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Mayor Stephen Hagerty declared “the state of our City is strong” at the State of the City address delivered March 9 at the Evanston Holiday Inn.
After introducing a roomful of local City, County, and State officials, he reported the City’s jobless rate is down to 3.8%. “More than 80 new businesses opened their doors in our City last year…We’re taking action on important issues like climate change, immigration, social justice, and affordable housing.” He also announced the launch of a new website, elevateevanston.org, listing local job opportunities.
The Mayor cited a number of accolades that point to a vibrant and attractive urban environment, including being recertified as a 4-STAR community by the STAR Community Rating System, “the first community in the nation to be recertified at that level.”
He said the City was named a “Top 100 Best Places to Live” in the nation and number one in Illinois by Livability.com. Evanston was also rated “Top 6 Coolest Downtowns” according to Expedia, he said, and USA Today ranked Evanston as a “Top 5 Places to Retire.”
“The fact is, people…want to live here,” he said. “They want to eat, drink, and be entertained here. They want to visit our beautiful lakefront, our world-class university, and our museums.”
The Mayor pointed out that Evanston is a leader in the environmental movement. “We’ve reduced emissions in this City by almost 20% relative to 2005 levels, and we’ve pledged to do even better, setting a goal of at least a 28% reduction by 2025 in accordance with the Paris Climate Accord,” he said.
Turning to finances, the Mayor said that “despite challenges,” the City has a balanced budget this year. “It wasn’t easy. It meant hard choices affecting both staff and operations. It meant shared sacrifices from everyone, including our labor unions. But the good news is our local economy is strong. Evanston remains a desirable place to live and work, and businesses want to invest here…”
The Mayor pointed to one of the City’s greatest strengths, its liquid assets. “[By] the end of this year, and continuing for the next 40 years, Evanston will be selling water to Niles and Morton Grove. That will mean an estimated $800,000 in additional revenue in 2019, rising to an estimated $1.4 million in 2020. It’s a huge win for Evanston.”
He also cited Northwestern’s Good Neighbor Fund, midway through a five-year, $5 million University investment initiative. He said of the $1 million earmarked for 2018, $450,000 will go to City facilities and infrastructure, $220,000 will support Evanston Fire Department paramedic services, and $330,000 will support Evanston youth and social services.
“We can’t underestimate the value of jobs for our young people,” he said, citing a number of job programs.
To bring those efforts together, he announced the launch of Elevate Evanston “to connect individuals with employment opportunities, job training, and career education.”
“Young people are our future,” he said. “We need to work hard to provide them – and all residents – with pathways to success… For all youth, potential is unlimited, but opportunity is not. Our job in Evanston is to try to close the gap between potential and opportunity.”
He also mentioned the City’s commitment to diversity and affordable housing; the development of the new Robert Crown Community Center and Library; and Northlight Theatre’s commitment to returning to Evanston.
The new 831 Emerson St. building will bring up to 350 new residents, 100 construction jobs, and six permanent jobs, he said. “That will increase the property taxes generated by that property by almost $1 million a year, about two-thirds of which will go to support our schools.”
The Mayor concluded with a call to action, saying, “There are opportunities everywhere. And we need to seize them. If we can do that, the state of our City will remain strong not only in 2018, but for many, many years to come.”