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Evanston aldermen Monday night gave final approval to holding a referendum on dissolving Evanston township — after making a key change to the wording of the ballot question.

While debate has centered on whether the township should be abolished, the referendum question, as originally proposed, asked instead whether the township should be retained:

“Shall the township organization be continued in Evanston Township?”

After several people in recent weeks suggested to aldermen that that phrasing was confusing, Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, Monday proposed — and the aldermen unanimously approved — flipping the wording so that a yes vote would favor abolition:

“Shall the township organization be discontinued and abolished in Evanston Township?”

Despite the change in wording, the vote on whether to submit the question to the voters next March was the same as it had been before the language change. It carried on a 7-2 vote, with aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward voting no.

If the township is abolished, its responsibilities would be taken over by the City of Evanston.

The township has the same boundaries as the city and the town board consists of the city’s aldermen and mayor.

Advocates of abolishing the township say the city could do a better job of providing its services at a lower cost to taxpayers while providing the same, or a greater level of help to the indigent and homeowners seeking to appeal their real estate tax assessments.

Opponents voice fears that services would be cut. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Legal word games

    How about that!  The City council voted to change the referendum wording to make a YES vote from keeping Township government to a YES vote being for dissolution!

    It must just be a coincidence that this was the way the non-binding referendum was worded.  YES meant NO TOWNSHIP!  Shouldn't YES mean YES and NO mean NO?  This is a purposeful way to confuse the part of the electorate that needs the programs run by Township government.  Maybe the council understands that numerous studies have shown that when presented a YES or NO question that a person doesn't completely understand they vote YES a majority of the time.  Way to use legalease to make it even harder for Township supporters to understand what they're voting on.  

    There may be some hope here because unfortunately for the City Council, the brand new State created only for Evanston Township dissolution specifically states what the language if the referendum should be. If the Council really wanted EVERYONE to understand what there voting for why can't the referendum state.."Should we keep Evanston Township government?"  This way YES means YES and NO means NO!   

    Council members would be wise to follow the KISS rule.  Keep it simple stupid! 

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