Evanston officials will hold the first of six scheduled informational sessions tonight about two referendum issues on the March election ballot.

The Evanston Township office on Main Street (file photo).

Evanston officials will hold the first of six scheduled informational sessions tonight about two referendum issues on the March election ballot.

One referendum question asks voters: “Should the Evanston Town Board continue to pursue the issue of dissolving Evanston Township?”

This referendum is advisory. It would have no binding impact, but would provide a measure of voter preference as the the town board decides whether to continue the long-running debate over whether to abolish the township.

The township, which has the same boundaries as the City of Evanston, is governed by the town board, which consists of the city’s nine aldermen and mayor, and two separately elected officials — the township supervisor and township assessor.

Town board members have argued that the township’s operations could be run more efficiently by the city.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has estimated that the nearly $1.45 million now spent on township government could be cut by as much as 40 percent if the city did the work instead.

But the township supervisor and assessor, who would lose their part-time government jobs if the township were abolished, have opposed the move.

The township now provides general assistance and emergency financial aid to indigent residents and provides advice to residents on filing appeals of their property tax assessments.

Some general assistance clients have voiced fears that they would less well taken care of if the town’s responsibilities were turned over to the city.

Under state law the town board can provide “factual information” about referendum questions but can’t use public funds to urge a vote for or against an issue.

The other referendum is a binding question that would authorize the city to enter into a Community Choice Electricity Aggregation agreement with an energy supplier other than Commonwealth Edison.

The program — designed to let the city negotiate lower electric rates — would make the default electricity supplier for local residents the new company, rather than ComEd.

Residents could still opt out of the agreement and continue to have their power supplied by ComEd if they chose.

Tonight’s meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Other sessions are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St., and at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St.

And there’ll be similar presentations at the following ward meetings:

  • 2nd Ward – 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, at the District 65 administration center, 1500 McDaniel Ave.
  • 9th Ward – 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29, at the Levy Center, 300 Dodge Ave.
  • 1st Ward – 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.

Related documents

City summary of township dissolution referendum background

Township referendum presentation (.ppt)

City electricity aggregation referendum background

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. How serious is the Council in dissolving the Evanston Township?

    The aldermen could have voted for a binding referendum but they instead chose an advisory referendum, something the Township lawyers asked for.

    Bonnie WIlson, the Evanston Township Assessor and former president of the Evanston Democratic party, naturally opposes dissolving the township. Wilson, a part-time employee who makes her own hours, reportedly  applied for a pension. No word if she got it because part-time employees don't qualify for pensions. Consider that the Evanston City Council increased the township's budget 80 percent and gave a pay raise to the deputy assessor. 

    The Township assessor and supervisor armed with their lawyers indicated they would fight dissolving the township in the courts. If the majority of voters approve dissolving the township the advisory referendum will have less teeth than the binding referendum in the courtroom where this will most likely end up.

    Question – if  the aldermen really want to dissolve the Evanston Township why did they choose the advisory referendum and why did they increase its budget and give a pay raise? 

    Answer – politics.

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