Leaders of the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership focused on proposed cuts to Evanston’s youth, recreation and human services programs at a meeting Thursday night at Grace Lutheran Church.

The organizers also said the planned layoffs of 17.5 workers would disproportionately affect workers who are black and live in Evanston.

The chart above shows the racial and ethnic distribution of Evanston residents and full-time city employees. About 22 percent of city workers live in Evanston.

OPAL says nine of the workers facing layoffs are black and seven of them live in Evanston, while eight workers facing layoffs are white, and two of them live in the city.

The OPAL data doesn’t consider the race or residency of the last occupant of the 21 vacant positions also scheduled to be trimmed from the budget.

Sixteen of those positions come from the police and fire departments, which tend to have few city residents, and, in the case of the Fire Department, are disproportionately white.

OPAL President Roger Williams said budget cuts would affect “some of the most vulnerable and poor people” in the city.

He noted plans to end city funding for the Gibbs-Morrison Center at Church and Dodge and complained that “it was never set up to thrive” with “staff but no programs, no way to generate revenue.”

And he complained about plans to reorganize the city’s program for high-risk youths and young adults. “This program has been working very well,” Williams said. “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Kevin Brown discusses his dismay about plans to move him to a new position.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has proposed moving the head of the Youth and Young Adult Services program, Kevin Brown, to head a new Elevate Evanston workforce development program proposed by Mayor Steve Hagerty.

Ken Cherry, manager of the Fleetwood Jourdain Center, would become the new head of the youth program.

Oliver Ruff.

OPAL Vice-President Oliver Ruff criticized the planned $821,000 in cuts in the city’s Health Department, which would lose nearly a third of its staff.

And Board Member Tiffini Holmes objected to planned cuts of $250,000 from funds the Mental Health Board distributes to local agencies, saying those programs support over 5,000 Evanston community members.

Alderman Cicely Fleming speaking to residents.

Alderman Ciciely Fleming, 9th Ward, an OPAL founder, urged the few dozen residents in the room to raise questions about the budget before its scheduled adoption next month.

“Don’t come to me in January and complain about the budget,” she said. “Do it now.”

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Just raise taxes and move on

    The City of Evanston has a $7,000,000 shortfall in its proposed budget for 2019.

    NO ONE wants to see any services cut.

    NO ONE wants to cut any positions.

    And NO ONE has proposed any ideas that will solve the problem. And it’s a problem. And it’s a BIG PROBLEM.

    The only viable solution sounds like RAISE TAXES.

    1. Raise taxes

      I think we should aim to be the highest taxed community in the United States.  Once we have achieved that laudatory goal, we should aim for the highest taxed community in North America, then the WORLD! 

      How about a 30% property tax increase for all properties Sheridan Road and east?  That’s progressive!

      Has anyone ever read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to their children?

    2. What genius decided spending $1.4 spent on Theo Ubique was smart

      Please refresh my memory and remind me who voted in favor of spending $1.4M on the Theo Ubique Theater?  Ann Rainey can be excused. She of course voted for it because it is in her ward.  Now that the city is broke, how smart is that expense looking?  I have nothing against Theo Ubique.  I just don’t want to pay for it.

      1. Theo Ubique

        Hi BHWG,

        The lease with Theo Ubique was approved on the City Council’s consent agenda on March 27, 2017. Aldermen Miller and Wilson were absent. So all the other aldermen voted to approve the deal.

        The theater group is expected to cover about $200,000 of the $1.4 million renovation cost and will pay the city rent starting at $42,000 a year on the space.

        They have a 10 year lease with four five-year renewal options.

        — Bill


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