The City of Evanston’s proposed budget calls for a 4.9 percent increase in property taxes to help close a hole created by the slumping economy.

The draft budget for 2009-10, released this afternoon by Interim City Manager Rolanda Russell, says the banking and financial crisis that began in October likely will knock nearly $1 million from the city’s revenue stream during the coming year.

That’s on top of a $2.8 million deficit projected when the city staff began assembling the budget last fall, caused largely by costs for salaries and benefits rising faster than city revenue.

In a memo to aldermen, Russell says the staff is proposing nearly $2 million in expenditure cuts, leaving a $1.8 million gap.

Those cuts include:

  • Eliminating 14.5 vacant full-time-equivalent city jobs to save $1.1 million.
  • Reducing employee cost of living adjustments from 3.5 to 2.5 percent to save $460,000.
  • Reducing merit pay increases from 3 percent to 2.5 percent to save $230,000.


The budget document offers several options for eliminating the remaining deficit, including cutting city staff, reducing city services, eliminating city contributions to non-profit groups and drawing down budget fund reserves.

The proposed new budget totals $235.5 million, a 7.5 percent increase over the current budget, but most of that increase is the result of one-time capital expenses paid from existing fund reserves.

The City Council will hold hearings on the budget in January and February. It has to adopt a budget before the start of the city’s new fiscal year March 1. The first council budget workshop will be held at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 10.

Related link

Proposed City of Evanston 2009-10 budget (7.6 MB .pdf file)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

92 Comments

  1. Is it really 4.9% tax increase?
    Bill – the city is going to be drawing down its reserves – rather dramatically. I know in past years some at the budget hearing have suggested this – but this may start to present a cash flow problem (ie. not enough funds on hand to pay the employees ) if things get worst. ( looks like about 5 million dollars out of reserves if not more it is hard to tell ) Also they are projecting holding employee wage increases – but that does not appear to be completely possible or likely given they have not set the contracts yet.

    Thus we hide the real increase and possible create a major crisis next year.

  2. Tax Increase
    Does anyone know what the total tax increase is? I hear some talk from D65 about increasing taxes and now the city manager is talking about increasing taxes.

    Can anyone shed some light on the total tax increase that’s being talked about?

    Thanks

  3. Another Tax Increase… just what we all need!
    I would be OK with a 4.9% tax increase if they reassessed my property values to reflect the current economic impact on their value.

    Concerning the last 23% increased property tax on my 2007 bill for one of my rental properties… How do get that back from my renters and continue to provide quality apartment rentals (not to mention the new City fees for “rental unit registration”)? That is approx $750 per unit more than the 2006 tax period and a 400% increase from 12 years ago.

    I’d like to add that taxpayers are not cash cows or in the mood to be treated like cattle any more.

    I’ve got a good idea for new revenue… Start fining the people who disregard the laws about clearing snow from in front of their homes and buildings!

    1. Property inspections are out of control
      I would agree with you – the city now does not have the permit revenue it had in the past – thus they are creating new work and what might be unnecessary work for employees. It appears revenue is down by 33% almost 2 million dollars. In most businesses employees would be let go to reflect the decrease work load. But not at the city – they are just creating more work. Lets inspect all these rental properties – by the way they will not inspect them all – they will just collect the fees.

      Ofcourse there are problem properties but to inspect everyone is a waste of money for taxpayers.

      1. Inspections issues
        The writer addresses the issues of there being problem properties .
        I would like to hear some explanation of how the
        “problem properties ” got through the inspection process -especially if staffing was above the level he says is really needed .

        1. Inspections issues
          Explain how staffing and properties not getting inspected are related. There could be plenty of other reasons properties are not inspected beyond staffing.

  4. So when the economy is
    So when the economy is revived again we are going to see a 4.9% reduction in taxes right (wink wink)? This is just the cure for a slumping economy – raise taxes on the people who are hurting. Maybe we can raise the sales tax from the already outrageous 10% to encourage more shopping in our area?

  5. Tax increase
    I have an alternative solution

    1) Eliminate 14.5 or more “non-vacant” positions

    2) Reduce cost of living increases from 3.5% to 0%. Better yet, decrease salaries by 3.5%.

    3) Reduce “merit pay” increases from 3.0% to 0.0%

    4) Impose a property tax increase of 0.0%

    I will write down the names of anyone who votes for this tax increase. I will vote against them in their next election. I will contribute to their competitor’s campaign. I will tell everyone I know in the City of Evanston to vote against them.

    1. tax increases
      I am with you- how is it during this severe ecomonic crisis with people losing their jobs,or barely holding on to their jobs and taking pay decreases just to keep their jobs,or people losing their homes,that the city raises taxes? Why would anyone give merit pay in today’s market? If you aren’t doing an outstanding job, you lose your job and there is a long line of people ready to interview for the position. Pay should be frozen at the very least.
      Don’t ask Northwestern University, any other institution or business for money because we can’t live within our means or run an effective government.
      Both school districts have new teacher contracts that give yearly raises. Hasn’t anyone listened to the news in the last four months?

      1. What about the contract extension for the D65 superintendent
        Hey, didn’t anyone notice that the already generously rewarded superintendent who just called for a 4% increase in taxes for the D65 school district has been granted an additional year on his contract and a 3.5% increase?! Let’s get real – the City takes a smaller share of our taxes than the school districts. Why is no one complaining about these increases?

    2. And when we lose vital services what do we do?
      How do you plan to keep the City functioning if it loses staff and becomes known as a bad employer? Which 14.5 “non-vacant” positions do you plan to eliminate?

      I’m sorry you’re tired of tax increases (as we all are) but a one-sided rant isn’t helpful here. At this point (without a detailed review – and as someone in a position to take a hit on both income and tax rate) I think Ms. Russell is offering a quite reasonable solution, trying to spread the financial burden between both taxpayers and employees.

      Are you prepared to drive your own garbage to a dump and pay for its disposal, to pave your own street, to provide your own security, library, life safety services, dig a well and purify your own water, etc? Suggesting that the City employees on whom we all depend should get less consideration than anoyone else during these trying times is inappropriate.

      Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

      1. cut
        I honestly believe that you could throw a dart at a dartboard with employee names, fire the first 14 or 15 people whose names come up, and nobody would know the difference in terms of quality of services delivered. The remaining employees will just have to work harder.

        It’s happening all over in the private sector. In the private sector, people are seeing job cuts, wage freezes, and the elimination of retirement contributions. Why shouldn’t the government be any different?

        1. Really?
          So do you have any actual experience with our City’s employees, or are you just complaining because your own budget is stretched? I have to say, I find your lack of empathy offensive. I agree that everybody needs to tighten their belt, but I have a real problem with this misrepresentation of those who’ve decided to offer their talents in the service of our City.

          As for the “it’s happening all over,” currently, many City employees ARE doing the work of several people due to the large number of employees who took early retirement and were never replaced – the City’s solution to employee cutbacks. The City Manager is currently suggesting that employees also shoulder part of the burden. The difference you aren’t seeing is that a private business can eliminate anything it wants up to the point of closing its doors, but government has an obligation to continue to offer a certain level of services even in financially difficult times.

          A better approach, rather than randomly ranting, is to suggest what you are prepared to do without. Of the City services you currently depend on or use regularly, which are you prepared to eliminate?

          Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          1. Michele please explain who is doing the job of two people?
            Michele – ” As for the “it’s happening all over,” currently, many City employees ARE doing the work of several people due to the large number of employees who took early retirement and were never replaced – the City’s solution to employee cutbacks”

            What I see is when people retired they did not fill the positions – in some cases it appeared – they elminated a manager – and gave the work to another manager – the real quesiton is the other manager actually managing the group or department? I suspect we have even less management of some groups.

            Michele do you know of any real examples?

          2. Yes really
            Well as I stated above- we can freeze or reduce salaries and eliminate merit pay. Then you move to to benefits. Eliminate family health insurance coverage. If employees want it, they can pay out of pocket. Require employees to contribute for their own health insurance. Eliminate dental coverage. Reduce paid vacation to be on par with the private sector- say 15 PTO days (combined sick and vacation) per year. 20 PTO days if we want to be generous.

            I think I just saved a lot of money without even firing anyone.

            But we do need to fire people. I would not be opposed to 5 percent head count reductions across all city departments. I think this could be achieved with a minimal impact on services rendered. Again, everyone else can just work harder.

            I will look at the budget this weekend and I will come up with entire departments that can be entirely eliminated. Some will miss them. I will not.

            On another note, we made Pension Tsunami!!!

            http://www.pensiontsunami.com/

          3. Whoa, mister!
            It’s all very well talking about making things comparable to the private sector, but let’s get real. The City employees are NOT paid anything comparable to private sector wages and now you want to cut their benefits?!

