Good Sunday morning, Evanston!

The holiday glow spread to the corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue on Friday, as the Central Evanston Business Association made it a memorable night with its first holiday festival and tree lighting ceremony. Evelyn Ramirez, from left, her 7-year-old daughter Esmeralda and Evanston City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza passed out supplies for attendees to create ornaments for the Fifth Ward’s neighborhood tree.

In case you missed any of the most important news from the past week, here’s a roundup of the top-read stories and a few new ones from the RoundTable.

Budget doubts: Evanston’s 2023 budget is set to be voted on tomorrow, but the city’s top finance officials, such as Treasurer Hitesh Desai (above), question whether it’s in the city’s best financial interest to move ahead with aggressively funding police and fire pensions using excess reserves.

Death investigation: The Cook County Medical Examiner has scheduled an autopsy on a woman found dead Dec. 10 at the Holiday Inn North Evanston. Police said that while they do not know the cause of the woman’s death, initial investigation leads them to believe there is no danger to the public.

Credit: Gina Castro

Getting the lead out: Evanston is set to receive $1 million in state capital funds to replace lead service lines in south Evanston. State Sen. Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, announced he secured the funding at a Friday news conference.

Fleetwood-Jourdain’s future: The city wants to hear your thoughts via a survey about the future of the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. School and city officials met with about 150 residents at the center earlier this week to talk about the proposed plans for a Fifth Ward school and campus. The issue: how to fit the center and green space into the area. Architects drew up four options and the city is asking you to be the judge.

Lowering expectations: In an analysis and viewpoint, Larry Gavin compares District 65’s new and former college readiness benchmark scores on the MAP test and finds that the district has significantly lowered the bar to measure whether its students are on track to college readiness in reading.

Credit: Wendi Kromash

Celebrating a life: Ellen Fay Butkus, 1953-2022. Ellen (Jurs) Butkus, 69, a nurse whose work helping seniors age in place led to Senior Connections, died Nov. 28. She was an active and involved Evanston resident for 43 years.

Credit: District 65

Debatable “demise”: The RoundTable looked into the reported demise of the Illinois Middle School Debate League and found good news – there’s a new middle school debate league. But District 65 has declined to join.

Credit: Gina Castro

Arms control: The Evanston Police Department collected 54 firearms, 44 BB and airsoft guns and multiple boxes of ammunition at a gun buyback – so many weapons the event ran out of money. Some of those turning in guns had to be issued vouchers for repayment by the city clerk.

Credit: Alex Harrison

Stadium pushback: Northwestern hosted a discussion Tuesday intended to focus on the planned parks outside the proposed new Ryan Field. But residents focused on neighborhood concerns, particularly the impact of concerts and alcohol sales.

Credit: Evan Girard

Medical messaging: Want to message your doctor online? It may cost you. NorthShore University HealthSystem has begun charging for some online medical advice. There are decidedly mixed opinions about the new policy.


Support the RoundTable

The perfect holiday gift for any EvanstonianEncountering Evanston History, a book benefiting the Evanston RoundTable Media not-for-profit, features 75 stories from 18 authors. Find out more at the book’s official website.

The RoundTable’s fall NewsMatch campaign is ongoing. Through Dec. 31, all donations to the RoundTable are being matched by generous national and local partners. Please join your fellow Evanstonians and give today!


City News

Credit: Gina Castro

The City of Evanston will hire consultants, revamp human resources policies and revise training, it said in its most comprehensive response to more than 60 allegations of racial discrimination made by a group of Black city employees. But despite calling it a “60-day roadmap,” the city has attached no firm deadlines.

Credit: Richard Cahan

City Manager Luke Stowe says hiring a manager of Equity and Organizational Performance is one of his top priorities. “I would describe this as critical work – especially in light of the report that we’ve received,” Stowe said, referring to the document filed by the City of Evanston Black Employees Action Group.

Credit: City of Evanston YouTube

Council Members Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, and Devon Reid, 8th Ward, have argued that the Referrals Committee, which assigns items for public discussion, should be larger. But a proposal to expand the three-person panel was rejected Dec. 5.

Evanston and Cook County remain at a “medium” COVID-19 risk level because their new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 exceed 10 per 100,000 population. The Illinois Department of Public Health urges people to get an updated booster shot and flu vaccine.

Credit: Manan Bhavnani

The city’s Preservation Commission unanimously adopted a new plan, replacing one from 1981. The nearly 18-year timeline sets out historic preservation and community engagement goals. The plan is tied to the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan, affordable housing program and economic development efforts.


