With the upcoming election, while I know that everyone may think that their own issue is important (and it may be), I think especially with the strange and unprecedented times which we live in that an article about the major issues facing Evanston (but also the country) need to be kept to a limited number in order to keep us all laser focused.

I learned in my years as former Evanston Public Library board trustee from 2004-2010 that a) you can only gain any ground with a limited number of issues on the table, and b) that some issues come up again and again and are revisited because of the different variables on the table.

In my humble opinion it seems that the issues at hand are (and yet need to be kept limited right now because of the issues at hand):

1. All things COVID: supply chain, equity, information management, etc.

2. Economic development: retooling, pivoting and assistance for residents; thinking outside the box and using principles of Heraclitus, the ancient philosopher who turned problems on their heads.
Now is the time to do this. There is a great book by Roger Van Oechs called “A Whack on the Side of the Head”. Let’s all get whacked so we can get through this. I row, you row, we all row.

3. Mental health issues: people isolated, at home working jobs, with kids. People need others to interact with in the physical plane and I noticed that Mayor Hagerty sent out something about socially distanced walks. We are or many of us are climbing the walls/ Yet, I have never had more time to think about what I really think and develop a strong voice and have lived by the Churchill “never waste a good crisis.” I also know the cognitive behavioral management skills of Dr. Marsha Linehan with her DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), which says many things but one of the most important is that whatever you are thinking that there is always an opposite thought. Those in a mental health crisis do not know this though. Many mental health crisis stem from an unbalanced table so to speak i.e., “lack of love, time, funds, and meaning and purpose” is the best way I can put it.

4. Arts development which helps with mental health, policing, and building community. I would be over the moon to see a mini WPA that FDR instituted as part of the New Deal to do many things not least of which was putting citizens, some artists to work and paying them. As I understand it that the sculpture in our Post Office in downtown Evanston was a product of that. What about more murals, sculptures, outdoor large scale game boards – giant Jenga an Evanston Bean maybe in the shape of a Wildcat or Kit with water spouting out of it? I would also suggest knowing locals who are in the entertainment industry that we could take it up a notch to really paint the town instead of red, but Purple. Really JOOJ it up, way up. What about drive-in movies and projecting movies on the sides of buildings (tried to get Sundance here in this way this year but could not get a call back from the City). This can totally happen here. I was at Sundance last year and am in touch with them.

5. Volunteerism: getting people busy doing; assisting in safe ways to build community; making sure that there are no idle hands; doing t’ai chi; helping people avoid lapses of reason that lead to policing issues

Let’s  get this show on the road. Trained as a librarian among many other things, I find reading is fine but action gets the job done. Plus, what is the point of reading if not to follow up with action?

This is my call to action for Evanston. What do you all think? What can we throw at the wall and what do we want to stick?

  • Brooke Murphy Roothaan