            Do you have a family? You are being very cavalier about the health and well-being about the families of City employees. “Eliminate family health insurance coverage. If employees want it, they can pay out of pocket.” Do you know what out of pocket costs are for family health coverage?

            It is already extremely difficult for City employees to even live in Evanston on what they are earning now. Yes, I understand, you are trying to make it more affordable to live in Evanston by proposing budget cuts. But really, the City is hardly bursting at the seams with employees and they are definitely not very well paid. This is NOT the private sector.

          4. Only one group of City employees should pay full price -Lisa!
            Lisa there is only one group of city employees who should pay full price for medical insurance and that is our part time city council members – even you should agree that the sweet heart deal they have created for themselves to paid $37 a month for medical insurance for a Blue Cross PPO for their families is a rip off.

            All other city employees pay $150 to $180 a month for the same coverage.

            By the way no other part time employees can even get coverage!

            I do not want to cut the regular employees medical coverage – they appear reasonable – but I do believe that we should selectively cut and eliminate employees and programs. Not taking a dart to the board – or the game they have played for years a few percent cut in each department.

            The problem is council members refuse to make any decisions and do any thing – other than to give them selves a 20% pay raise this year.

            One other point – I do not think city employees and private sector employees doing the same work and with the same education and skill set- are paid all that much different, as the private sector is shrinking better skilled employees are working for the government.

          5. Are any city jobs going
            Are any city jobs going unfilled because prospective employees would rather work for the allegedly better compensated private sector? I doubt it. People flock to public sector jobs not out of a civic spirit to serve others, but because they seek job security, benefits and minimal accountability.

            How long do you think that the mediocre public education monopoly would survive in its present form if it had to compete for customers and their dollars in a free market as do private sector businesses?

          6. Check the numbers
            Let’s lay the facts down on the table and compare total compensation of the median full-time City of Evanston employee (and I include D65, the police, fire, everyone who receives a check from the taxpayers) to the median compensation of a private sector full time employee in the Chicagoland area.

            I am willing to bet that if you that when you take into account all compensation- salary, insurance benefits, present value of pension and other post-retirement benefits, the public sector employee comes out ahead.

            And the public sector employee has the benefit of never, ever having to worry about losing their job as the lack of profit motive means an employee’s performance is more or less irrelevant.

          7. Compare
            Obviously, I can’t give specifics – but I can say that our income is well under the $78,886 figure quoted as Evanston’s median income by the Evanston Public Library. Add to that the approximately five years of life expectancy lost to firefighters and police officers – what would you consider appropriate compensation for that? Or the fact that firefighters face double the risk of cancer throughout their lifetimes than other workers? There’s not a one-to-one correspondence to the private sector, even with the considerations you raise.

            Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          8. Michelle, those of us who
            Michelle, those of us who are sick and tired of being strong armed by the public sector for, at best mediocre services, are derided by you for our offensive lack of empathy for tax consumers feasting on the fruits of our labor.

            If customers show a lack of empathy for the products and prices of their neighborhood grocery store by taking their business elsewhere, the grocer must do something to regain their empathy. Would you regard yourself as being fairly treated if the grocer, instead of improving his product line and prices, used force to keep you as a customer? I’m sure you would, and rightly so, regard his behavior as criminal.

            Evanston’s insatiable appetite for our tax dollars, collected at gunpoint, is no different. Those who resist the coercive grocer would be regarded as heroes. Those who resist the tax collector are regarded as criminals and killed. Any empathy for the latter?

          9. Management vs staff, planning vs complaining
            Nowhere am I saying that taxes don’t need to be cut. Certainly there are areas in the City where services need to improve. However, the implication that City employees deserve less consideration than anyone else is offensive. A grocer still has to pay his employees whether or not he runs his business appropriately.

            What I’m trying to say is that it isn’t sufficient to complain about high taxes, as with any budget, you need to decide specifically what we can do without. Employee benefits and salaries are our responsibility as an employer, we have an agreement and an obligation to live up to with the people we hire.

            OTOH, if you have a problem with City services, be specific: the times that I’ve recieved service that I thought was inappropriate, I informed the supervisor and in some cases the Alderman – bad service is certainly a waste of tax dollars. I also believe it’s important to also bring up good service whenever I see it. General, nonspecific complaints about costs and services just make for longer, more expensive budget meetings.

            As a community, we have to find a way to stop asking for lower taxes and better services at the same time. You have to choose one or the other.

            Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          10. Planning vs complaining vs accomplishing
            Michele,

            After reading Bill’s piece on the the excessive overhead on the township (Ann Rainey has had her eye on this for quite a while)and seeing your comment:

            “As a community, we have to find a way to stop asking for lower taxes and better services at the same time. You have to choose one or the other.

            There is a way to have both. Have a public vote or poll to rank order city services or functions, assign a $value to each rank ordered service/function, and decide on a budget limit — then use the hatchet. There could be a series of public meetings to delineate the function/services to help inform the citizens.

            Obviously “stakeholders” can sway this, so the polling/ranking has to be done in an unbiased way. perhaps NU’s Kellogg and other NU schools could be of assistance. There is plenty of intellectual capital there that could assist the citizens in ordering our city functions and services. It would not cost NU their precious dollars and it would be a valuable experience for the students.

            Best of all it provides a way for citizens to express their needs.

          11. who will do the ranking?
            Vito says:
            “There is a way to have both. Have a public vote or poll to rank order city services or functions, assign a $value to each rank ordered service/function, and decide on a budget limit — then use the hatchet. There could be a series of public meetings to delineate the function/services to help inform the citizens.”

            The problem, as I have pointed out before, is that only the ‘activists’ will come out to the polls or to the meetings.

            You want a poll to rank our services? My guess, based on the number of lawn signs and letters to EvanstonNow, is that the ranking would be:

            1. Zoning enforcement (and preventing development)
            2. Elm tree injections
            3. The Dawes House

            Police, fire, and sanitation would be somewhere at the bottom of the list.

            It really is like MetaCynic wrote above:

            “I agree that spending cuts are always fiercely opposed by tax consumers’ lobbies. The spilled tears are not for the alleged hardships inflicted on us by cuts in “essential” services. The greedy tax consumers are mourning the potential losses of their jobs and city contracts. They couldn’t care less about those of us who pay their salaries”

            This is exactly why I opposed a referendum on the Tower – all of the extremists from Central St. would show up to kill the Tower, while the indifferent silent majority would remain at home. Another example, the faux referendum on ‘saving’ the Civic Center, where maybe 10% of the registered voters came to the polls and overwhelmingly voted in favor of ‘saving’ the Civic Center (without any mentioned of the costs or tradeoffs involved). The tax consumers all came out to support their White Elephant Civic Center.

            So no, Vito, taking a poll won’t solve anything. We need aldermen with backbone, who are willing to stand up to the noisy organized special interests ( the elm lobby, the anti-tower lobby, the Friends of the Civic Center, the ECRD, CSNA, the people who want to preserve the branch libraries, etc.) and make decisions based on what is in the best long-term interests (NPV) of the City.

          12. I agree with both of you
            Sadly, I believe zero-based budgeting was tried at some point and voted down as futile. However, I certainly agree that without some basic standards or rankings and without officials who give the standards teeth, we will be in this situation every single budget season.

            I agree completely that there are places to cut, services that we don’t need, could be privatized, or are being offered inefficiently. The Township is an excellent example: Charity Navigator, an online rating system for charities, offers a score of 0 (the worst score) to community foundations (who have a similar purpose) with administrative expenses of more than 25%, less than half what the Township spends (best score is less than 10%.) Museums, which have the highest allowance for administration, only get a 0 at 45% administrative costs.

            I wonder, also, about all the consultants we pay for: it seems like this is a cost stretched far beyond its original purpose of due diligence.

            Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          13. Mr Who Knows What? does not comprehend
            Obviously Mr WKW? did not bother to read the post and went on with his usual bias — exactly the thing I want to avoid. That is why I stated:

            “Obviously “stakeholders” can sway this, so the polling/ranking has to be done in an unbiased way. perhaps NU’s Kellogg and other NU schools could be of assistance. There is plenty of intellectual capital there that could assist the citizens in ordering our city functions and services. It would not cost NU their precious dollars and it would be a valuable experience for the students.”

            Just because you have people who are outspoken (ahem!) does not mean that they have to skew the results. There are ways of polling that can eliminate skewed results. If you were awake during the recent elections, you might have noticed numerous polls.

            Besides it would be a great way for NU, whose presence is one of Mr WKW?’s highest ranking attributes of living in Evanston, to assist the City.