Business

The Evanston Economic Development Committee voted to support granting more than $1 million to C&W Market and Ice Cream Parlor and Whole & Free Foods. C&W’s owners would get $560,000 to acquire and renovate the building they rent. Whole & Free Foods would get $550,000 to improve a commercial kitchen site.

Workers at a local Starbucks store filed a petition to unionize. “We’re doing this because we’re severely understaffed,” said Hannah Anderson, a barista at the 519 Main St. store. In a statement, Starbucks defended its commitment to employees.


Schools

More than 300 students in District 65 schools are homeless or housing insecure, a figure that has ballooned this year. Some are longtime Evanstonians, while others are newly arrived immigrants or refugees.

Credit: Keith Holzmueller

The ETHS varsity chess team had its best result of the season, finishing second at the Palatine Pirate Team Tournament. The Wildkits have two league matches remaining this month.


Art & Life

Credit: Julie Windsor Mitchell

When your church is named for St. Nicholas, celebrating the Christmas season seems like a natural fit. St. Nick’s Fest – with a tree sale, craft fair and this year, Mexican food – is a key church fundraiser. And the tradition is “one of the things that brings us hope,” said Bob Shuford, coordinator of the craft fair.

Credit: Michael Brosilow

Our drama critic Cissy Lacks says Northlight Theatre’s Georgiana and Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley is a seasonal treat that offers the engaging banter of social fabric in the tradition of Jane Austen, but with meat on the bones too.

Credit: Manan Bhavnani

Hundreds of Evanstonians braved 20-degree weather and a fierce wind at the tree lighting at Fountain Square. Hot chocolate from Collectivo Coffee warmed the crowd for musical performances and a Santa sighting. Check out our photos.


Public Square

Credit: Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Columnist Simone Larson, a third-generation teacher, reflects on teaching a traumatized child. “The impacts of trauma,” she writes, “are not equally felt along color lines.” And she notes that kids of color “are not always extended the benefit of the doubt in our public school system.”

Credit: Nancy E. Anderson

The dilemma of the artificial Christmas tree. Columnist Nancy E. Anderson reflects on the advantages of fake trees and the complicated suspension of disbelief associated with some genuine Christmas memories.

When is it OK to tell a lie to preserve people’s feelings? Gabby sounds off on the rules and realities of little white lies. And she wants to her from you, dear readers, about how you balance honesty and white lies.

Credit: EJ Hersom, U.S. Senate official photo

“Herschel Walker was an embarrassment to nearly all Black Americans,” writes the Rev. Michael Nabors. He compares the biographies of Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock and their stances on the issues and concludes it “simply seemed shocking that Walker nearly won the Georgia Senate seat.”

Credit: Julie Windsor Mitchell

From his first ride, columnist Les Jacobson was drawn to trains: “… the impatient automobiles behind the merry dinging gates and the sound of the train whistle, plangent and insistent – that drew me like a fly to a light.”

Columnist Peggy Tarr reflects on some of the observances this month. She shares a childhood memory from World War II in honor of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and notes that December is Universal Human Rights Month.

Credit: Jack Weiss

If Evanstonians want to establish a Northwest Evanston Historic District, the community should fully understand the facts about historic districts, writes columnist Jack Weiss of Design Evanston. He explains more about the city’s five National Register Historic Districts.


Sports

Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Fans of the Evanston girls basketball team didn’t get a chance to witness much offense Friday night at Beardsley Gym. But ETHS stymied Glenbrook North High School 27-18 – yes, that’s not a misprint.

Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Evanston’s boys basketball team suffered its first loss of the season Thursday. The Wildkits, playing Glenbrook North High School, managed to close within 60-54 with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left. But the Spartans thwarted the comeback attempt.

Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Evanston Township High School bowling teams saw mixed results Tuesday as the girls team beat Wheeling High School while the boys team fell to New Trier. The boys’ loss came after eight consecutive wins, a string that included a perfect 300 game for senior Clay Krasinski.

Credit: ETHS wrestling

ETHS senior Charlie Bolich led his teammates on the boys wrestling team as the Wildkits wiped out Mather (70-6), Phillips (70-0) and Simeon (78-0) at the Elias George Memorial Tournament at Willie May Fieldhouse.


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Susy Schultz

Susy Schultz is the editor of the Evanston Roundtable. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and is the former president of Public Narrative, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching journalists and...