At least one Evanston alderman got steamed up last week after residents criticized her decision to vote for a 20 percent hike in aldermanic pay.

Mark Cison, who bought a house in northwest Evanston a little over a year ago, sent all the aldermen an e-mail after the pay hike vote.

Here’s what he told Evanston Now he wrote:

It is absolutely disgusting that you alderman decided to give yourselves a 20 percent pay hike while a vast majority of residents here are struggling with out-of-control property tax hikes, city fees, parking, sales tax increases, etc.  To do this without asking or notifying your constituents is appalling.  Only Alderman Moran had the class and integrity to oppose this nonsense.


In the one year I’ve lived here, my water bill has increased over 20 percent, my sanitation fees 20 percent, and my property tax bill this year will be substantially higher, even though my house value is down and below 2004 levels at this point.


Evanston alderman already receive far more compensation than most other suburbs, and enjoy ridiculously cheap health insurance for yourselves and your family.  Your position is meant to be for a community benefit, not financial rewards. If the pay isn’t high enough for you, then step down and let someone else do your job. I’d love to have the medical insurance benefits you get.


And it may feel like just a “drop in the bucket” to Alderman Hansen (what an insulting and classless comment), but in these times of economic struggle and out of control tax hikes, it matters to US, the residents, and the people you are supposed to be serving.


Shame on all of you for this nonsense.  It is unbelieveable that city government, no matter where apparently, simply can not find ways to control spending, and just passed the buck to the taxpayers.  These financial pressures on all of us are not a “drop in the bucket” to me or anyone I’ve talked to, and if you can’t be fiscally responsible and think all this constant spending can and will be covered by taxpayers, you’re sadly mistaken. Because we are struggling badly to keep our homes, our jobs, and our lives here.


And somehow you find a way to give yourselves a raise? Lower my property taxes, and then give yourselves a raise.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, saying she got two message like that, responded with an e-mail message of her own, which she also posted to her message board, in which she recounted the many hours of work she’d done for the city in just three days, and then said:

“If you don’t think this service is worth $12,000 a year – then move to the 8th ward, take out a petition and challenge me and my record. Don’t sit home writing hateful, insulting mail – get out there and make a difference. Run for office and get elected. That is what I did.”

Cison says he’s not at all happy with that response.

In a note to Evanston Now he writes: “Apparently it is insulting for taxpayers to question where their tax dollars go. It boggles my mind how childish and whiny this response was from Alderman Rainey. She chose to do this job and should step down if it’s too much work for her.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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13 Comments

  1. Typical Rainey
    This is what one would expect from the hypersensitive narcissist known as Ald. Rainey. Grow a thicker skin or get out of the biz. Major kudos to you Mr. Cison for telling it like it is.

  2. Insulting comment? Please –
    Mr Cison – comment does not insult the alderman. He raises the same question I raise excessive medical benefits. There are no insults here. Why didn’t the council bother to discuss the medical benefits as part of compensation? I could have accepted a $2,000 pay increase if they elminated their excessive medical benefits!( which would save us $109,000 )

    Mr Cison being only a one year resident does not understand council politics when he praises Alderman Moran – Alderman Moran vote is joke – he knows it is going to pass so he does not vote for it. Ask him to give back the extra $2,000 to an Evanston charity or not take it.

    Over the years I have seen ward alderperson vote no on an item when all the other vote yes – usually a zoning item. They only do this so the voters in their ward think they care.

  3. Maybe Rainey should donate
    Maybe Rainey should donate her pay raise to the city for the fiasco she calls “bike the ridge”. In a city that is so money strapped, we now have to pay overtime to city workers to staff this folly … Has anybody thought about the liability to the city? What happens if someone is injured in this city sponsored fiasco?

    1. Huh?
      someone wrote: “In a city that is so money strapped, we now have to pay overtime to city workers to staff this folly … Has anybody thought about the liability to the city? What happens if someone is injured in this city sponsored fiasco?”

      I would like to see where you are getting your information about the projection of overtime expenses. It appears that the 2 Aldermen who are sponsoring this are actively soliciting volunteers to assist in the implementation. Cross streets that intersect with Ridge and that are protected by lights will have a uniformed officer handling traffic at those sites.

      This seems like a fairly innocuous activity, overall. Not much different than Chicago’s annual and much larger scale “Bike the Drive.” It would seem to me that it is a fairly inexpensive and celebratory activity for the reopening of Ridge, which has affected some of us much more than others. And it seems to be a nice way of highlighting the issue of bike riding in town.

      Were you also opposed to the bike race that was held throughout the downtown area in mid-summer? How about when the Olympic Torch was run through Evanston several years ago?

