Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl met with constituents on Oct. 30 at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave., to discuss pressing matters for the City. Attendance was sparse thanks to inclement weather, but the Mayor, as well as City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, addressed a number of pertinent issues for Evanstonians.
Mayor Tisdahl opened with some comments on economic development and workforce placement in the City. She said that helping young people to more easily secure employment remained a top priority. When she asked some young people whether they wanted programs such as midnight basketball, the response, she said, was, “Lady, we need jobs.”
While a great deal of job training is available for City residents at Oakton Community College, Mayor Tisdahl said actually getting to the Des Plaines campus without a car can be a problem. She tried getting there on public transportation and it took an hour and 42 minutes, she said. Consequently, Oakton will offer more classes in the City, both at ETHS and Presence St. Francis Hospital.
Another issue has been that a number of students have been unable to pass needed aptitude tests for entrance to the military. Mayor Tisdahl said she’s been informed that the issue was part of a larger national problem – about two-thirds of interested students are unable to pass the military tests. Therefore, test preparation courses will be offered at ETHS.
“We provide it for the ACT and SAT so we’ll provide it for the military as well,” said Mayor Tisdahl, who added, “That does not mean I’m trying to push people into the military – I’m just trying to give them the opportunities that they want.”
Work continues on defining school safety zones, as school students in the City have said they are often concerned for their safety going to and from school.
“Kids feel safe in the building, and most kids feel safe on the way to and from school, Mayor Tisdahl said, but enough students had concerns for the City to consider the extension of “safe zones” for students. The City has made a request to Cook County for about $60,000, which in turn will request the funds from the Department of Homeland Security.
Some at the meeting expressed concerns about how bright and obtrusive the lights may be, as well as locations for the cameras. But the Mayor said those concerns were premature.
“I’m not putting cameras anywhere without talking to the neighbors first,” Mayor Tisdahl said. “I don’t have the money yet.”
She was reluctant to offer an opinion on the Harley Clarke Mansion, and said that Mr. Bobkiewicz had prepared two proposals that would be delivered at the next meeting of the City’s Human Services Committee.
One plan, she said, kept the mansion in the public domain, while the other plan partially did so. “The community should listen to what he has to say at Human Services [on] Nov. 4 – I think you’re going to be happy.”
The mayor was also asked when the empty storefront – formerly an Osco – at Oakton and Asbury would ever have another tenant. Mr. Bobkiewicz admitted that the building’s owner had little incentive to find a new one – he has been paid by CVS in order to keep the building vacant.
“The owner is getting 2006 lease rates in order to stay empty,” Mr. Bobkiewicz added. He also said that Dominick’s had not yet informed the City of their plans for their two Evanston stores. The company – who announced they will be shuttering all their locations Dec. 28 – would likely have an answer by Thanksgiving, he said.
Mayor Tisdahl expressed little remorse for the grocery’s departure. She said that Dominick’s had approval over tenants at their Dodge and Dempster location, and would usually drag out their decisions for so long that interested businesses often moved on before a determination was rendered.
“The fact that Dominick’s will not be at Dempster-Dodge is not totally a bad thing,” she said.
Another project discussed was the proposed Yellow Line stop at Asbury Avenue, which was proposed in 2011 but has fallen off local radars.
Mayor Tisdahl said that the project was held up because of the Chicago Transit Authority’s money woes with no resolution in sight for the foreseeable future. Additionally, she said, repairs to the Purple Line were a more pressing need for the City.
Mayor Tisdahl said that she was looking forward to the possibilities that water sales might bring to the City, adding that water “might be a more valuable commodity than Old Orchard shopping center.” The City of Chicago had increased their rates for water sales significantly, and she hoped that would work to Evanston’s advantage when its customers might look for a cheaper option.
The City has been in the process of negotiating water sales to Lincolnwood, but this has dragged on, said Mayor Tisdahl, since Lincolnwood is “digging in their heels and expecting the Skokie rates,” which she said were very low. “[Skokie] was not brilliantly negotiated years and years ago,” she added.
One audience member asked whether the rates for other municipalities would be raised, since Evanstonians were facing a significant increase in their water bills.
Mr. Bobkiewicz said that the City’s increased rates in Evanston were largely due for upgrades and maintenance of its sewers and pipes, which are costs that each city bears. He also said that, given the heavy rain outside, there were likely basements in Skokie and Lincolnwood that were flooding that night, but it was not happening in most parts of Evanston.