Good Sunday morning, Evanston!

Above, 10-year-old Ellie Baker-Carrillo sells her homemade slime Saturday at the West End Market at Dodge Avenue and Church Street. “I like the texture and how it makes me feel,” she said. “When I’m sad or mad I play with it and feel much better.” (At This Time photo by Richard Cahan)

And we bet you’ll feel much better after catching up with Evanston’s news: Here’s a roundup of the top stories from the RoundTable this past week.

After 14 months of searching, the city announced three finalists for Evanston’s next police chief Friday afternoon. They are, pictured above from left: Migdala Bulnes, Deputy Chief of Recruitment and Retention in the Chicago Police Department; Schenita Stewart, Deputy Chief in the East Dundee Police Department; and Joshua Hunt, Chief of the Investigations Bureau in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. A public forum will be held on Zoom at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, with one hour allotted to each candidate.

The city also named nine candidates seeking to fill the Second Ward City Council seat, which has been vacant since Peter Braithwaite’s resignation July 15. Mayor Daniel Biss will select one candidate for appointment, who must be approved by a majority vote of sitting council members. The hybrid forum will be held in the Council Chambers and on Zoom at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

Credit: Debbie-Marie Brown

Local elementary and middle school students returned to class Wednesday as Evanston/Skokie School District 65 opened its 2022-23 school year. RoundTable reporter Debbie-Marie Brown caught up with students and parents at Chute Middle School and Washington Elementary, including sixth grader Griffin Robert Sferruzza (pictured above), who confidently said he’s looking forward to “The independence, and getting to manage my homework for each class.”

City News

Credit: Evanston Fire Department

Residents and business displaced on Howard Street. A fire and a building condemnation on Howard have forced Evanston residents out of their homes as well as destroying a business, Ashley Beauty Supply. Council Member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, discussed the situation at a ward meeting Thursday night.

City to remove anti-panhandling signs. Just six months after city staff posted notices discouraging direct giving to people on the street, Evanston is taking down the anti-panhandling signs on downtown traffic light poles. The signs stirred controversy over how the city treats its homeless population, new City Manager Luke Stowe said in a memo to Mayor Daniel Biss and City Council members.

Credit: Bob Seidenberg

Major renovation in works for recently purchased Hilton Orrington, city says. An external investment group has purchased the Hilton Orrington hotel for a reported $34 million. The new owners plan to spend between $10 million and $20 million renovating the Evanston landmark, according to Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak and Downtown Evanston Executive Director Annie Coakley.

Framework developing for how to spend $3 million in stimulus money. The city’s new Participatory Budgeting Committee and its related democratic process is now off the ground. New resident-led steering and leadership committees will be formed that are representative across wards, gender, race, age and income, among other factors.

5th Ward’s Bobby Burns eyes using private funding to improve parks. At a virtual ward meeting Thursday night, Burns said when he looked at capital improvement project funding, he realized how difficult it would be to generate the money to maintain the ward’s parks. He said he’s seeking to from a new committee to explore how the city could gather private support instead.

Credit: Bob Seidenberg

Parks and Rec Board wants more public input on park hours, public nudity proposals. The city’s Parks and Recreation Board didn’t close the door on a council member’s proposal to remove park hour restrictions. But the board urged Devon Reid, 8th Ward, to do more community outreach to gauge support for the proposal as well another he has suggested to change the definition of public nudity.

Credit: Robert Seidenberg

New lightning protection system brings jolt of assurance. Tim Carter (pictured above), the city’s Lakefront Director, estimates staff members have to clear beaches roughly 10 times a summer in anticipation of a storm. To mitigate the danger these storms pose, the city has upgraded its lightning prediction system to a new model with a strobe light and warning horn that activate when it senses a lighting strike danger.

City already looking to draw more lifeguards next season. Clark and Lee Street beaches remain open through Labor Day, but city staffers are already taking steps to head off a repeat of the lifeguard shortage that led to early closings at some beaches this year. Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson said the department is considering switching to a less strict certification standard and ramping up recruitment of ETHS students.