      Why exactly are you calling this a fiasco? Why suck the life out of something that seems to me to be an add-on for people who choose to be involved? There are enough real issues to be mindful of with the City. Are we are a point where every and anything that is attached to City Hall an issue?

      1. The latest tally for this
        The latest tally for this “event”, according to City Hall, is $18,000. All the city personnel that will have to staff the event will be done so on overtime pay … Fire, streets & sanitation, parking enforcement, police …

      2. Re: Huh?
        Somebody wrote “I would like to see where you are getting your information about the projection of overtime expenses. It appears that the 2 Aldermen who are sponsoring this are actively soliciting volunteers to assist in the implementation. Cross streets that intersect with Ridge and that are protected by lights will have a uniformed officer handling traffic at those sites.”

        How do you think that the uniformed officers that will be handling traffic will be paid? Officers have to come in and be paid overtime in order cover this and every other event in the City. They can not just take Officers from other areas of the city and leave those areas with out Police protection; or are you volunteering your neighborhood to go without patrol during this event? I’m pretty sure that if you call 911 that you expect a short response time and if your neighborhood is without patrol it will take a bit longer for somebody to get there. So no matter how many “volunteers” they get there will still be city employees that will have to be paid to work because of this.

        “This seems like a fairly innocuous activity, overall. Not much different than Chicago’s annual and much larger scale “Bike the Drive.” It would seem to me that it is a fairly inexpensive and celebratory activity for the reopening of Ridge, which has affected some of us much more than others. And it seems to be a nice way of highlighting the issue of bike riding in town.”

        Oh I get it so Chicago does it so Evanston should to? $18,000 doesn’t seem like a small amount of money for a city that can’t even fund the pensions of the people that they employ to protect it.

        It’s a street that has been closed and has inconvenienced many people. Why inconvenience anybody anymore by keeping it shut down any longer for a bike ride? I’m sure that there are other ways to highlight bike riding in Evanston and the reopening or Ridge.

        “There are enough real issues to be mindful of with the City. Are we are a point where every and anything that is attached to City Hall an issue?”

        And for a City as mismanaged as Evanston continues to be, everything attached to City Hall should be an issue. Everything that they do should be questioned: we have that right as taxpayers and voters in our democratic society.

  4. Complaining about pay a distraction from larger issue
    This argument over alderman pay is a distraction from the larger issue of what aldermen are being paid to do. Evanston presumably has a strong city manager form of government. Therefore, the Council should be functioning as an overseer, like a board of directors of a corporation, debating larger issues such as budget priorities or zoning policies and supervising the City Manager’s operations.

    Instead, the Council’s workload often involves “micro-managing” , e.g. approving a zoning variance for a specific homeowner to subdivide his lot, approving a specific stop sign or speed bump, and approving all spending items over a certain amount. Time spent dealing with minor issues crowds out the time spent on more substantive issues. Often, the Council acts as “judge and jury”, revisiting decisions made at a lower level. What is the point of having a zoning board recommendation if the Council is going to re-examine the whole issue all over again?

    If the Council feels overworked and underpaid, then either they try to get paid more (for the demands on their time) or try to delegate more work. The proper debate for the citizens, then, is which remedy the Council should pursue.

    1. Council members choose the issues they deal with.
      John – the council members choose the issues they want to deal with – they have a consent agenda at the beginning of the meeting and they can pick and choose what they wish to discuss and vote on it or just vote on it.

      The reason they micromanage – is they can not figure out what is important and what is not important. That is they focus on nonsense and let the big costs go by with no discussion.

      Bernstein maded an interesting point when he stated they were not “professionals” but citizens – that is a major problem the council is mostly lawyers – and the rest have minimum qualifications on most of the items that go on in the city. All lack any real world experience.

      The Administrative and public works committee is a good example – no one on that committee has a clue what is going on. One member recently was complaining about cost of consultants – what she should have been looking at as when we need or do not need a consultant. Ofcourse she does not understand that.

      Why did they waste over a hour at the last meeting discussing the rental apartment at the Civic Center – when the Capital plan was presented at council with little discussion? Millions of dollars versus about $15,000.

      Because most of them are clueless – I would suggest you go look at the south roof on the Noyes Art Center ( since you live near it) if you want a good example of a problem, it is failing, were was it in the capital plan?

      I really do not put the blame on staff – since the council has staff wasting a large amount of time on their nonsense and personal political agendas.

      Look at the newest piece of nonsense – “minority hiring on city jobs for Evanston residents” if you want a joke. That is 5% of the hours of job – must use an Evanston minority resident. Interest since no bidders in the real world bid jobs based on hours for a bid price. How is staff going to deal with this nonsense? Looking at it another way how to you select the low bidder based on price or higher hours for evanston minority residents working on the job?

