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Council seeks budget cutting ideas

Political cover or community input — whichever you call it, Evanston aldermen are looking for more of it this year as what may be the most difficult budget season in years approaches.

The City Council this week backed one plan for getting more input from citizens earlier in the budget process and appeared to generally support another one.

The aldermen endorsed Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl’s plan under which she will appoint a ten-member budget task force to report to her with budget recommendations by Dec. 1.

That’s a month before the city manager’s office typically releases its proposed budget at the end of December.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz separately proposed holding an intensive series of meetings on the budget in November at which all interested residents could discuss budget issues.

Bobkiewicz compared the concept to a “design charrette” — an idea last used in Evanston two summers ago as part of the downtown planning process.


Political cover or community input — whichever you call it, Evanston aldermen are looking for more of it this year as what may be the most difficult budget season in years approaches.

The City Council this week backed one plan for getting more input from citizens earlier in the budget process and appeared to generally support another one.

The aldermen endorsed Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl’s plan under which she will appoint a ten-member budget task force to report to her with budget recommendations by Dec. 1.

That’s a month before the city manager’s office typically releases its proposed budget at the end of December.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz separately proposed holding an intensive series of meetings on the budget in November at which all interested residents could discuss budget issues.

Bobkiewicz compared the concept to a “design charrette” — an idea last used in Evanston two summers ago as part of the downtown planning process.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said such sessions would be “a great opportunity for getting feedback from residnets about what they’d like to see cut from the budget.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said getting an earlier start on budget planning would be helpful, because in the past when aldermen have proposed changes in January or February they’ve been told “you can’t change it, it’s too late.”

The city is required to adopt its budget before the start of its new fiscal year on March 1.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she has doubts whether much can be accomplished as quickly as the manager proposed, but said “the sooner the better and the more the better” for engaging the community in the budget process.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste said the meetings should be held in community centers around town to make them more accessible to all residents. “We shouldn’t just have the most active people determining what should be done with the budget,” he said.

But Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that the last time a similar approach was used, some years ago, about 120 people participated and that “was much too large a group to effectively work together.”

“A lot of people were left very dissatisfied with the process,” she added.

And Alderman Don Wilson expressed doubts about the feasibility of having people participate in what might be five consecutive daily budget workshop sessions.

“It seems that would be pretty challenging for people,” Wilson said.

Bobkiewicz said he’d rework his plan to incorporate the comments from the aldermen and have a revised version ready for discussion at the council’s Oct. 12 meeting.

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