Redistricting Committee faces the challenge of shifting wards for balance. Redistricting Committee members are beginning to test different scenarios to produce a balanced ward map – a delicate process, as one change could throw other wards out of whack. The 2020 census found Evanston had 78,810 residents, with a 20.4% difference between the most-populous ward, the third, and least-populous, the ninth.

Ann Rainey Apts cause commission to ponder: When is a minor building change major? Evanston’s Land Use Commission issued a recommendation for a modification to the completed facade of the Ann Rainey Apartments, 999-1015 Howard St., at its meeting Wednesday. But members also deliberated on what constitutes major and minor changes to a building, and what responsibilities developers have to deliver finished products that closely match proposals.

City Manager makes two staff appointments. City Manager Luke Stowe announced the appointment of Dave Stoneback as the City of Evanston’s deputy city manager and Edgar Cano as the City’s public works director.


Public Health and Safety

Credit: Submitted

Cop on a Rooftop: EPD supports Special Olympics athletes. Evanston police officers took part in the annual Cop on Top fundraiser Aug. 19, renamed this year as Cop on a Rooftop, raising $2,300 for local Special Olympics programs while enjoying coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Dempster Street.

COVID-19 update as of Aug. 25: Cook County stays in ‘medium’ community risk level, Evanston remains ‘low.’ The total number of new cases of COVID-19 in Evanston was 52 for the week ending Aug. 24, compared with 99 for the week ending Aug. 18, a decrease of 28%. The seven-day average of new cases in the state increased by 6%; hospitalizations decreased by 4%.

Monkeypox in Evanston: 7 cases, no hospitalizations. Director of Health & Human Services Ike Ogbo said Evanston does not have its own allocation of vaccines, so health authorities are working with the Cook County Department of Public Health to provide doses to eligible people. And in a recent paper in Scientific American, Northwestern University Professor Steven Thrasher argues health authorities should treat monkeypox as a sexually transmitted infection in order to aid the most vulnerable populations and expedite vaccinations and drug treatments.


Schools

Credit: Richard Cahan

City and school leaders urge unity in kickoff event for District 65 staff. About 1,300 teachers and staff gathered at the 65,000 square-foot Quad Indoor Sports for a spirited first-day convocation Monday. But later in the week, District 65 apologized for prayer at the staff event. Superintendent Devon Horton sent an all-staff email apologizing for a religious invocation. (The Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors’ essay on the matter is below in the “Public Square” section of this newsletter.)

Credit: District 65 YouTube

District 65 aims to ‘rebuild trust’ in coming year. At the district’s Curriculum and Policy Committee meeting Monday, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Angel Turner told board members the district is working to “bring back the love for learning” and “rebuild trust with all stakeholders.” Turner said changing the culture at Haven Middle School was a key priority for the district.


Art & Life

Credit: Carrie Abernathy

Actress, model, pageant queen and Haven middle schooler. ZeAnn Blair, a 13-year-old Haven middle schooler, returned to Evanston from Atlanta in early August crowned Teen Miss U.S. United 2022. The national pageant title is only one of many accomplishments she has racked up: ZeAnn is a model, athlete and actress who has walked the runway in New York Fashion Week.

Credit: Heidi Randhava

Evanston block party 101. Block parties have been a part of Evanston’s summers for decades, and Tom Twigg, the city’s Traffic Operations Supervisor, says there are typically some 180 block parties in the city from May 1 to Sept. 30. Check out this explainer to learn everything you need to know about the city’s quintessential summer celebrations.

Credit: Mary Gavin

Foster Senior Club celebrates 65 years. A luncheon celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Foster Senior Club brought more than half of its 100 members to Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center on Aug. 17. The club was formed in 1957 and members have been meeting weekly since then.

Credit: Debbie-Marie Brown

Frances Willard House tours reveal suffragist history at 1730 Chicago Ave. The small Victorian cottage’s quiet appearance may be deceiving, as from the early 19th century into the 20th, the building doubled as a busy women’s workspace. It housed the headquarters of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union – the largest organization of women in the world as of 1890.

