Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

Barbara Janes announces Harley Clarke mansion planning meeting.

Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin about 8:10 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 8:10 p.m.

Mayor announces Hispanic Heritage Month … starting Sept. 15.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons discusses upcoming budget planning meetings … at Chandler-Newberger Center next Wednesday … and various other sessions … including on Facebook. Calendar for some of the events.

Kits and Cats Week events announced. Including… $15 discount tickets available online from

Kiwanis Peanut Day this Friday, Sept. 13. And on Tuesday, Oct. 8, ETHS and Kiwanis fall pizza fest.

Citizen Comment

Matt Smith, 2645 Lincoln, head of firefighters union, praises city for improving status of pension funds.

Betty Ester, 2031 Church St., urges redrafting of the “Safe Schools” agreement with ETHS.

Junad Rizki notes recent Wall Street Journal article regarding efforts to force other universities to pay taxes.

Suggests shutting down the fire station closest to the university to pressure the school to provide more support for the city.

Barbara Janes, from No Park Sale, invites people to meeting at Parasol Room at Civic Center on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Says Harley Clarke mansion is a beautiful asset that should be preserved for the community.

Special Orders of Business

Street resurfacing and water main replacement program. Details in packet.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson says it took six years to complete the last five year street improvement plan — because of funding limits and other issues.

Says city has 190-lane-miles of streets. Plans to present a four-year plan for updating streets next spring.

Provides details for percentage of local streets in each ward and what share of those have been resurfaced in recent years. (Fairly substantial variation from one ward to another.)

Says considers primary routes to be “city-wide” regardless of what ward they happen to be in.

Pension Actuarial Report

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says Moody’s estimated a 5.6 percent rate or return, but Fitch used 7 percent. Says city recommendation to cut from 7 percent to 6.75 percent is a mid-range move.

Says in a couple of years the unfunded liability will go on the city’s balance sheet because of accounting changes.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asks why the rating agencies or the government accounting board can’t get on the same page.

Art Tepfer, the city’s pension actuary, says real problem is the difference between accountants and actuaries

The Government Accounting Standards Board, he says, has finally decided that the funding of penison plans should be differentiatied from the financing of the plans.

Says there are three kinds of actuaries — those who can count and those who can’t county. (Gets a chuckle.)

Says traditionalist actuaries think can make broad assumptions because are looking long term — 50 or 60 years. Market is cyclical.

The current group, by contrast, believes that pension plans should be considered as a profit center — a marketable asset — thinks pensions should be treated as getting a 4 percent rate of returns.

Says in the future 6.75 won’t be considered an acceptable rate — will be something lower, but not the 4 percent that Moody’s is looking at.

Says the new rates will apply to all pension funds.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward,  asks do get credit for setting aside more?

Lyons says rating agencies had nice things to say — but still downgraded us. If had done nothing more likely would have had rating cut more.

Tepfer says city is managing assets well, police officers and firefighters are keeping healthy.

Tepfer says need roughly 11 to 12 percent return just to pay the pensions now — so pension contributions have to keep going up it’s tough thing to do.

Says last year did really well on gain-loss analysis — but that only counts for the year.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he appreciates the change in the assumed rate of return. Says in some ways wishes it was a little closer to what Moody’s is looking for.

Personally he says, he doesn’t want to go below what put in last time — even though it’s a little more than what’s recommended by the actuarial report.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl says she agrees with Wilson and says city manager is looking for a straw vote on it.

Rainey says she favors going with the recommendation on the consultant — because of the burden spending any more imposes on the taxpayers. Says tax bills are skyrocketing out of control. Every penny we add to their burden is a gigantic burden.

Grover says she’s leaning toward funding at same level as last year.

Tendam agrees with Wilson. Doesn’t wnat to go backwards, maybe even somewhat more to make an honest attempt to bring down the unfunded pension amount.

Fiske says doesn’t want to go below last year’s spending on pensions.

Holmes favors recommendation made by staff. Says has many residents who are struggling with taxes.

Wynne agrees with Holmes and Rainey.

Report is approved.

Consent agenda

We’ll note any items taken off the consent agenda.

  • Liquor code ordinance rewrite off consent agenda and held in committee.
  • Safe Schools agreement with ETHS off consent agenda (It’s to be discussed at a City-School Liaison Committee meeting tomorrow.)

Consent agenda approved.

Rainey says aldermen still have a lot of questions about the proposal for liquor code rewrite.

Holmes notes the Safe School zone proposal is recommended by staff to be postponed until the City Council’s Sept. 23 meeting. City-School Liaison Committee meeting will be at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the Council Chamber, says Alderman Tendam. Item held.

Call of the Wards

Fiske .. .thanks to city staff for meeting the challenges on Davis Street construction and thanks downtown residents for their patience.

Braithwaite … ward meeting Sept. 12 at D65 admin building. will discuss Safe Schools agreement.

Wynne .. .thanks staff for helping bring Trader Joe’s to Evanston … and for ETHS Booster event at Sherman Plaza parking garage.

Wilson says Davis Street will be awesome when it’s done…but are a lot of challenges along the way.

Rainey … Thursday, Howard-Hartrey TIF joint review board meeting. Notes that on Sept. 16th 9:30 a.m. trial for the Costulas murder will begin in Skokie district court. Been two years since the murder.

Meeting adjourned at 9:42 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Show me the money

    "Barbara Janes, from No Park Sale, invites people to meeting at Parasol Room at Civic Center on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Says Harley Clarke mansion is a beautiful asset that should be preserved for the community."

    That reminds me…..when Phil Ponce asked Judy Fiske about where the money would come from for upkeep of the mansion , Judy  said that once we clarified the ownership issue, Evanston residents would come forth with support.

    How is the fund raising coming along?   I haven't seen any  yard signs ("Save the mansion…donate now."), but I am sure that Fiske and her supporters are  quietly raising money to preserve the mansion without burdening the taxpayers.   

    1. Money to fix Harley Clarke

      I would suggest you get a copy of the lease with the Art Center the City signed.  The Art Center is responsible for the majority of the repairs.

      Why did it not happen for years?   I suggest you ask the Mayor.

  2. City properties

    City of Evanston is a bad property owner. Perhaps they should publish a list of all properties owned by the city that are not being used by the City. Some of these properties as most residents know are in  need of costly repair or are part of a deal with the city where it will be all but given to current user after a certain time frame. City should have at least countered the offer they had for the Harley Clarke Mansion.

    How much needed property tax revenue is being lost?

    1. ‘Lost’ property taxes

      Property taxes are a fixed amount of dollars (levy) requested to the County Clerk by each taxing district each December in the year before they are collected.  This starts the property tax cycle every year.

      No taxes are "lost" because of untaxable (exempt) property.  However, any property that is exempt doesn't contribute to the total property value that when divided into the levy determines the tax rate for each taxing body.

      So in effect, the exempt property causes each taxpayer to pay more of the total collected taxes.

  3. Missed the boat

    The city was too hasty in turning down the offer to buy the mansion.  Now we're stuck with a dilapitated building that probably has safety issues. . . .Are there any other offers on the horizon?  Probably not.

  4. NoParkSale

    Thank you Bill for announcing NoParkSale's public meeting to discuss potential future public uses of Harley Clarke.I encourage everyone in Evanston to attend the meeting,to  learn about what other communites have done to save other mansions for public use and to have your say about Harley Clarke's future. Now it is the citizens' turn.Wednesday, September 18, 7 pm Parasol Room, 4th floor of the Civic Center.Come and have your say.

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