          14. Michele, what is wrong with
            Michele, what is wrong with expecting better services for lower taxes? The private sector, except for those industries under the thumb of government regulation, such as health care, has for generations been providing increasingly better products and services at lower prices. The mechanism that makes this possible? Competition! Each of us votes every day with his or her money in the purchase of goods and services. There is no need to indulge in faith based activities such a writing letters, making phone calls, signing petitions or voting every four years as is required to improve public sector services.

            Ideally all public services should be privatized. In the interim, basic municipal services which we collectively use such as streets, fire protection, water and sewage treatment can be funded through property taxes. Everything else such as the park system, libraries and schools should be funded through user fees paid for only by those who voluntarily choose to use them. The latter would be forced to compete for customers who are free to take their business elsewhere.

            Unfortunately the absence of competition is both the defining characteristic of “services” funded by taxes collected at gunpoint and a fatal flaw in that model. In the absence of competition and profit and loss feedback, government “services”, even if provided by saints and geniuses would be mediocre at best. In the real world where psychopaths, thieves, liars, irresponsible malingerers and violent criminals gravitate towards the public sector, because that’s where the guns and power are, the mediocre is further contaminated with thievery, injustice and corruption. Such dregs of society, who would be quickly weeded out of the private sector because they can drag down entire companies, always seem to find a home in public “service.”

            Unlike private businesses which live on profits generated by customers who voluntarily exchange their money for goods and services and are always free to take their business elsewhere, there is no effective mechanism for correcting bad services in the public sector. Why should bureaucrats be responsive when failure to please customers (taxpayers) is routinely rewarded with increased funding collected at gunpoint through higher taxes? In the private sector, such failure is punished with a visit to bankruptcy court. To illustrate my point, I recall when the state of Illinois was able to fund its operations with a 4% sales tax and no income tax. Today we groan beneath a 10% sales tax, a 3% income tax and crippling property taxes. Yet like a drug addict, the state and municipalities are still crying poverty and clamoring for ever more money!

            The dark secret of public services is that some people, the tax consumers, perceive that they are receiving more in benefits than they are paying in taxes. Our much celebrated political democracy is simply the means whereby a large number of voters lives out the illusion that they are getting something for nothing at the expense of someone else. Evanston’s gentle liberals would recoil at the thought of taking a gun and robbing people on the street in order to finance their pet projects and causes. Yet that is exactly what they do every time they support public spending increases. It is the tax collectors with guns who do their dirty work for them.

            A society is at all times faced with the choice of organizing its activities either spontaneously through decentralized, peaceful cooperation or through the use of force wielded by its most unsavory members in the name of our collective well being. The former is the road to civilization and prosperity. The latter to economic ruin, war and slavery.

          15. Psychopaths, thieves and violent criminals
            MetaCynic says:
            In the real world where psychopaths, thieves, liars, irresponsible malingerers and violent criminals gravitate towards the public sector, because that’s where the guns and power are, the mediocre is further contaminated with thievery, injustice and corruption. Such dregs of society, who would be quickly weeded out of the private sector because they can drag down entire companies, always seem to find a home in public “service.”

            This is nonsense. In the private sector, psychopaths, thieves and criminals are promoted to senior management positions.

          16. Mr. Who Knows:
            Any business

            Mr. Who Knows:

            Any business in a free market economy managed by psychopaths, thieves and criminals would quickly fail because its customers would desert it. They would do so because the only power a business operating in a free market has is that of persuasion, and we consumers are free to not respond to that siren song. Force and fraud are universally recognized as criminal and laws exist to deal with them.

            That said, today’s business world is infested with psychopaths, thieves and criminals who thrive not because of a defect in the free market but because they are sponsored and/or protected by people with guns – the government. Such business people are political entrepreneurs whose “success” is not the result of superior products or services but of a knack for lobbying government for monopoly privileges, contracts, tariffs, handouts and bailouts.

            Prime examples of such activity are the recent taxpayer bailout of the incompetent banking and domestic automobile industries, routine FDA approval of dangerous drugs and wars fought for the benefit of the military industrial complex.

          17. not quickly
            MetaCynic says:
            “Any business in a free market economy managed by psychopaths, thieves and criminals would quickly fail because its customers would desert it. They would do so because the only power a business operating in a free market has is that of persuasion, and we consumers are free to not respond to that siren song”

            This may be true in the idealized magical land of ‘true’ free-markets, just like under ‘true’ communism their would be no oppression, but in the real world the psychopaths and criminals manage to survive – often by purchasing political protection, or using their power to destroy competition as you say in your las paragraph. So, at the very least, we can’t say that a business managed by psychopaths and criminals would ‘quickly’ fail – in most cases, it would take some time for the criminal nature of management to be exposed.

            By then the psychopaths and criminals and thieves in senior management will have made their fortunes , and when the fraud is discovered all of the little worker bees will lose their jobs.

          18. It doesn’t take a weatherman…
            My first newspaper beat ten years ago was “Enron”. One of the saddest things I have ever covered was a career fair for Enron’s “worker bees” who were out of luck– mostly pest control companies and prisons were hiring that day.

            To believe that consumers would “desert it” is so laughable I just snorted up my cocoa puffs/IHOP pancakes.

            These executives (psychopaths, criminals, thieves) navigate the ocean of business without the mentality of a ship captain– if the ship goes down, they’re the first in the lifeboat and the band can keep playing for all they care.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/business/worldbusiness/21siemens.html

          19. Concerned and Amused Citizen
            Concerned and Amused Citizen says:
            “To believe that consumers would “desert it” is so laughable I just snorted up my cocoa puffs/IHOP pancakes.”

            Well, I’m glad that you agree with me, ‘Concerned and Amused’, and I am glad that you too enjoy Cocoa Puffs and IHOP – but I am concerned that if you try to sound like me, the conspiracy theorists will think that we are the same person.

            {I suggest that in your future postings, you make wild and unsubstantiated accustions of fraud and corruption so that people will think that you are one of the ‘real name’ posters }

          20. RE: Breakfast/ Thoughts on Being a New Resident
            Sorry Mr. HK, I didn’t know you actually ate that, I thought that was a Junad line for those of us who neglect community meetings. I make better food choices, more like oats and oranges.

            If it helps, I am probably the youngest poster on this board (I think the median age around here is 300), I am a Mrs. and I went to NU very recently, but then made the mistake of purchasing a home here where everyone in politics is completely annoying. I was a journalist, and now I am working towards being a botanist. (Yep really sling for the papers I have in the past covering towns like yours, you’ll want to garden professionally too.)

            My thoughts on Evanston so far as a new resident:

            1. Everyone here is super smart and I think that gets us all into trouble– a lot of “planning the plan” type techniques if you will. All talk, no game.
            2. Everyone seems really “liberal” but then there’s a bucket of racial undertones, that make me uncomfortable.
            3. If I was male, I would apparently have to grow a beard and ride an unconventional bicycle to fit in.
            4. Evanston seems to work from the ground up not the top down. I have experienced so much kindness from my neighbors since moving here, I am still taken aback when I walk out of my house and my driveway has been magically shoveled. I pay it forward too because that example is set for me. However, if a program was implemented for driveway shoveling at City Hall, I’d be waiting for 10 years while the plan is worked over with consultants and academics.
            5. OH MY GOSH TAXES. I’m already considering a move elsewhere.
            6. I’m more nervous walking in Downtown Evanston, then I ever was in rough parts of Philly and DC. I don’t understand why the onslaught of petty crime here.
            7. If Mr. Dinges bought me a pizza, “dude”, I’d probably vote for him. Just because I know it’s the aldermen we have to worry about it.
            8. How do I keep randomly ending up in Skokie all the time? The city boundaries confuse me.
            9. Why do we have like, four really bad print newspapers in Evanston? I come here because Bill is 90 zillion times more awesome than the free kindle thrown into my driveway weekly. I refer to all the print news organizations around here as “shoppers”. (Remember those? Yeah.)
            10. I, actually didn’t know so many of you hated the University. I must have been buffered from that.

            Cheers,
            CAAC

          21. Ms.CAAC
            Everyone who post here does not have to attend the meetings – but Mr.Who makes may silly claims, which maybe he would learn something if he bother to go to the meetings.As a former journalist you would understand there is more to a story than what is posted on a web site.

            Anyway – I am glad to see you enjoy living here. One thing since you are interested in being a botanist. You should consider getting a garden plot at one of the city community gardens.

            Many of us over 300 year olds – have been around here long enough to know what is going on – next year you better hold on to your pocket book, since the city budget is about to spin out of control. Alot of trends are coming together were the council members have no more room to get out of the mess they have create.