Credit: Heidi Randhava

Week in photos: Aug. 18-25. RoundTable writer and photographer Heidi Randhava took a number of great pictures at Walker Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 24, as students came for the first day of classes. Pictured above are Gilo and Ali Logan on Ali’s first day of kindergarten at Walker.

The Alchemist’s Wife offers natural skin remedies for muggles and magicians alike. Ramie Gulyas opened her apothecary store at 917 Chicago Ave. in 2005, drawing inspiration from the alchemist Flamel in the Harry Potter series. The store offers a variety of skin and hair products, along with 230 fragrance options to add to unscented products. Reporter Belinda Clarke spoke with Gulyas about her store and the inspirations behind her products.

Grady Bird Sanctuary fountain repairs nearly complete. Located in the Ladd Arboretum, the Grady Bird Sanctuary is home to a small fountain that resembles a waterfall, meant to serve as a water source for birds. In recent years the fountain was vandalized and had to be shut off, but now it’s been renovated and repaired.

Credit: Gay Riseborough

Two Evanstonians who gifted their outdoor art to us. The RoundTable’s Gay Riseborough celebrates two artists who have donated their artwork to the City of Evanston and mentions the two most recent commissions as well. This is the last in her series on outdoor public art in Evanston created by women. Gifts of art to the city can be tricky, she writes, because outdoor art is subject to the elements.

Review: ‘Mack and Rita’ misses the mark. “This film might have been more interesting if screenwriters Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh (Killing It, TV series, 2020) hadn’t beat us over the head with Mack’s longings for her fantasy senior life. Perhaps if the action of the film had shown us this side of Mack, we might have been more willing to follow,” critic Doris Popovich writes.

Dear Gabby: When is it OK not to text back? Monday’s Dear Gabby column discusses not texting back, receiving a gift you can’t enjoy and finding a new doctor.


Public Square

Guest essay: Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors. In response to a RoundTable article reporting an apology email sent to District 65 staff by Superintendent Devin Horton, Rev. Nabors offers apologies and explanations for the religious invocation he wrote for the district’s opening convocation, which was delivered by his daughter in his absence.

Simone Larson: Back to school. The RoundTable’s new columnist, a parent and District 65 teacher, talks about the upcoming 2022-2023 school year in Evanston, telling us it won’t look like any other on the books: “That is perhaps teaching’s most refreshing and challenging gift. Each year exists completely on its own and is utterly unique, because we teach human beings; every child is their own person.”

Credit: Monica Fox

Najiah Osborne: Gardening for the community. “I have always yearned to garden,” says RoundTable writer Najiah Osborne, “and I wasn’t going to let COVID-19 deter me from my desire to do so this summer. After doing loads of research, I decided to volunteer with Evanston Grows to get my hands dirty.”

Duncan Agnew: Biden announces loan forgiveness of up to $20,000 per student. President Biden announced his long-awaited student loan forgiveness program Wednesday, and all told, it is possible some people could be forgiven up to $20,000 if they qualify. But the effort won’t solve the racial disparities in college debt, the RoundTable’s Duncan Agnew writes in this essay.


Sports

Credit: Richard Cahan

Coach Alex Thomas left his mark on the hearts of many at ETHS. Thomas, 42, died Aug. 12 of a heart attack. He left a legacy of service to Evanston Township High School, where he was a safety supervisor and coach. On Wednesday, an overflow crowd gathered at Second Baptist Church to celebrate his life and comfort his family.

Credit: Richard Cahan

ETHS football: Wildkits work overtime for emotional 53-50 win in opener. Evanston quarterback Dylan Groff turned in a career-best performance (4 touchdown runs, 2 touchdown passes) in Friday’s overtime victory over Indian Trail of Wisconsin.

ETHS boys soccer: Kits will rebuild, but without sophomores – for now. Veteran coach Franz Calixte doesn’t plan to waver in his philosophy to reward seniors who have stuck with the program for all four years, even while replacing almost his entire starting lineup from last year’s 15-3-4 team.


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Alex Harrison

Alex Harrison joins the RoundTable for the summer in between his undergraduate and graduate studies at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.