Evanston residents are stressed and overwhelmed right now, struggling to manage our health, our safety and that of our family and community, needs of vulnerable older loved ones, and homeschooling children during this global pandemic (174 cases — up 18, and 5 deaths today in Evanston.) Others of us are in total crisis without paychecks, enough food and/ or housing.
So why is Evanston City Council pressing forward on Monday with the approval process of a 19-story high rise office building (with 6 variances) and a controversial large development on Ridge Ave — in a virtual meeting?
And why are they moving the process along to change the City Code so that the mayor would pick the chairman of the Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, instead of these commissioners electing them? Why is power and influence be transferred to the mayor now?
In the middle of a pandemic, we residents don’t have it in us to engage with the city on this kind of thing, and we should not be asked to. And most don’t know any of this is happening. (We are too busy checking the sick and death counts and trying to stay afloat.) Or is that the very point? In fact, we thought Council was focusing on resident priorities and some essential business in this crisis of a lifetime.
We see Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Governor J.B. Pritzker (not to mention New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill DeBlasio) completely consumed with priorities in a crisis and communicating with us in a way that give us hope and stability, not stress. We should expect the same in Evanston, not talk of real estate deals or power, while we are in a tailspin.
The city also must study the post-pandemic landscape of the office market (perhaps forever changed,) and the real estate and senior housing market.
Alderman should “press pause” on non-essential, or at least large and/or controversial projects for a few months. Anything else is tone deaf.