            ( I have not eaten Cocoa puffs since I was 10 years old – and there are better places to eat Pancakes than IHOP – MR Who needs to expand his horizons )

          22. You’re right, Mr. Who Knows!
            You’re right, Mr. Who Knows! That is why any expansion of taxes and government power must be vigorously opposed and existing taxes, laws and regulations must be rolled back. These things exist not to serve and protect the public as we are tirelessly urged to believe but to enrich those, within both the private and public sectors, who employ the police power of the state to live at the expense of others.

      2. Michele lets start at the top of the food chain
        Michele – are you OK that the council members just gave themselves a 20% raise for next year or the fact they pay $37 a month for full family medical coverage with a Blue cross PPO. The employees are not the biggest issue here.

        Yes there are employees that can be cut – bottom line – the aldermen will continue to protect programs and unnecessary positions. I have pointed this out a council several times this year if you wish to read the minutes.

        Also as one upset citizen said at the last council they are continuing to spend – on alot of nonsense that is unnecessary.

        I suggest you read my post on the 4.9% increase – because next year the council will most likely tax you through the roof – since they are going to be draining down the reserve.

        PS – live-safety services should be taken a hard look at too – I am certain some of the positions are not really necessary.

          1. Michele – the injection program saves money
            Michele – I suggest you go talk to staff the Elm injection program saves money – that is the bottom line. ( there are plenty of posting on this and in council minutes if you wish to read them )

            By the way there are injection for ash trees – it is not a good use of our tax dollars so I would not even suggest it. ( ash trees are much smaller )

            Michele if you went to APW and saw your council members in action you would understand the problems we have here – and how they continue to waste money – staff is not the biggest problem.

            Michele are you OK with the compensation here of council members you never answer that question?

          2. Prove it
            The numbers given on tree injections change every time someone asks for them: get me the numbers of the cost of injecting the trees for their entire natural lives and THEN cutting them down when they die vs the cost of letting them die off naturally. I have seen no evidence that the collection of numbers given considers the long-term costs.

            As for the staffing, I believe that issue was covered in this blog, you yourself said we lost 58 people. So far as I can see, no services have been eliminated – which means that someone else has taken on responsibility for those people’s jobs.

            Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          3. It has been done
            Michele – the analysis has been done – over and over – If you are so concerned go talk to anyone in forestry about the program – they are stating it is working and saving cost.

            Actually Michele services have been eliminated – you are very mistaken ( as far as you can see )- services have been cut in the Health department ( the city was going to past the services to the county and it never happened ) – the amount of street cleaning has been cut back recently. ( I do not recall stating any number of employees cut )

            Frankly I seriously doubt anyone is working two jobs now versus one. Their responsibilities may have changed due to reorganization.

            Has the number of firefighters or paramedics been cut? ( the only problem there has been they are always behind on hiring them! ) It appears to me there has just been rearrangement of management jobs in the fire department – not in the number of actual employees doing the day to day work out of the fire stations.

          4. It has NOT
            I’m not going to continue this argument further, so this is the last I will say: The park district has brought a different set of numbers every time the political wind changed on this issue. The definitive numbers on the total cost for the lifetime of the trees for have never been brought to the table.

            How is “reorganizing” different from what I suggested? While the health department indeed was cut, that’s only one department – and I believe none of the retirees were from that department. Otherwise, the retirees’ jobs were absorbed – which means someone else took over their responsibilities.

            Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          5. Park Distirct?
            Michele – we do not have a “park District” the recreation department is part of the city of Evanston and is not separate as a taxing district. We all pay for the forestry department budget line items out of our taxes to the City of Evanston. You also are part of the Ridgeville park district, which is its own taxing body. I happen to also pay taxes to the lighthouse park district. As someone who ran for the board of the Park district, ( and won ) I would think you should know all this.

            I do not recall you speaking at the numerous meetings on the elms. I agree with you this is a not an issue now since they are doing the program which is working and saving money!

            Michele – there is alot of smoke and mirrors here – on what is going on with the departments and staff – if you ever bother to look at the budget and past budgets you would know the city has made it much harder to determine the number of employees in each department and their tie into the budget,years ago they listed FTE under each budget line item now they are not!

            By the way as I recall some of the health department workers did retire – so you are not correct on that point. The director for a fact took early retirement and I recall someothers also! ( why they took it I could not say )

            You need to do more research. – no one is working two jobs –

          6. Where’s your research, then
            Junad, what you are offering isn’t research-based, either. What I meant was that the majority of the people in the health department didn’t take the early retirement, the jobs were just cut. I’m sorry my semantics weren’t accurate, but by Parks Department, I meant the entire City’s parks/forestry/recreation department, which I am certain you knew.

            As for “no one is working two jobs” what about, for instance, Doug Gaynor? Isn’t he not only direcor of Parks and Forestry and also currently working as an Assistant City Manager? I’m certain there are other specific instances.

            Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

          7. Michele – senior manager is different than regular employees
            Michele – I will not speak for Doug Gaynor’s work load- but he is a senior manager at the city – he is being given management responsibiltiy for more departments. He is NOT working two jobs.

            The truth of the matter – is if the people under him are doing their jobs – that is the other managers he is not by any means doubling his work load. Yes it is adding work – he now meets with the new managers one on one I would suspect and he now answers to council for these departments. The day to day operations are still being done by the working managers in the individual departments. By the way Mr.Gaynor is compensated very well as a senior manager so I doubt he is complaining.

            You may or may not understand that.

            Michele by the way years ago they cut alot of management at the city – because taxpayers were mad –
            so this is nothing new.

            Let me put it another way – has the city asked firefighters to do any additional work? ( we all know they are under contract ), since you should be familar with that department. I do not believe individual employees who are doing hourly tasks are being asked to work more hours for free. Since they are paid by the hour they will collect overtime.

  6. Eliminate Public Access TV
    Public Information Office:

    Line Item 62665 CONTRIB TO OTHER AGENCIES $353,000

    (ECMC = Evanston Community Media Center) Public access television has lost its viability.

    Get rid of this drain now!

    Worried about Council Meeting coverage? Give some college kid $20 an hour to manage the control room.

    Then take a fraction of the 1/3 of a million per year that the city gives ECMC and invest in a web streaming system to serve the tiny population that watches the council meetings on channel 16. This would probably increase community involvement and public information by having council meetings available over the web.

    Replace channel 6 with Bravo already!

    1. ECMC/ Street Cred
      You’re right. ECMC is a line item that has lost its relevance as technology has changed.

      While I’m at it, Michele H, can you upload a resume? I perused your home page and links, but I just don’t know what it is you do for a living!

      You chastise others with comments like, “Do you work for the city?”

      Do YOU? I am looking for a frame of reference, please don’t respond with “I’m an activist.” I am probably behind here, but I am trying not to write you off as the kid in school with his hand chronically raised.

      Seriously, I would like you if you can give me some background, but you’re really giving me the empty-nester with laptop vibe. You too Junad. Who are you?!

      Please inform me as to what qualifies you both for public service other than being available 24/7 to duke it out on a forum.

      Come on guys, even Barnaby Dinges has a rap sheet!

      1. Even Barnaby Dinges has a rap sheet!
        Concerned and Amused Citizen says:

        ” You too Junad. Who are you?!”

        Yes…who is this Junad Rizki guy? If that is his real name.

        Concerned and Amused Citizen, again:

        “Come on guys, even Barnaby Dinges has a rap sheet!”

        Very funny comment, Concerned and Amused Citizen. I was doing research on Dinges’ parking meter proposal, and I came across the following:

        Building Public Support for the New Stadium and Park
        A unique public-private partnership between the Chicago Park District (as owner of the structure) and the Chicago Bears (as the developer) hired The Dinges Gang to direct a public information campaign and build support for the project. President Barnaby Dinges served as project spokesperson and lead strategist throughout the 20-month construction and communication campaign.

        http://www.dingesgang.com/strategy.html

        I think that the ‘renovation’ of Soldier Field was a complete waste of money. Not only was it a give-away to the Bears , but – and this is important – Soldier Field itself really was not worth keeping. It was just an old stadium. If we want to subsidize pro sports – and I don’t – we would have been better off just building a new stadium somewhere more accessable by CTA and Metra – and not waste that beautiful lakefront property on a stadium that is empty 95% of the time.

        What does this have to do with Evanston?

        Well…we have a big, decrepit, obsolete hulking building that is in need of repair and not easily accessed by public transportation. Some people think it is historic, but it is just old. Some people want to spend a lot of money to ‘repair’ it, and claim that it is cheaper than building a new building. Of course, we all know that if the building is ‘repaired’, the final costs will be well over the lowball projections – just like Soldier Field.

