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October 22, 2018

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Posted: Friday, October 19, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Charles Vernon

I am writing today as a private Evanston citizen, not beholden to a cabal. I have paid taxes here for 30 years in two zip codes & sent 3 kids to public school, our two granddaughters attend today. A lifer. The Clarke quandary should be reduced to what it is: a debate over appropriate land use, the necessity and priority of proposed facilities and the budget ramifications of each. I am suggesting a compromise which may offer a 'win" for all.Let's create a public space framed on the south by the original Harley Clarke coach house/solarium, re-imagined for today. Set against the majestic lighthouse, this will create a lovely sculptural effect. Some features would not be affected: Noah's playground with picnic table(s) & lawn to the North all the Jens Jensen--fire pit, flagstone, bathouse/overlook features to the East. The Harley Clarke House--not a mansion--is not a part of this vision. The open market has tried to find a use for the structure and the consensus is that it is functionally obsolete and rife with toxic residue left by decades of use as an art facility. Many ideas just don't work: Wedding venue with 35 parking spaces? Research on the Great Lakes? Unlikely. Meeting/class rooms? We have them (e.g.library, civic center. Historic residence? (not on a par with Dawes, Willard). The economic cost is being under-estimated: window & toilet cleaning as well as gas & electric add up. This Old House will be torn down sooner or later. let's not throw good money after bad. Respectfully

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Jeremy Pardoe

City Must Be Fair About Harley Clarke Expenses. The City has characterized the demolition of Harley Clarke as the fiscally responsible path. In light of the highly contentious nature of this decision and in the interests of transparency, will the city issue a clear statement of the budgetary equation that supports this claim? The real budgetary choice facing the City at this time is between the liabilities arising from demolition and the expenditure required to preserve the building in a safe condition. If the city is unable to estimate of the costs of mothballing, it must accept the offer from Landmarks Illinois to provide an expert assessment at no cost. Similarly, it cannot responsibly proceed to demolition without an independent assessment of the environmental risks. What is the likelihood that when the donations from the demolition lobby run out, the city will be left with a toxic hole in the ground? The economic and political fallout from this disaster would be severe.
This analysis is absolutely necessary to counter the compelling evidence that the real budgetary incentives for demolition reflect threats to withdraw funding from the Robert Crown project.

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Thomas Hoover

Demolish Harley Clarke
That’s right, demolish it. It’s not a symbol of Evanston. But coincidentally, the Grosse Point Lighthouse is.
Since 1963, Harley Clarke has been a slowly deteriorating, underutilized hulk on our lakefront. In the pantheon of beautifully gracious Evanston homes, it wouldn’t rank in the top 50. And at 37,000 sq. feet, this aged, mammoth mansion of a power tycoon would be a hysterically ironic and totally inappropriate setting for any environmental education center.
Evanston passed on the chance to have it restored to its prior glory, via the Pritzker hotel proposal. But realize, it will take that kind of money do a rehab of the mansion, money that will take years to rise. If ever.
No, demolish Harley Clarke. It was designed as a mansion, and really can’t be anything else. It has been sitting there too long, lingering on life support. Get it out of the way, so we can see the Lighthouse and Lake Michigan. Turn it into a Jens Jensen inspired gathering place. Or into dunes and grasses. Or an environmental center, in a modern, respectfully designed building appropriate to its mission.
Don’t vote for another delay. It’s a mistake to continue to store this 37,000 sq., ft., money pit in one of our lakefront parks. Demolish Harley Clarke. Vote “No” on Nov. 6.

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Guestbook entry by: James K. Genden

J.B. Pritzker is acting like Trump, arrogantly disdaining principles of transparency. Like Trump he wants to conceal the details of his tax plans until after he is elected. Vapid assurances that his plan will be “fair” are as meaningless as promises to make America “great.”
The details are what matters: rates, brackets, deductions, exemptions. There will be winners and losers. Seniors want to know whether Pritzker intends to preserve the retirement income exemption. Homeowners want to know about deductions for real estate taxes. Everybody wants to know if there will be loopholes for favored interests, whether their taxes will be higher or lower.
There is no real doubt that Pritzker has a tax plan. He just won’t tell us. Instead, he repeats an excuse which – like Trump’s excuses for concealing his tax returns – is illogical and irrelevant. Pritzker avoids talking about his tax plan because it will be “subject to negotiation” in the General Assembly. This evasion insults our intelligence. Whatever Pritzker proposes will be the template on which the new tax law will be based. Even if there will be minor changes on that template, aren’t voters entitled to know what Pritzker stands for and supposedly will fight for?
Pritzker’s evasiveness is symptomatic of a far deeper problem – his arrogant rejection of transparency and haughty disregard of dialogue with the voters.
Pritzker seeks office with a political resume strikingly similar to both Trump and Rauner: an extraordinarily wealthy man without prior political experience who wants to begin a political career by taking control of the executive branch. Like Trump and Rauner, his background in business has been as the absolute owner, unaccountable to shareholders, not needing to balance competing interests and or to take in consideration other points of view.
With Trump and Rauner we have seen the consequences entrusting executive office to wealthy businessmen who don’t know how to compromise, who always got their way without having to listen to the concerns or advice of others.
Pritzker won’t be as catastrophic as Trump or Rauner. But he is working on the insulting assumption that we have no other choice. He is going to win, but progressive voters should send a message that he cannot take us for granted: he won’t get our votes unless he is frank and specific about what he stands for. If not, we should write in a decent alternative as a protest.

