Evanston RoundTable

Good morning, Evanston.

Deputy Chief Jody Wright (right) and Interim Chief Aretha Barnes present a specially designed plaque to newly retired Police Chief Demitrous Cook (Photo by Heidi Randhava)

Community members celebrate retired Police Chief Demitrous Cook and praised his keen ability to connect with people – with one speaker calling him Evanston’s “most approachable chief” – at a heart-warming celebration of his service on July 30.

City officials, law enforcement officers and community members attended the belated retirement party held at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

Martha Burns, who helped plan the event, said it was organized by residents in conjunction with the City of Evanston and Interim Police Chief Aretha Barnes. “Our hope is that Cook will know that he is loved in this community and that he is respected,” Burns said.

In case you missed any of the most important news this week, here’s a roundup of the top stories from the RoundTable since Sunday.

City News

Accessory dwelling unit (ADU) types

Plan Commission advances ADU moratorium proposal. The Evanston Plan Commission by a 3-2 vote advanced a proposal that would impose a six-month moratorium on permitting and construction of non-owner occupied accessory dwelling units. The proposal, stemming from a June 28 referral by the City’s Planning & Development Committee, rose from a growing concern by community members that absentee landlords would purchase large homes in close proximity to Northwestern University from which they would create rental units for student housing.

2022 Wheel Tax Payment Period Now Open. All vehicles registered through the Illinois Secretary of State to an Evanston address are required to pay an annual wheel tax. The 2022 wheel tax covers the period of Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022. The deadline is Thursday, Sept. 30. Preprinted renewal notices will be mailed to residents this week with an online renewal ID (Link Code) and instructions.

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Arts & Life

Sam Rattanopas (left), co-owner Mina Sudsaard (right) and NaKorn’s small staff used their kitchen to prepare and package thousands of free meals for delivery to people in Evanston and Chicago during the months when the restaurant was closed. (Photo by Linda Gerber)

NaKorn Urban Thai has unique food and a big heart. Sam Rattanopas and Mina Sudsaard, co-owners of Evanston’s NaKorn Urban Thai restaurant, were 11 years old when they met and became friends while students at their Bangkok school. Later, in 1996, the good friends spread their wings and emigrated from Thailand to the United States for graduate school to prepare them for careers in graphic design and telecommunications. 

Plant Shop Evanston, formerly Backlot Coffee and Other Brother Coffee House on corner of Grove St. and Sherman Ave. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

New plant business spreads aroma of success in former coffee location. Backlot Coffee co-founder Isaac Bloom always had an affinity for plants. Despite his success in the coffee business, Bloom was itching to see if another type of business could flourish in his second coffee location in Evanston. His dream of launching Plant Shop Evanston became a reality during COVID. Right before COVID-19 hit, Backlot Coffee took over the previous location of Other Brother Coffee House on the corner of Grove Street and Sherman Avenue. They had to shut down when the pandemic was at its peak and then decided to pivot to plants. 

Pictured from left to right, Community Engagement Specialist Stephanie Mendoza, Board Member Chandra Palmer, Board Member Jesus Vega, Board Member Rebeca Mendoza and Board Member Dolores Ayala.

Evanston Latino group gives needed support and guidance during pandemic. For Evanston Latinos President Rebeca Mendoza, change begins when adversity looms over communities of color. The pandemic spurred her into action, inspiring her to create a non-profit focused on delivering accessible information to non-English speaking residents in Evanston. Mendoza founded Evanston Latinos after preliminary census data revealed racial health disparities. Last May, the COVID positivity rate for Latino residents hit 18.3% even though Latinx residents make up 11.8% of the population.

Evanston Scholars admits largest ever cohort into college prep and success program. This month, 45 Evanston Township High School juniors began their six-year journey to college graduation with Evanston Scholars. The Evanston Scholars program guides students through the college admission process, supports them to persist through college graduation and connects them to internships, professional networks and employment opportunities with the aim of graduating from college and finding strong jobs.

Aydin Dincer painting (Photo by artist)

The art of making art: Aydin Dincer. Aydin Dincer is a wonderfully stubborn guy wanting to do things his way, and it shows beautifully in both his art and his food. Dincer owns and operates Prairie Joe’s restaurant in Evanston, a unique place to enjoy a feast with both your stomach and your eyes. There is a set menu as well as daily special created by Dincer that reflect his food history and creativity.

Public Square

Democracy dollars. All too often, our politicians promise to fight for their communities and to represent all their constituents. However, once they’ve won an election, their top priority is re-election. And that means catering to the wealthy donors and corporate interests who can fund their next campaign. But what if politicians could rely on the community for that money instead?

Evanston resident John McKnight wins lifetime achievement award. Founders of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute (ABCD Institute), both retired Northwestern professors and one a longtime Evanston resident, won Lifetime Achievement awards from the International Association of Community Development. John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann founded the ABCD Institute at Northwestern University in the early 1990s after publishing their best-selling community development book, “Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Towards Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets.”

Community Building Equity Summit: Processing the Pandemic. To help youth build community and foster resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, Evanston Cradle to Career along with a number of partners is sponsoring the 2nd Annual Community Building Equity Summit: Processing the Pandemic from noon to 5 p.m. on Aug. 6 at Mason Park.

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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...