        Others, who have studied NPV, disagree. They suggest that replacing the big dangerous building with a modern, centrally located building, and putting the valuable land currently occupied by the building to better use.

        Can anyone guess which building I am referring to?

        Mr. Dinges- do you think that the city should pour money into remodelling old and decrepit public buildings?

        1. Investing Wisely in Our Aging Infrastructure
          I consider our much-used older buildings and community centers vitals parts of our infrastructure and City. We need to get our prioritiues right and invest wisely in those buildings and shared public infrastructure that need to be upgraded and maintained.

          Regarding The New Stadium at Soldier Field, I’m proud of the work I did on the project six years ago >> fans love it and it nets $10-million per year in new funds for city parks. Remember, the Park District owns Soldier Field and everything around it; all the Bears have is a lease.

          1. NPV of Soldier Field
            “Regarding The New Stadium at Soldier Field, I’m proud of the work I did on the project six years ago >> fans love it and it nets $10-million per year in new funds for city parks. Remember, the Park District owns Soldier Field and everything around it; all the Bears have is a lease.”

            And the Bears get money from the new luxury boxes, right?

            It nets $10M per year? Around $400M in public funds were invested in a project that nets $10M per year? What is the NPV of that?

            We also have to consider the opportunity cost…what if we had something else on that prime lakefront property? How much would it bring in per year?

            Regarding Evanston’s municipal buildings…there are times when it is better to just sell or demolish an old building, and build a new replacement.

            Fire stations, for example. We have demolished and replace two stations on Central Street, because the old ones just weren’t worth repairing, and they did not meet modern standards. There are some even older fire stations around town which now house restaurants or retail.

            When a public building, like the ‘Civic Center’ on Ridge, is obsolete, decrepit, not ADA compliant, and requires a lot of money to repair, then the best thing to do is build a modern replacement.

      2. Just trying to make a difference
        At this time, if it matters, I am a stay-at-home Mom who is putting a full-time job’s worth of time volunteering for my neighborhood and my child’s D65 school (most of which is on my web page.) I have served for many years as a Board member for a local preschool because I support their mission statement. I am on the Evanston Police Advisory board and work with the Police on a regular basis, I also work directly with Alderman Rainey and with the Property Standards Department in addressing serious area housing and safety issues. I’ve worked with Ridgeville Park District to address recreation and safety issues in the neighborhood. Recently, our group has been able to work with neighbors in Chicago to address cross-border issues, which has a huge impact on crime prevention in the area, especially since individuals don’t face the cross-jurisdictional red tape that municipalities do. I communicate with my neighbors through an email blast list that over 70 people have requested to be on, including homeowners, landlords, tenants and business owners (neighbors can ask to be on that list through the neighborhood web site linked below.)

        I set up the webpage to answer just such a question, I’m sorry that it isn’t sufficient. I don’t get paid for what I do, so I don’t have a resume – (I have a BA and two AA degrees, if that matters) but I’m fairly confident that I’m having a positive effect on the neighborhood where I live: you can verify that through the crime maps, or by contacting my Alderman or the EPD and asking about me. Since this community has given me the opportunity to stay home and raise my child, I believe I have an obligation to give back.

        I am also paying careful attention to what’s going on at City Hall – many of the departments decried by posters here are people I’ve worked with directly to make a positive difference in our area. We own our home in Evanston, and my husband is an Evanston Firefighter, so I am directly affected by budget issues on both ends of the spectrum.

        I suppose I am the kid in class with their hand raised all the time, but it seems to me that if we want change, we need to look at these issues less emotionally and more practically. Nobody wants to pay more taxes or get less from their government, but we need to make sure when discussing the budget that we don’t cut off our nose to spite our face. I also believe very strongly that we need to take action on issues that affect us – and I agree, all this talking isn’t the answer. All I can say in my own defense is that I put my name behind what I say, I follow up my words with action and it has made a difference in my neighborhood.

        Michele Hays

        Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

    2. More proposed eliminations
      Here’s a few more programs that I think can be eliminated entirely without the world coming to an end. I apologize, I was working off the 08-09 budget instead of 09-10. I just focused on those programs that sounded like socialism or whose stated purpose was so vague as to convince me that they don’t do anything of absolutely vital importance.

      Miscellaneus Business Operations- $355K
      Youth Engagement Division- $113K
      Sustainability Grant- $79K
      GIS- $332K (Objectives #1 and #2 in PY were to inform public of their purpose- not a good sign)
      Budget Office- $201K (FInance/Accounting should prep the budget)
      Administrative Adjudication- $373K
      Housing code compliance- $691K
      Housing Rehabilitation- $356K
      School/Community Liason- $375K
      Community Strategies Bureau- $235K
      Problem Solving team- $645K
      Family and Community Wellness- $472K
      Dental Services- $368K
      Homeless Services- $87K
      Community Purchased Services- $885K
      Commission on Aging- $159K
      Subsidized taxicab services- $292K
      Summer youth employment program- $334K
      Human Relations Commission- $140K
      North Branch library- $161K
      South branch library- $196K

      That’s $6.8 million in cuts. If necessary, I’ve earmarked an additional $6 million in recreation-related cuts (mostly through closing most of the centers- assuming they don’t turn a profit). All that without even looking at waste that exists within the other programs. I also didn’t have time to look at anything other than the general fund.

      1. Pennywise
        First of all, wasn’t the dental services program cut last year? Second, do know anything about what youre proposing to cut? In several cases, the programs you list are cost-saving measures, removing them means the need for taxes goes up elsewhere.

        For instance, housing inspections – I know of at least one instance where inspectors found that the only access to the rear of a building was an unstable second-floor porch. Note how porch collapses have affected Chicago, not to mention the potential loss of life in the Fire Department for which we are partially financially responsible.

        The Community Strategies Bureau and Problem Solving Team in the police department have been extremely successful in working with our neighbors to create crime prevention strategies. This has reduced crime and calls for service in our neighborhood by a measurable amount, a cost savings.

        Administrative Adjudication is a cost-saving measure whereby the City avoids the expense of court at Cook County, which would require the presence of not only the citing officer, but our legal team. Otherwise, prosecuting ordinance violations becomes a HUGE expense.

        If we decide to save by doing without, that’s one thing – but we need to be sure that we aren’t increasing costs by random and unreasonable budget cuts.

        Find out more about Brummel Park Neighbors and Michele Hays

        1. Michele – costs will not go up with cost cutting
          Michele your porch example will not increase cost to the tax payers. The city does not have an ordinance in place like chicago were the porches are inspected.

          It is my understanding the porches in Chicago need to be inspected by an outside license professional ( not a chicago city employee ) – Michele for your information the people at the city of Evanston doing the residential inspection are NOT licensed professionals. It is my understandign they have no licensed structural engineer on staff.

          Your porch example makes no sense, since it is questionable if the city has anyone qualified to inspect porches.

          The property standard inspection program is something in my opinion should be down side and minimize, not expanded – we don’t need people running around citing residents for weeds and pealing paint.

      2. dp witt come saturady to the budget hearing!
        dp – come saturday to the budget hearing and voice your concern. But understand the city does not like to cut fat and waste. I have spoken for years that they need to cut things. Many of the council members know it, but none will act.

        A few of my favorities –

        Once a council member stated if a program the city was creating help one person it was a sucess.

        Or when the spent $1 to give a $1 away to the needy.

        A few new ones-

        Employ Evanston Residents

        $80,000 for affordable housing administration

        $20,000 for art work on a bridge passed a month ago.

        You mentioned the sustainable grant – I have spoken at council they need to elminate the position – I believe it is costing a great deal more than the orginal grant.

        Michele Hayes pointed out one example the reason we need to spend hundreds of thousand of dollars on inspection which the vast majority are useless.
        ( sounds like the aderperson if we help one person it was worth it! )With many homeowners have difficultly paying for things the city is starting to up the amount of inspections since they do not have permit revenue, all the more interesting.

        Dp – few speak – but if more spoke maybe there would be cuts – since if they move ahead with drawing down the reserves next year will be very interesting – the special interest groups will have a very hard time protecting their interests.

        1. I’d rather watch ‘Walker Texas Ranger’
          DP – I am all for cutting wasteful spending – especially the branch libraries. Some of your other cuts – like housing code enforcement – appear to be extreme. Still, I hope that you will contact your alderman and give him or her your list.

          This Budget Review Workshop is at 9am on a Saturday. I certainly don’t feel like getting up and going all the way to the ‘Civic Center’ (which, in addition to being dangerous and decrepit, is inconveniently located for most Evanston residents – which is why we should build a new one closer to the center of town).

