Evanston RoundTable

Good morning, Evanston.

Evanston City Council members met in a special executive session at 6 p.m. on July 17 to discuss a story reporting allegations of “rampant sexual misconduct” by the City’s beach staff over a period of several years, in a complaint brought last year by more than 50 female lifeguards and beach employees.

The story, aired by public radio station WBEZ, said the employees alleged in a petition to the City last year that their co-workers engaged in such misconduct. The employees said the concerns listed in the petition were not answered.

The City released a statement regarding the allegations. “The City of Evanston has zero tolerance for sexual misconduct and is 100 percent committed to fostering a workplace climate and culture where all staff feel safe and respected,” the statement read, which continued on to outline the City’s actions moving forward.

Here’s a roundup of other top stories published in the RoundTable this past week.

City News

Evanston lakefront (RoundTable photo)

Council Member’s revised proposal favors more pushcarts on the lakefront. Evanston City Council Member Devon Reid moved pushcarts ahead of food trucks for increased use in the lakefront area in a revised proposal at the July 12 Evanston City Council meeting. Mr. Reid, 8th Ward, announced at the start of the discussion that he would drop food trucks from his original proposal.

New Council rejects plea for Clerk intern to be paid. Evanston City Council members revisited ground of the previous City Council at their July 12th meeting, refusing to approve a $3,185 payment for an intern then-City Clerk Devon Reid employed in his office. Council members voted 5-4 against approving an amended bills list of roughly $3.1 million, including the payment to the intern.

Proposed amendment prohibits any plantings taller than 1.5 feet on parkways within one foot of any curb or sidewalk. (Adina Keeling photo)

City Staff to rethink proposed amendment on City parkways. A new proposed City ordinance regarding plants and trees along parkways, presented at the virtual public hearing this week, drew frustration and confusion from local residents, who were not afraid to voice their thoughts in the Zoom chat box for the meeting. “This is not a well-thought-out plan at all,” wrote Lauren Marques-Viso in the Zoom chat.

The commercial district at Ashland Avenue and Simpson Street is in the proposed Five-Fifths TIF district. Gentrification of the Fifth Ward was a major concern of residents at the July 12 public hearing on the TIF. (RoundTable photo)

Concerns about gentrification, suitability and the Civic Center permeate hearing on proposed TIF. A proposal to create yet another tax-increment financing (TIF) district on the City’s west side met with skepticism and concern from both sides of the dais at the public hearing on July 12. The City has promoted the new TIF as a means of enhancing businesses and bringing new economic development to the area, which has historically been the home to many Black residents.

Chicago ethics expert says Citizens Board meets best practices. A citizens board with the authority to decide on ethics cases would be the system most in line with best practices used to investigate ethics complaints, the longtime head of the Chicago Board of Ethics told an Evanston committee last week. “It’s critical to have the ability for the board itself to hear all the evidence, and to make a decision, not to rely on a single individual who is an administrative hearing officer.”

‘3-unrelated’ Commission hearing ends in tie. The Evanston Plan Commision reached a split vote July 14 after hearing a proposal that would both eliminate the word “family” from the City’s zoning ordinances and repeal a rule prohibiting more than three unrelated persons sharing a living space.   

Plan Commission scheduled to consider major zoning changes on July 14. At its meeting scheduled for July 14, the City’s Plan Commission is scheduled to consider a recommendation to delete the definition of “family” in the Zoning Code and instead rely on the occupancy limits that are already in the City’s code to address concerns about overcrowding.

Plan Commission opens ‘live-work’ discussions. The Evanston Plan Commission on July 14 returned an omnibus proposal allowing so-called live-work units in the C2 zoning district so City staff could clarify its own suggestions for amending the relevant ordinances. The initial portion of the proposal came from local real estate developer Andrew Spatz, who has already developed similar live-work spaces in the City.


Reading us on the website? Sign up for the free newsletter and we’ll deliver it direct to your inbox.


Schools

School District 65’s Response to Recent Federal Lawsuit. Below is a message to the District 65 Community from Superintendent Devon Horton and members of the District 65 School Board in response to the lawsuit filed against the District by Teacher Stacy Deemar: “Evanston/Skokie 65 is a diverse school district that is committed to equity and to ensuring that every child gets what they need and deserve to reach their full potential.”

Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois Superintendent of Education; Representative Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Governor J.B. Pritzker and State Senator Ram Villivalam. (Photo by Akari Yamada).

State Mandates Teaching of Asian American History in Public Schools. According to census estimates, Asian Americans are the fastest-growing demographic group in Illinois. However, the history and contribution of Asian Americans are rarely included in the social studies and history curriculums of public schools. This will soon change. 

Arts & Life

Downtown Evanston Urban Athlete Class. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

Free Outdoor Fitness Classes Encourage Residents to Exercise. Planks, weight lifting, yoga, Zumba and yard games – Evanston residents are getting fit outside with help from local businesses.  Over the summer months, Evanstonians can enjoy free outdoor fitness classes sponsored by Downtown Evanston, Central Street Evanston and the McGaw YMCA. Wellness Wednesdays, Get Fit Fridays, and the weekly YMCA group fitness classes all encourage residents to get outside and move their bodies.