      Put another way the idiots on the council – spent an extra $50,000 on fountain square because the low bidder did not meet the minority contract requirement ( different than their newest misadventure )- they could not even come up with the money in the first place to fix fountain square, how long did they spend discussing this issue? Only fools would feel sorry for all the hours they put in, since at least 50% is time they waste.

      The joke is on the taxpayers – but understand one thing they people they elected here are not elected for their skill sets but for their political connections. Interestingly they pointed it out in their letters how they paid to go to social events, are they really there to talk to the taxpayers?

      Until the taxpayers don’t want their friends who screw up continually elected – the problems will just continue.

      John one last point you stated “If the Council feels overworked and underpaid, then either they try to get paid more (for the demands on their time) or try to delegate more work. The proper debate for the citizens, then, is which remedy the Council should pursue.”

      John – the council sets their own pay we have nothing to do with, so I don’t know how we are going to have a debate on the issue? They clearly did not want to discuss the medical benefits as part of compensation,

      I was amused that some of the richest council members were talking about the $2,000 increase on how it will keep diversity on the council.

      1. who are the idiots in council?
        Junad wrote:
        “Put another way the idiots on the council – spent an extra $50,000 on fountain square because the low bidder did not meet the minority contract requirement ( different than their newest misadventure )- they could not even come up with the money in the first place to fix fountain square, how long did they spend discussing this issue? Only fools would feel sorry for all the hours they put in, since at least 50% is time they waste.”

        Junad – Are all 9 of the aldermen idiots? Or just the majority of them?
        I think that the citizens of Evanston deserve to know which aldermen are idiots, so we do not re-elect them or vote them into higher office.

        I live in the 1st Ward. Is Wollin and idiot?
        I believe that you live in ward 7. Is Tisdahl an idiot?

        It would be helpful if you would just list all 9 aldermen, and simply state who is and who is not an idiot.
        I think that this is only fair. Enquiring Minds want to know. Who are the idiots? We also need to know who – if anyone – on the council is not an idiot. After all, if only 7 of them are idiots, it is unfair to remaining 2 when you accuse council of being idiots.
        Others, you should not engage in such namecalling.

        1. Professor Who you always like to get off topic?
          Who why are you so worried about namecalling?

          Why aren’t you worried about your’e taxes? You never response to the real issues?

          “Enquiring Minds want to know”

          What do you think about paying an extra $50,000 of taxpayer money for a job that cost around $400,000?

          1. Who are the idiotic aldermen?
            Junad –
            I believe that it is you who are off topic. You launched an assault on aldermen’s pay and benefits, and stated that the aldermen are idiots – yet you are unwilling to name a single alderman who is an idiot.
            “Matt” above posted the comments of Aldermen Tisdahl, Hansen, and Rainey on the subject of pay. Do you think that any, or all, of these three aldermen are idiots?
            If there are idiots on council, I think that they should be exposed – by name. If there are no idiots, then we should refrain from namecalling.

            I believe that there are no idiots on the council. I am asking you, Junad, to provide me with the name of one idiotic alderman.

  5. a similar story
    After reading this, I must share my similar story,
    this is my letter sent to all the alderman;
    9/23/08
    I am disgusted by the recent decision of the alderman to vote for an immediate 20% pay raise, my understanding is that there was only one dissenting vote, shame on you, in times when jobs are being cut, unemployment is at a 20 year high, people are losing their houses (and life savings). Evanston deserves to be managed a fiscally responsible manner to the taxpayers and not like the recent corporate failures of A.I.G. and the other wall St. greed mongers.

    and these are the responses I received:
    mr. _______….thank you for taking time to write …i appreciate your frustration and share most of it……..the 20% is actually a change from $10,000.00 to $12,000 and will not go into effect until the next city council is seated in may 2009…therefore, the electorate will have an opportunity to ask a candidate why he/she voted as they did and use the answer in the decision making process…..i have announced my intention not to seek re-election, so there was no financial incentive for my vote………the reality is that because of all the reasons you’ve noted and others, the pressures on the city and therefore on council members has increased to a point to where the emotional portion of the job is daunting…….the increase is, to me, symbolic; i never viewed my salary as compensation, since in my 11 1/2 years on the council, i’m certain there was never a work week of fewer than 25 hours and most were 40 plus hours, in preparation, meetings, constituent services, research, etc……..in fact, much of my salary went to attend not-for profit functions, since i have always felt that a local elected official has the responsibility of being omnipresent in the community so that citizens could interact and discuss issues with their aldermen………no one on the council takes on this job for remuneration…..it is 24/7 and i truly feel that every one of the council members loves the city and wants to work for its betterment and that is the reason we serve…….obviously, sometime our approaches differ, but, living in evanston, i expect nothing less……………one alderman noted last evening that her salary did not quite cover the costs of childcare/babysitting that were required to allow her to attend the numerous meetings, community gatherings, conferences with developers, etc that are all portions of our job description………
    i think i understand your feelings, but, i can assure you that no one leaves the council with a golden parachute and to me, your analogy to corporate america is not valid, since we are all individuals who are attempting to aid the city’s forward progress……..i understand the cynicism in today’s society, but, evanston aldermen are not professionals, but, citizens who take countless hours from their families, businesses and lives to gain some competence in the complexity of municipal administration so that we can help to effectively manage our town…………again i thank you for taking time to write…..best regards….steve bernstein