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Sigrid Pilgrim

Vote No On Harley Clarke
I strongly urge readers to vote NO against the proposed, even if non-binding, Harley Clarke Mansion referendum.
The City of Evanston acquired the Harley Clarke Mansion - NOT - for the building, but for the land and the beach associated with it in order to provide for additional lakefront parkland and recreation opportunities for Evanston Citizens.
The City is NOT selling the land to the Dunes Group – the Group has come forward with a fiscally responsible way to finally resolve the HCM issue, which was mismanaged by both, the Evanston Art Center who was responsible for interior maintenance, and the City of Evanston, for its exterior – no party carried out their respective responsibility until the building was deemed inhabitable.
The Evanston Lakefront is NOT for sale. It belongs to the Citizens of Evanston, held in trust by City Council. Similarly Lake Michigan itself cannot be sold (even though NU did manage somehow to skirt the law and purchased the lake bottom back in the 60’s).
If the mansion and surrounding land had been sold to Tawani Enterprises for conversion into a boutique hotel, that would have set a terrible precedent….so next time the City has a budget crunch, do we sell part of James Park, or Lovelace Park (both of these parks are very large and you could argue seeling off a few parts to build condos or ?? wouldn’t make that much difference)….where would this stop.
The HCM has no significant history. It was built by someone who just happened to have enough money to do it and then went bankrupt. We have two wonderful buildings in Evanston that have significant history – the Dawes House (if you haven’t been in it, go) – not only is it a gorgeous mansion, but there is lots of history associated with it. Furthermore, we also have the Francis Willard House – while not a gorgeous mansion, and certainly deserving some renovation efforts, again, there is much history that is part of the building. Both should be supported more by Evanston residents.
Finally – if you really want to get perspective on old houses – go to City Hall. This building eats much of our taxes, it is an old school building, and is totally unsuited for its purpose. If form follows function – this building definitely does not but is an ongoing drain on our taxes.
The Dunes proposal is the best that has been made on how to deal with the HCM. For years the efforts to develop a use that would be compatible with the Lakefront Master Plan has been unsuccessful. In the meantime, we taxpayers continue to pay the cost of having the building. It is time to end the fruitless discussion and support the Dunes Group. They are NOT acquiring the property, they are going to add valuable parkland to the City for everyone’s enjoyment.

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Guestbook entry by: Brad White

What’s the City Hiding?
Facts? Transparency? What is the City hiding? Led by Alderman Judy Fiske on Oct. 8, the City Council voted 5-4 to deny Landmarks Illinois access to the Harley Clarke Mansion. Landmarks Illinois, a membership-based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving historic resources throughout the State, sought permission to tour Harley Clarke so that its experts (including two structural engineers, preservation architect, preservation contractor and an expert on tile roofs) could assess the condition of the building so it could address issues raised in the City’s application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for demolition.
In the application the City asserts that the “buildings in their current state present a danger to persons inhabiting or visiting the property” and that “remediating or repairing these requires great difficulty or expense” (Standard 5 in the Preservation Ordinance for demolition review). If this does not call into question the structural integrity of the building I do not know what does. But Alderman Fiske argued that allowing access would be unprecedented – no other building receiving a Certificate of Appropriateness for demolition ever required inspection of the interior. Well, get your facts straight Alderman. Standard 5, relating to the condition of the property, did not even exist until earlier this year when the City Council amended the ordinance to include this provision in the midst of the Harley Clarke controversy. By the City Council’s own actions it has made much of the precedent set in previous demolition reviews irrelevant.
Simply put, the current ordinance requires the Preservation Commission to review any demolition request based, at least partially, on the condition of the property. Therefore, those opposing the demolition should be given access to the property to be able to rebut information placed in evidence by the proponents, the City. If some Council members are willing to mislead the public on simple matters of precedent and interpretation of the ordinance, what will the City do to show that this perfectly fine building is a menace to the safety of the citizens of Evanston.
In the words of Alderman Fiske, “follow the standards in the ordinance.” In the name of fairness, due process, transparency and knowledge, give Landmarks Illinois the limited access to Harley Clarke that it has requested. It won’t cost the City a dime.

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