The Ryan Bost Memorial Gymnasium (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

‘Bost Family Legacy Continues’ with The Ryan Bost Memorial Gymnasium. Ryan Bost was known as a reserved young man of few words. “And when he spoke, everyone listened,” said Robert Reece, one of nine speakers at the dedication of the Ryan Bost Memorial Gymnasium at Washington Elementary School on June 13.

‘The Nazi’s Granddaughter’ Author Silvia Foti Bravely Confronts Truth. The Levy Lecture on June 29 featured author Silvia Foti discussing how a deathbed promise to her late mother led to uncovering a disturbing – and hidden – family history: her mother’s father, revered as a hero at home in the tight-knit Lithuanian community in Chicago and in his native Lithuania, was instead an active Nazi accomplice.

Author Sharisse Kimbro (Submitted photo)

Evanston Author Adds Local Flavor To New Chicken Soup for the Soul Anthology. Humor, heartbreak and wisdom are key ingredients in the new book “Chicken Soup for the Soul: I’m Speaking Now,” edited by Amy Newmark and Breena Clarke and featuring Evanston writer Sharisse Kimbro. The title may be long, but the vignettes are short and can be consumed as quick literary snacks.

Chef Q shares her enthusiasm for fresh herbs and vegetables with Family Focus youth program participants. (Photo by Kristin Brown)

Pictures and Pickles in the Foster Street Garden. The Foster Street Garden was abuzz Tuesday morning with at least two groups of Family Focus Summer Campers, representatives of the Evanston Food Exchange Board that sponsors the Foster Street Urban Agriculture Program, and members of the Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club.

Rank and File | World Champion Upset in Goldmoney Tournament. Followers of global chess competitions are still waiting for World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen to return to playing in over-the-board tournaments. When these events were shut down last year by COVID-19, Carlsen organized a series of online competitions so he could continue to play serious games against high level opponents, as well as win prize money.

Can I press my son for dating deets? Dear Gabby, My smart, handsome, young adult son never dated much (as far as I was aware). He recently told us about a new relationship. I’m desperate for more deets! How often can I ask him questions? He doesn’t offer nearly enough info to keep me going. Signed, Will curiosity kill this cat?

Public Square

Paul Goren: District 65’s Commitment to Equity – Onward and Upward! I would bet that most, if not all, white families who live in Evanston will say “we moved to Evanston for the diversity.” These families also argue that they embrace the diversity reflected in Evanston’s two public school districts over any other North Shore District. More than ever, now is the time to match the rhetoric of embracing diversity with action and support.

Community Alliance for Better Government calls for investigation of allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Department. Earlier this week, WBEZ Investigations published an article describing numerous acts of sexual abuse and misconduct suffered by over 50 City of Evanston staff at Evanston’s lakefront over a period of years, but which the City Manager had not brought to public attention — nor even, apparently, to City Council members.

Nancy E. Anderson: He’s just a cat, right? I always tell my kids that Arnold is the best cat I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of cats. The first cat I remember was Frisky. Then there was Signe, named for my great-grandmother. Then Roo, Larry and a host of others who dotted my central Illinois upbringing. 

The Lighthouse Keeper sees … that there are some very big shoes to fill now that the Traffic Guy has retired and hopes that this view from the Lighthouse will help.  … that Lake Michigan water levels had dropped enough by last week to allow Greenwood Street Beach to open for the season. …

Dr. Benjamin Williams (Submitted photo)

Dr. Benjamin Williams 1934-2021. Dr. Benjamin Williams, the first African American director of the Evanston Human Relations Commission for the City of Evanston, passed away peacefully on June 30th in Hilton Head Island, S.C. He was 87 years old. Ben was a long-time educator and historian. Throughout his career, he served as a teacher, principal, administrator, and associate superintendent throughout Illinois (Waukegan, Evanston, Chicago, Oak Park) and in Denver.

Sports

Budding tennis enthusiasts find their sweet spot during a tennis clinic at Fleetwood-Jourdain. Campers left to right: Leo Nostrand, Stella Jeanes, Aaliyah Patterson, Alex Mungaho, Zoe Tanyavutti, Alexander Davis, Trinity Printis, Elijah Singleton (Submitted photo)

ETHS Tennis Player Scores Points with Local Campers. Wimbledon may be over but 16-year-old Hannah Finkelstein, a rising junior at Evanston Township High School, is just getting started in her efforts to spread tennis love throughout the community. In a bid to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, the organization’s highest achievement, Ms. Finkelstein conducted a one-day tennis clinic Monday, July 12 for Fleetwood-Jourdain summer campers.


Become a Member!

If you enjoy reading the RoundTable newsletter, please consider joining our community of readers who believe in the value of nonprofit, local journalism. Your support will help us keep the RoundTable free for all readers. Become a member today!

Adina Keeling

Adina Keeling is a photojournalist and reporter, covering city news, sustainability, schools, and art. She also investigates mental health systems and environmental injustices in Evanston, and puts together...