    I planned to vote no, but was convinced by the discussion that if we want to have aldermen who are representative of a diverse community, the extra money was necessary.

    Elizabeth Tisdahl

    Let me give you some idea of my last 24 hours:

    Monday 18 phone calls, 10 or 12 emails, left home at 5 PM got to city hall with many lbs of work documents which I spent all day Sunday reading. Left city hall after 3 meetings at 12:15 AM Came home and responded to a few emails. Dragged my butt to bed at about 2 AM. Up early on Tuesday, readying for a 2PM meeting at city hall.

    Before the meeting I sent 18 emails re a variety of issues including a construction site on Oakton, a grocery store on Asbury and Oakton, a complaint from a resident objecting to a park being mowed at 7:15, reassured a woman in the Mulford neighborhood east of Asbury that 1. some found spent condoms in the gutter do not necessarily mean that prostitution is in the neighborhood,2 that color of paint cannot be controlled in in the Oakton Historic District, 3 information re the Salvation Army project just west of Home depot and 4. the condition of a few properties on Oakton east of asbury. Included in the 18 email messages I sent was also a letter that required I search my address book for about 70 affected residents so that I could get their feed back re a park mural. Finally got to city hall and continued the lplanning of a Bike the Ridge event with city staff, Police Chief, head of traffic, Director of the Ridgeville park district, members of the Evanston Cycle club, St Francis Hospital and Ridgeville Park district. We did a really good job pulling together some of the loose ends, with a clear understanding of responsibilities going forward.

    After that meeting I spoke with Com Dev staff re issues concerning project funding (low and mod income restricted) and presentation scheduling for a specific applicant. then stopped at Legal to let them know I was still waiting for an email update re 2 court cases my constituents and I are going to be attending on Friday afternoon in Skokie. Was assured it was on the way. Was chased down the hall and stopped and spoke with the pub info staff re letters for people with driveways on Ridge and the official notice for the Bike the Ridge Event.

    Now I am on a roll – Wednesday you ask – what the heck am I doing on Wednesday? 11 AM meeting with staff, Ald Hanson and the Farmers Best grocer. 3PM meeting at Site Plan and Appearance review re Aldi’s design on Oakton, 6 PM Blue Ribbon Committee (which I proposed be created) then 7:30 PM Economic Develpmento meeting.

    I think I am going to have to miss the Wednesday Chicago Biz/Arts event at the Howard St Apple the Second that runs from 5:30 to 8PM. Wait, why don’t I send my assistant from my office? Oops, I don’t have an assistant or an office.

    So, Matt, what do you think? It is only Tuesday and I have given Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday all for this great city that I love. If you don’t think my service is worth 12,000 a year – then move to the 8th ward, take out a petition and challenge me and my record. Don’t sit home writing hateful, insulting mail – get out there and make a difference. Run for office & get elected.

    Ann Rainey
    847 475 2949

    Mr. ________,

    Thank you for the email. I am sorry you feel the way that you do. The pay raise is from $10,000 to $12,000, which takes affect after the next elections. Even though the aldermanic positions are technically considered part-time, all of us put in way more than a part-time job. If our government doesn’t change the way we view the aldermanic jobs, then we will lose the diversity on Council which we have been able to maintain. Many of us on Council have other jobs in addition to being aldermen. If we continue in this manner, then the candidate pool for alderman will not be great.

    Anjana Hansen
    9th Ward Alderman

    my comment:
    I was under the impression that similar to the job of being on the school board, you undertook the responsibilities of this ‘job’ because you wanted to make a difference in our community. The Evanston taxpayers need to decide if this should be a full time job and what the compensation (benefits) should be, if it is not going to be a full time job it should probably be viewed similar to a seat on the school board, and compensation needs to be limited.

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