          I will most likely be in my living room enjoying breakfast , with a cup of coffee, a piece of holiday cake, and a bowl of Cocoa Puffs ( a tip for Enquiring Minds : The Fresh Market in Wilmette – Skokie at Lake, where the Carson’s is – has most of their Christmas items, including coffee and cakes and even some wine, at good markdowns. )

          I see no point in going to all of these meetings, especially if the weather is bad. And I also notice that the USA network will be showing ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ on Saturday morning.

          Junad -I don’t see why you think that every city government meeting has to be an audience participation event. While citizens should ask questions, testify, and make comments – I don’t care much for the theatrical presentations during public meetings. ( Remember during the hearings on the Tower, when all the old people from Wards 6 and 7 came to the meeting, wearing their buttons and making noise? They just looked silly.)

          I think that all of the aldermen know your opinions on the budget – and every other issue – already, so I don’t see what you will accomplish by appearing at this meeting.

          Those who have suggestions or questions should contact their alderman or the appropriate city official, and of course everyone should let their alderman know how they feel about an issue ( please don’t bother any of the other 8 alderman, unless that person is running for mayor).

          Those who just want to make vague accusations and hear themselves talk without offering any helpful solutions should stay at home.

          1. Who – enjoy you cocoa puffs on Saturday –
            Who – you continue to miss the very important point that if no one speaks the council thinks what they are doing is OK – and they will continue to do what they are doing.

            You should be quite concerned – since you may not have enough $ to buy your cocoa puffs if they drain down the reserves and don’t have the funds in the next budget cycle to run the city.

            By the way Who – you think the council members do not make “theatrical presentations” you should come to the meetings!

        2. It seems that the big
          It seems that the big spenders in the council chambers are indifferent to anything that we serfs have to say on the matter. Since taxes are collected at gunpoint, they see no need to be frugal, practical or efficient with our money. The thugs simply stick us up every time there’s a budget shortfall.

          Speaking out at council meetings is futile. Will pleading with an armed robber get one anywhere? They hold the upper hand. Why should they listen? The only message which the big spenders understand is voter dissatisfaction at the ballot box.

          In the mean time we can stage massive torchlight demonstrations outside city hall to remind the big spenders that we, the masters, are serious about tax and spending cuts.

          1. MetaCynic – going to the meetings has an effect!
            Mr Who is very mistaken – going to the meetings and speaking out has an effect. Even if only one goes they listen, but if twenty people show up at the hearing and want cuts it has an effect.

            At the last council one citizen got very upset and complained they would not listen to him – about any cuts he wanted. They did not act. He does not realize that for every item that can and should be cut their are supporters.

            Years ago the Chamber of commerce -produced a document called the “DIET” which basically told them to cut employees – the next year the city had a massive cut of employees. (early 90’s)

            But everyone should realize the groups that get funds will fight back – last year they were going to cut $75,000 off the Mental Health board budget the hearing was full of speakers against any cuts and the council members were lobbied not to cut anything.

            So it is never easy to get cuts.

            Also years ago voters cut the size of the council in half – since they were angry about the high taxes.

            I think this year voters may not react too strong since it appears they are going to keep the increase small (4.9%) – by taking down the reserves – but next year – will be very interesting -since they will have to have major cuts or a massive tax increase since the reserves will be cut.

          2. I agree that spending cuts
            I agree that spending cuts are always fiercely opposed by tax consumers’ lobbies. The spilled tears are not for the alleged hardships inflicted on us by cuts in “essential” services. The greedy tax consumers are mourning the potential losses of their jobs and city contracts. They couldn’t care less about those of us who pay their salaries.

            People aren’t yet hurting enough to voice organized opposition to the latest proposed money grab. I think that the growing pain of the accelerating economic meltdown might finally jolt the McCitizens out of their stupor. Maybe Americans will then find the spine to stand up to the thieving political class.

        3. Thanks for the invite
          I feel like I should go, but I also suspect that my voice won’t make a difference. I feel like a voice in the wilderness in this town.

    3. public access is not a drain but an asset
      I would respectfully disagree that ECMC is a waste or a drain on our resources. First of all, it is not a tiny number of citizens watching city council, plan commission, budget and other meetings, nor is it a small number watching District 65 board meetings, school programs and other outlets. (When cable service goes out, the calls to the city, to District 65 and to the ECMC are like a flood when those meetings and programs are scheduled to air.) It is the only place where Evanstonians, regardless of their affiliation, economic status or any other factors can get their message out effectively. While Bill does a great job of disseminating information on this website, it is a news site. It is not a forum for everyone, and not everyone has internet access. This is also not a format which works for everyone, or for every kind of message. For those who have cable television, they are able to get truly local programming and information available nowhere else, and they don’t have to convince a commercial outlet to sponsor it or sell ad time in it.
      It is also worth noting that funding for ECMC comes from the cable franchise fee that cable subscribers pay to Comcast every month. Those monies go to the City, and the city in turn pays a SMALL FRACTION of that to ECMC.
      Furthermore, “some college kid” cannot manage that control room as you put it. Managing that signal is more than operating a camera. Web streaming is not yet a viable alternative to broadcasting meetings that last longer than 3 hours.
      Finally, Comcast will never replace ECTV with Bravo or with any other premium station. If you want Bravo, you will need to pony up with Comcast for that tier level.
      I might add that, should you look at how the City has budgeted over time, there has been very little increase in ECMC funding over the last ten years. This year’s slight increase only covers direct costs for extra meeting coverage that citizens are loudly clamoring for; there is no increase for anything else, even though ECMC’s costs have risen just as everyone else’s have. Year after year, ECMC makes do with a shoestring and allows Evanstonians to exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and expression. This is an important part of what makes Evanston the city it is. If the last 8 years have taught us nothing else, we should have learned that freedom of speech must be zealously guarded and preserved, lest it wither and die. (It is also worth noting that the longest running show on ECTV, “Our Town Evanston”, was produced by the Republican Party in Evanston; the Democratic Party does not produce any programming. The outlet exists for everyone.)

      1. ECTV and Public Access
        To remove ECTV/ECMC is a bad suggestion. For many who cannot attend Council, school board and other meetings, this is the only way to actually see what our elected representatives are doing. Condensed news coverage does not give a full picture. The ability to watch these at a later time is also a great help.

        You are paying for it through your cable bill, only a portion of which goes to ECMC — the rest the city gobbles up.

        There is another threat to ECTV. Cable providers want to make it digital, thus denying it to anyone without digital service and a digital set-top converter. Moreover they want to pack it in with as many as 12 to 14 other PEG programs on channel 99, making it hard to find. The reason is that they can free the existing four PEG channels and replace them with many more opportunities to send you Billy May and the Shazmop idiot.

        That is what you should get riled up about, not getting rid of an important city service.

      2. Public Access Failures
        I’m not sure how public access and municipal access became intertwined in this discussion. I think the original author suggested removing the budgetary allocation for public access, while providing viable methods for continuing the city broadcasts of the Council meetings.

        Let’s figure out this City Council meeting recording, presentation, dissemination, storage and retrieval process. It is a valuable record of the city’s progress or lack of progress.

        As Vannevar Bush said:

        "A record if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously extended, it must be stored, and above all it must be consulted."

        (“Science”, hence political science. Bush said this in 1945.)

        Everyone interacts with information differently, and it should be interactive and personalized. Standard media is inadequate, because some things are hard to define on paper. Knowledge should be hypertext linked and immediately at the ready.

        Cable TV broadcasts of City Council fail. First, you have to actively watch and witness the entirety of the meeting in order to receive and to determine the information that you need to process. This is a linear process. It should be more interactive.

        The allocution of these important meetings bring the questions: Who controls the production of information? And, who controls the distribution of information? We cannot and should not farm out this critical communications role to a third party without some sort of checks and balances. What review process is there for the $300,000 we give to Evanston Public Access every year? Is there a cable commission like in other towns?

        Municipal access could be done cheaper than Evanston Public Access has done for years. The costs of keeping a large facility for a very underutilized public service are prohibitive. The Public portion of the PEG structure died 10 years ago with the popularity of the internet. This argument is strengthened by the well known growth of social networking sites (Facebook, YouTube) as “free speech” mechanisms. They don’t have cable at the library, do they? They do have internet accessible computers.

        Thomas S., Professor Emeritus and lifelong Evanston resident
        School of Communications
        Northwestern University

  7. No More Tax Increases!
    2.5% cola adjustments? 2.5% merit adjustments? Have you been reading the newspapers to see how many companies are cutting pay increases to ZERO? What makes Evanston City Hall an exception? It’s certainly not the services they provide the taxpayers.

