Hello and welcome to April at the RoundTable. Since 2010, we have offered readers gentle spoofs on our City’s goings-on. Most of these have poked fun at the City’s delight in over-regulation.
One of our examples is on page 1 of the April 5 issue, in writer E. Lane Marker takes the bike-lane idea to the extreme, allocating sidewalk spaces for “feet” and “wheels.”
On our website, readers can find a story by Fanny Stover, notifying residents that next year, instead of providing candy to trick-or-treaters, they can offer only leaflets about nutrition and the joys of eating healthy. We presume these leaflets will be written on paper created from elephant dung, so if the kids toss or drop them, the soil will benefit.
There is also a story about a new minor league baseball team, the Evanston Harleys, the location of whose stadium may be obvious.
A new mode of transportation, the droneshaw, will soon help residents fly to their destinations. Droneshaws will be in great demand in a couple of years, when the Evanston Grand Prix takes over major streets for at least a week of preparation, racing and teardown.
Each story contains clues that it is, well, “fake news”: The names are fictitious, and all events are said to take place or all laws become effective on April 1.
Most of the stories have a small April Fool graphic.
While some of these stories seemed to have gone under the radar, provoking little reaction, others had readers up in arms.
Among the “snoozers” – ones about which we got little reaction – were that the City
• had outlawed sneezing behind the wheel, as part of its campaign against distracted driving;
• would annex the south side – that is, the Chicago side – of Howard Street in conjunction with its economic development plan;
• had approved a 30-story condominium complex – one unit per floor – for the space at Crawford Avenue and Gross Point Road now occupied by Hot Dog Island;
• had disowned John Evans as its founder, making television star Dale Evans its eponym, with plans to commission a statue of Buttermilk, her horse, for the lobby of the Civic Center.
The Harley Clarke mansion has also provided grist. Suggested re-uses have included a mini food court and a minor league baseball stadium. In 2016, we advised readers, “Harley Wants It Back, Says Prominent Medium.”
A couple of stories hit a nerve: those about “snow stickers” and “Trader Joe’s beach.”
In 2011 reporter Dirk Cumulo wrote that the City’s “newly appointed Snow Czar Pearl de Blanc” organized a program for residents to “rent orange traffic cones from the City and affix daily snow removal stickers to those cones by 6:45 a.m. the morning before, during or after a snowfall. …. City snow plows will then remove snow from in front of any address displaying a sticker.”
For deeper snows, higher than a traffic cone, “the City will also offer mylar balloons that can be affixed to the cones.
“Trader Joe’s beach” was inspired by the smarmy welcome by some City staff and residents at the notion that a Trader Joe’s store might come to Evanston:
“As part of the incentive package prepared by City staff to lure a Trader Joe’s to Chicago Avenue,” Mr. Cumulo wrote, “the City will rename the Lee Street Beach ‘Trader Joe’s Beach,’ and cordon off about half the beach for the exclusive use of Trader Joe’s employees and invited guests on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
The main point of these stories, of course, is to lighten things up. But they are also intended as wake-up calls. No, the City did not do any of those things, but residents’ reactions to our April Fool stories may be an indication of what some people think of our City government and officials.
So far, the City has been our only target, because it has been so easy. Although we have given elected and appointed officials a pass, this restraint may not hold.
Welcome, again, to April.