A proposal from Mayor Steve Hagerty to spend $90,000 to fund a new Youth Job Center position to help connect young people not headed for college with careers barely survived a City Council vote Monday night.

The proposal came under attack from Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, who said it would be better to spend the funds on programs like one recommended for approval earlier this month by the Economic Development Committee under which the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse would get $40,000 to provide a paid pathway to union construction trades jobs for a half dozen Evanston residents.

“I want to see impact and directly empower residents and not curate the same list of tools and resources that have already proved insufficient,” Rue Simmons said in a statement read by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz because the alderman was in Washington, attending a National League of Cities meeting.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, seconded those concerns saying the city has a lot of not-for-profit collaborative initiatives that sound great “but don’t all end great.” Mentioning the Cradle to Career initiative, she said, of many such programs, “I don’t see them coming to fruition.”

The new YJC employee would be based at Evanston Township High School, but Fleming said the high school already has a lot of counselors — and “some of their counselors could be transitioned into this role.”

On the other hand, Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the YJC program, designed to work with local employers to provide jobs, was “an excellent use” of funds donated to the city by Northwestern University.

And Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, said that when students don’t graduate from ETHS, “they don’t go anywhere” but stay in the community.

This program, he said, “is a lot better than having to pay to keep them in prison.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she was “very pleased with this effort.”

“The passion of the people involved in the committee [of employers] is very real,” she added.

Ultimately the spending was approved on a 5-4 vote with Rue Simmons, Fleming and aldermen Judy Fiske and Tom Suffredin voting no.

Related stories

City hopes to connect more kids with careers (3/10/19)

ETHS aims to help students prep for careers (3/12/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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