    Let’s get real Evanston City Hall. We have a major recession going on. Your tax increases are NOT welcome. We have enough welfare programs; ECH doesn’t need to be another. You need to trim services, jobs and costs. There are essential services and non-essential services. The essential services are police, fire, streets and sanitation. Providing enough salt to make the streets safe is a lot more important than your Ecology center and other such non-essentials in this town. I’m sure you find more than enough to fund your proposed deficit by eliminating non-essential services.

    I for one am planning to move out of Evanston. Why? Taxes are already exceed value and the spread will only increase. Everyone in City Hall seems to think the taxpayer is a bottomless pit to pay for poor essential services, and their private hobby horses.

    And don’t blame Northwestern for your inadequacies!

    1. My thoughts exactly. We were
      My thoughts exactly. We were told at my company meeting before Christmas that there will be no merit increase, no 401k company match, and no bonus program for 2009.

      Get real City Manager…everyone is suffering. Forget any COLA or merit increase this year and DO NOT raise property taxes yet again.

      Perhaps the City leaders would prefer a good old-fashioned tax revolt in ’09??

        1. I wonder if there are
          I wonder if there are provisions for placing a referendum on the ballot which would require 2/3 voter approval for any future tax hikes?

    2. It would be interesting to
      It would be interesting to see the increase in property taxes collected during the last decade compared to the increase in the cost of living. I suspect we would see that the city has gorged itself on windfall property tax increases out of all proportion to cost of living increases. I would also suspect that we wouldn’t see any value added to basic services. Are the roads any better? The police and fire department more responsive? Are public school students more literate and better prepared for adulthood? I would hazard a “no” for all of the above.

      The windfall taxes have been squandered and like an addict in search of another fix, the city wants to tax us some more. The real estate bubble has burst. Home values and incomes are falling. Taxpayers must tighten their belts and live within their means. It’s time for the tax addict to also face reality.

      1. CPI
        Government spending should only increase at the pace of CPI so long as the population is more or less steady. Any increases over and above inflation represent a fleecing of the taxpayer. I’d be willing to bet that the city of Evanston has increased its spending a pace that exceeds CPI by 50% or greater over the past 10 years, adjusted for population changes.

    3. Only Essential
      Only Essential, I love your screen name. It perfectly sums up what the function of city government should be. The city of Evanston should only be providing those services absolutely essential and vital to its taxpaying citizens. Government needs to be kept closely in check, or else it inevitably grow out of control at the expense of the taxpayer and the freedoms that he or she enjoys.

  8. sell city buildings, reduce staff
    While I think it’s a great idea to layoff city employees and cut spending, it also is a good idea for Evanston to sell some of its building assets.

    Let’s start with the building on Church street in which Evanston GAVE a group along with $200,000 seven years ago to build an African-American Musuem. The city last year discovered the money was long gone and there was no museum so the city took back the building and is LOOKING FOR ANOTHER GROUP TO GIVE IT TO!!!!

    How about selling the building that Chairavelli Montessori School uses on Dempster? Or better, hike the rent.

    Rather than just taking the easy way out and raise taxes why not get creative and cut the waste, sell some assets and find a way to redo the pension contracts.

    1. Careful
      While I am not against selling un-profitable City of Evanston property, I am reluctant to give our city leaders any ideas. They surely would use the proceeds to pay for operating expenses and to give themselves and their cohorts raises, increased benefits, and retroactive pension benefit increases.

      I would only support the sale of city buildings or land if the proceeds are used for: 1) Capital projects or 2) to pay down debt.

  9. No more tax hikes! What we
    No more tax hikes! What we long suffering Evanston taxpayers desperately need is a Gordian Knot approach to the city budget. Quibbling over budget minutiae is akin to applying a bandage to a severed artery.

    The answer is to CUT taxes and city spending across the board. All public salaries, bonuses and benefits get cut. No time and a half for overtime. No more early retirement. Compensation for all public sector employees should be brought into line with their private sector counterparts. Anyone unhappy with that is free to seek employment elsewhere. The taxpaying private sector is taking a harsh economic beating. It’s outrageous that the so called public servants, riding on our backs, shouldn’t share in the pain.

    Most of all, it’s time that the incompetent 800 pound gorilla, the public education monopoly, which snarfs down 70% of our property taxes, be put out to pasture to fend for itself. Those satisfied with the present system are welcome to open their wallets to send their children there. All others should be free to seek out and pay for alternative schooling. No one, especially those with no children, should be forced to pay for the education of other people’s children as they are now.

    Freedom of choice and the ensuing competition works wonders in providing food, housing, clothing and most everything else in life. Likewise it will work wonders in preparing children for the future.

    1. Brilliant
      Brilliant, salient points Meta.Cynic. I am with you 100%!

      I am very happy to see the debate on this board. It seems that finally the taxpaying citizens are fed up with our bloated city government.

      I once compared Evanston’s spending per resident to 15 to 20 other Chicagoland area suburbs. Evanston blew them all away. Only the city of Chicago itself surpassed us. I wish there were a website with that kind of comparison data that was easily accessible. Does anyone know of such a place?

  10. D65 Board needs to wake up!
    Why is no one screaming about D65! As it’s been stated, the bulk of our tax dollars go to D65 and 202. It is irresponsible of the D65 Board to have extended Hardy Murphy’s contract AND given him a raise in this economic environment. There was absolutely no good reason to do so. If he met his goal of making progress against one of the nations least ambitious academic standards (ISATs) so be it. Most people I know are working hard for less money this year. The Board is also looking at floating a bond. Given that so many parents don’t even use the public schools they pay so dearly for, they shouldn’t need to come asking for more money now, and they certainly should be giving it away.

    1. D65
      I agree. I have no doubt that D65 salaries, benefits, and pensions are bleeding us dry.

      The problem as I see it is that when public sector employees negotiate contracts with our elected or appointed representatives the result is always the same: The public sector employees always win and the taxpayers always lose. And the taxpayers aren’t even at the bargaining table. That’s the way the system is set up when the political campaigns of our representatives are funded in large part by the very unions they are supposed to be negotiating with. They are in essence are bargaining against themselves.

    2. Taxes and Schools
      I agree with the anonymous comment regarding looking to District 65 and 202 when we want to begin to discuss our high taxes. If we REALLY want to get serious with our taxes – and more to the point: how well – or not – they are being spent, why do so few people look at the schools? Particularly District 65!

      Over 60% of our tax dollars are spent on the schools – and only something like 22% are spent by the City. This is true whether you have kids or not: you spend nearly 3 x’s on the schools as you do on City government services. Do you think that we are getting our money’s worth? I think we should be asking what Michelle Rhee (Chancellor Education, Washington DC) is asking: Why can’t we get the best teachers/principals for the money that we spend? Below is a link to an article that was in TIME Magazine (November) in case you may have missed it about what Ms. Rhee is proposing to do with the Washington DC schools:

      http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1862444-2,00.html

      We may not be paying Superintendent Murphy what Ms. Rhee makes, but we are certainly paying him and the teachers ALOT and GETTING NO REAL CHANGE! No new ideas. No new thinking. It is pathetic. But, most of what I am reading here is focused on the City government spending. The City Government may in fact have it’s problems, but am I getting my 22% worth? Maybe. I get my garbage collected, the park grass gets mowed, the trees get trimmed on the parkway. Police and Fire services are in place. Roads could be improved…..Could other things be improved (or eliminated) and save money? Yes, of course. But if I am going to focus my little bit of available time and energy on how my precious tax dollars are being spent, I am going to first look at the biggest spender: our 2 school districts. Look at your tax bills and read about Ms. Rhee and ask yourself: are you getting your money’s worth in Evanston? I believe that we are not getting what we are paying for (which is TOP DOLLAR) with our schools. Either I should be paying less or start asking why not! We need a “MS. RHEE” here.

      1. whoa … when’s the last time you were IN a school?
        With two kids in the district and more on the way I am heavily invested in our schools. I am in the buildings weekly and can tell you that exciting things are happening in our schools.

        I have long watched Michelle Rhee and fully support what she is doing in DC. She is a courageous woman. But comparing the DC schools to district 65 is insane – and insulting.

        I would suggest that anyone who wants to know how their tax dollars are being spent by the schools take some time and volunteer in one. Hang around and see what is happening. In the next few weeks, there will be Martin Luther King Jr assemblies at many schcools – go and watch your tax dollars in action. Yes, there are problems – especially with administration – but the staff and teachers in the schools everyday are doing amazing things with our kids!

