to try to curtail landscapers from polluting the atmosphere?” he asks, possibly rhetorically, since the City has a leaf-blower ordinance on its books.
That ordinance has proved difficult to enforce, as has the anti-idling ordinance, and Mr. Wittenberg says he would like to see residents be able to ticket those “idlers.”
Mr. Wittenberg spent his professional career at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District from 1972 to 1996, having begun as a laborer and retired as an associate mechanical engineer. Though retired, he keeps active with his continued interest in science and engineering. For several years, he served as a judge for science fairs in the Chicago Public Schools and has been recognized for his volunteerism.
“I turn my appreciation for receiving my pension back into the community,” he says. He subscribes to the Native American belief that present-day actions affect seven generations of descendants. “We are the custodians of this planet,” he says. “We are responsible for the next generations.”