Evanston aldermen Monday voted to pay more money sooner to inject additional elm trees in Evanston, despite its short-term impact on the city’s budget.

Injecting the 2,290 trees this year will cost $879,400.

Of three other options city staff considered, the one with the least immediate cost would spread the work evenly over three years at a total cost of $993,000. But an estimated 22 additional trees would fall victim to the Dutch Elm disease and have to be removed over the three years because of the slower pace of the injections.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, moved adoption of the plan with the highest initial cost.

But Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said the city is in a budget crisis and shouldn’t be spending the money at all.

Burrus noted that the city’s minority population is declining, at least in part because of Evanston’s high tax levels.

“I’m an environmentalist and loves trees, but we have to look at people first,” Burrus said.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that if you’re forced into a short sale on your house and have a stump in front–that’s going to hurt your chances for making the sale.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he would vote for the option with the higher initial cost, but said that because of the city’s budget crisis “other things will have to be compromised down the road.”

Ultimately only Burrus and Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who said she would have supported spreading the program’s cost over three years, voted against the decision to front-load the program’s cost.

Photo of elm leaves from Wikipedia.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. I’ve never understood the Elm program
    All trees die. There’s no way to stop that. While the inoculation program may prevent Dutch Elm Disease, it doesn’t make elms immortal. The result is that after much money is spent, a given tree will die as all trees do. The longer the program runs, the more likely it is for folks to say “we’ve already spent so much, we MUST keep it going or all that money is wasted!” Yet for every additional year of inoculation, a tree is one year closer to its end.

    Forestry departments choose trees for hardiness and low maintenance. In Evanston we are doing just the opposite – choosing to provide intensive care to trees that are not disease resistant – draining our pockets indefinitely. Think of it as spending thousands to keep a 15 year old dog alive instead of $50 for a puppy at the animal shelter who will grow to be just as much a dog as any other and healthy to boot.

    To say that we are saving money because we don’t have the expense of removing elms makes no sense. We are only putting that cost off and there is no reason to expect tree removal expense to be cheaper in the future. Every elm, inoculated or not, will come down at some point.

    Is there a grand champion elm in Evanston, of huge girth and perfect form? By all means, inoculate it. But all elms? We’ve got many many scraggly elms and tall ones that have been trimmed so much they look pathetic.

    There are new varieties of elm that are resistant to Dutch Elm disease. Instead of trying to make old trees immortal, new ones could be planted that would be on their way to becoming impressive old trees without the need of inoculation…puppy trees full of vigor for our children to enjoy when they are old without providing life support.

    Evanston’s past of elm lined streets is long gone. I did a census of trees in north Evanston a few years ago, counting every tree/species on Lincoln Street, known for its canopy. Elms are in the minority and seldom found in a group of more than two, much less with the classic arch made from long runs on both sides of a street. This doesn’t mean Lincoln has no canopy – it does – but it’s not made up of elms.

    So what is the point of spending money on elms? There are some stately specimens like the beauty in front of Haven School but, as I understand it, the city is inoculating every elm.

    I encourage everyone to go outside, walk around your neighborhood and count the elms. The best run I’ve counted is 11 in a row on McCormick east of Bridge Street, not matched anywhere else in town that I know of. The biggest and best trees of all kinds are in north Evanston because the soil is better for them there. Some streets, like Dodge, have no elms for blocks in a row.

    I think we are living in the past on the elm issue, spending money clinging to a memory with trees that will, even with intensive care, also end up a memory. We can’t let them go? Not only can we, but they will go whether we spend money on them or not, just not from Dutch Elm disease.

    1. Mortality

      All people die. There's no way to stop that. Why build hospitals and have a health care system when we just know it's a waste of money? If we stopped vaccinating babies and they died in childhood, think of how much money we'd save.

      Pardon the sarcasm, but the argument here really got me steamed.

      Trees, including elms, can live to twice the age of people "Maturity is reached in about 150 years and many trees live to be 300 years old." See http://evanstonnow.com/real-estate/mimi-peterson/blog-entry/2008/02/09/lifespan-of-american-elm-tree

      Protecting these trees from a disease is well worth it. Clearly other species are now at risk with scourges like the Emerald Ash Borer.

      I was happy to pay the city to plant a larger specimen of the new Elm variety the city is using for parkways a couple of years ago, but this tree is going to take decades to reach anything like the size of the one they removed from this location due to Dutch Elm Disease.

      Saving these huge, majestic trees is a good investment in the long run and the only way to preserve large shade Elms in the present.

      1. huge and majestic?

        Can you provide some addresses for the elms that are “huge and majestic”? The elms I see around my neighborhood are not special and don’t stand out from other trees of different species. In fact they are often ugly from repeated trimming, as mentioned.

        You provide support for what I said in your analogy to people.

        The money spent on the elderly is skyrocketing. Is health care money better spent on the elderly or the young? People are being kept alive long after they can function on their own. How many heart operations has Dick Cheney had at public expense? Will he, or anyone, refuse treatment, regardless of cost, if it is on the public tab?

        I say this as someone who is in the elderly category. We can’t keep spending without limit on the elderly and the coming unavoidable cuts in Medicare will bring that home. The approval of Part D was a terrible mistake – a huge additional burden on the working people of the country that is rocketing up faster than any other part of entitlement spending and there is a demand for even more by closing the “doughnut hole”. Unlike old trees, however, elderly people as a group are better off than other age groups whereas the young are particularly worse off and the difference is increasing.

      2. Huge and majestic

        "Saving these huge, majestic trees is a good investment in the long run and the only way to preserve large shade Elms in the present."

        Speaking of things that are huge and majestic, and good investments in the long run, I am wondering if there are any new developments with the Tower at 708 Church. 

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