        1. Schools, taxes and innovation
          Just to be absolutely clear: I did not make any comparison between Evanston schools and Washington DC schools in my earlier comment regarding Michelle Rhee. I was making the point that the leadership of innovation in dealing with the problems with the schools here points out the lack of leadership innovation going on here. I know that there are some really great things happening on a day-to-day classroom level in schools in Evanston due to some very dedicated and terrific teachers. It is truly those great teachers that keep our schools going here. I also know that there is a great deal of stagnation in the Evanston schools that comes with the antiquated tenure system like Ms. Rhee is dealing with there. We are all in the same bind of union contracts – across the nation! But, that doesn’t mean that we should accept it and take it as if it was handed down from on high never to be broached again. We need some fresh ideas about the way we APPROACH teaching. For example, why not start kindergarten at age 4? Many children are fortunate to go to pre-school when they are 4 (or even 3). But, obviously, it costs money so not all children in our City get this advantage. But, since studies clearly show that early childhood education benefits children enormously, why shouldn’t ALL of our children begin at 4 and have the same opportunity? Of course, this gets into money (space, etc.) issues, but we need to begin this sort of thinking, which can give us the positive goals we need to move our kids into this next, very competitive, very internationally connected century. One thing is for sure: without ideas such as these put forth, our children are going to be left behind by other countries around the globe.

          The tax dollars we are spending on our Evanston schools are considerable – the most of all of our taxing bodies together! And for my money, our kids deserve the best and most creative and innovative (leadership) thinking on the planet. I don’t think that we are getting this sort of thinking – and we need to be. There have not been any fundamental changes in the school systems here since all day kindergarten was approved – probably 25 years ago. And 25 years just seems like a long time between new ideas.

          1. For this year’s kindergarten
            For this year’s kindergarten class over 70% of the students attended full or half day pre-school (Opening of schools report). More needs to be done, earlier and more consistently. Pre-school for at-risk children should start at 12 months. D65 should consider year round school for at risk children. Every year lower income children lose gains they and the teachers have worked so hard to achieve over the long summer break. If more at risk children had year round school–and not a couple of hours for about four weeks out of an eleven or twelve week vacation–it would reduce and might even eliminate the need for remediation in D65 and D202. It would cost money, but it would off-set what we spend on remediation, drop-out prevention efforts, and lead to less conflict in the high school over race and access to honors and AP classes.

    3. Why don’t you run for the District 65 Board?
      Last I knew, there are only 3 candidates for 4 positions on the District 65 Board. My conversations with current and past Board members indicate that it is a thankless position. Emotions run high because parents’ children well-being is involved.

      It’s easy to complain. It’s harder to exert leadership.

  11. Comparables
    Bill,

    First of all, thanks for all you do to inform and challenge us as residents of this truly unique and beautiful city. You are extremely responsive to inquiries and provide a great (and often very entertaining) service to the community.

    (If this sounds like there’s a favor about to be requested, well, you’re right…!)

    You report “The proposed new budget totals $235.5 million, a 7.5 percent increase over the current budget, but most of that increase is the result of one-time capital expenses paid from existing fund reserves.”

    Can you tell me what our comparable communities’ budgets are? I tried sorting through city-data.com’s information, but am not able to get a real sense of the budget. I am particularly interested in a comparison between Skokie and Evanston, mostly because Skokie’s services (library, park facilities, etc.) seem to outshine our own while apparently costing their citizens less in taxes.

    Is this a fair assessment? I know Skokie has much higher sales tax revenues from Old Orchard and other dense shopping opportunities, and an (apparently) healthier industrial/commercial district… Also, can you outline the impact of D65/202 funding compared to Skokie’s (and other communities) overall budget?

    In any case, any information you can present would be greatly appreciated. If you have already presented similar information before, can you post a link to it?

    Thanks!

    Jason Hays

    1. Budget comparisons
      Hi Jason,

      A year ago I did a series of stories comparing general fund budgets for Evanston, Skokie and Arlington Heights.

      You can find the first of the reports here (and it links to the rest).

      I hope to carve out some time over the next few weeks to do an update.

      Budgets for all three communities can be downloaded from the town websites, if you’d like to dig into the issue yourself.

      –Bill

    2. Jason -comparables at this point in time are worthless!
      Jason – the city clearly does not have an adequate revenue stream to continue what it has been doing.

      Even if Skokie spends more or less – it is of little value if we do not have the cash to pay for it.

      While some posters on here think there is a going to be a huge savings by stopping injecting the elms or eliminate the two branches the bigger savings are in the bigger departments.

      Jason looking closely at the fire department which you work for is one item – the city council has avoid for quite sometime along with the other large departments. Council members over the years have given the fire department what it has wanted.

      I am quite amused in this day and age with two hospitals and emergency equipment available the fire department drives around large ambulances. It appears in other countries much smaller ambulances are used.

      I think there are many things that could be questioned. Ofcourse change is what no one wants if involves layoffs.

      That being said – it really does not matter if the council choses not to change anything, since they can not keep on raising taxes and the revenues are decreasing,change will come.

      Ofcourse controling the change is better.

      1. Save the elms! Save the north branch library!
        Junad says:
        “While some posters on here think there is a going to be a huge savings by stopping injecting the elms or eliminate the two branches the bigger savings are in the bigger departments.
        …I am quite amused in this day and age with two hospitals and emergency equipment available the fire department drives around large ambulances. It appears in other countries much smaller ambulances are used.”

        Interesting idea, Junad…save the elm trees and the branch libraries, cut back on ambulances and police.

        I have a better idea: if we want to cut back on fire service, we could just get rid of that Station # 3…I don’t see why Central Street needs two fire stations, and Stations 1 and 5 can handle the area. And station # 4 – I think that Stations 1 and 2 can cover that.

        That way, we would save a lot of money on wasteful unnecessary fire stations, and have plenty of money to support the north branch library and elm trees.

        I am sure that the two prominent elm lovers in Ward 7 and Ward 9 will be willing to give up these fire stations to preserve their beloved elms.

        1. Who – knew that would wake you up
          Who – the idea of cutting one of the north fire station was talked about – are you proposing it?
          I did not propose that.

          Who you need to do a budget analysis of cost of elms to cost of keeping a firestation running. There is no comparison. cutting out the elms in one year might pay for one firefighter plus OT. Ofcoure that is if you don’t put in the savings of cutting them down – which now would be even less maybe close to zero-

          Elminating the two branches would maybe save about 1/3 the cost of running one firestation- there is no great savings but some savings.

          It may be time to consider it – and force the people to decide to create a separate library district ( if tax payers want to fund it )- or eliminate it – then move on to looking at other cuts which will have to come. ( I have no problem paying a separate tax for a branch library – since it will end the political nonsense of the council which some members have used for years )

          Who its time you do alittle research on the budget – and project some numbers – 80% of the cost here is payroll – in the general fund – that is were the cuts will need to be made.

          1. Eliminate Central Street Fire Station
            Junad says:
            “Who – the idea of cutting one of the north fire station was talked about – are you proposing it?
            I did not propose that.”

            Sounds good to me. Let’s eliminate either Station # 3 or Station #5. It would be fun to see the reaction of all of the members of the CSNA (“Save Evanston! Save our Fire Station”).

            Those buildings are both so new (not quite historic…it takes at least 5 years to reach ‘historic’ status in Evanston). It would be a shame to tear either one down…Not to worry, they can be adapted for reuse like the Mallickrodt building! I propose that we close down either Station # 3 or Station # 5, and turn it into an Arby’s. With a drive through, of course. They are both just the right size. Curly fries for everyone!

            The real action, of course, is down south. What about Stations # 2 and # 4? Surely they are not BOTH necessary, and we can eliminate one of them to save the elms.

            I propose that one of these stations be closed, and we use the savings to preserve the elms and repair the Dawes House.

            If any of the candidates for mayor or Ward 9 alderman are reading this, please let me know what you think.

          2. what sarcasm?
            Seriously…why do we need two fire stations on Central Street and two down south?

            As the Fair Share people have pointed out, the fire department spends most of its time dealing with false alarms set by Northwestern students. And, as the ECRD anti-tower people point out, the only threat of a dangerous fire comes from tall buildings (skyscraper!).

            Since Wards 6 and 9 have no skyscrapers and no NU students, they have no need of a fire station.

            Anyway, fire stations cause traffic problems…they are always backing their trucks into the station, or racing down the street (danger to pedestrians! what about the children?) . Since NIMBYs are obsessed with traffic, the fine neighbors of Central Street will be happy to lose a fire station.

        2. The solution is here
          Don’t you all realize that Obama is going to take care of everything – ambulances, fire stations, elm trees, branch libraries…

          Or, lets just get a bail out.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.