Evanston aldermen this week approved, by a bare 5-4 majority, a plan to cede control over library spending to the appointed public library board.

The plan, developed by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz after a multi-year fight over control of the library in the wake of city budget cuts, brings operation of the city’s library in line with one of two models provided for in state law.

Under that system, the library board, appointed by the mayor, sets spending levels for the library, subject only to a referendum-approved tax cap, and the City Council is required to levy taxes to fund the budget the board adopts.

And the board, instead of the city manager, would have hiring and firing power over the library director.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she would prefer to have the library use the other governance model provided under state law. That would establish a fully independent library district with an elected board that could levy its own taxes.

Rainey said the system being adopted amounts to taxation without representation because the library board is not elected by the voters.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward said she agreed with Rainey’s critique, but didn’t like the alternative of having a separate library district.

They were joined by Aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, in voting against the city manager’s proposal.

The city manager’s proposal also calls for appointment of a joint committee with the library board to work out details of several issues.

Those include how to allocate costs for services provided the library by the city, how to structure payments on existing capital debt for the library, a possible loan from the city to the library in 2013 to cover cash shortfalls caused by the timing of tax payments, and the possible transfer of funds from the city to the library to establish an operating reserve fund.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. This is not good

    It looks like this is not going to be good for Evanston taxpayers. Any time you give unelected officials with no accountability have the ability to tax you, your brewing big trouble. I think Wally should be sent back to Wally World when his contract comes due. I wouldn't want to buy out his contract. He has already cost us enough money.
    We don't need an unelected out-of-control library board. There is a good chance that an unaccountable taxing body may be challenged on constitutional grounds.

    1. Unaccountable taxing body

      Skip – I hope you are correct that this may be challenged on constitutional grounds and I hope there is some savvy Evanston lawyer resident who has the inclination, time and funds to fight this.  They could certainly make a name for themselves in the media by trying.  I never wanted to believe Evanston was corrupt, but it is becoming more obvious every day just how corrupt it really is.  There is nothing done for the good of our citizens now…. everything hinges on how much revenue it can produce for this greedy city.

    2. Aldermen at fault for unelected Library Board

      An unelected taxing body is about the worst thing citizens should have to endure from their government.

      This is not just Wally's fault. This is the direct fault of Mayor Tisdahl and all of our aldermen who basically stood by and did nothing as concerned citizens organized and tried to find a way to keep the branch libraries open. 

      This whole new library district could have been averted if the City Council and city manager had found some middle ground for compromise to keep the library branches open without converting the Library Board to an unelected taxing body.

      Our city officials are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars gobbling up real estate and creating more TIF Districts that will increase the tax burden for property owners. The recent government subsidy of a Howard Street wine bar is an example of a high risk investment with our tax money.

      The only solution is to organize, create a plan of action to take back our city and vote in folks with good business sense and experience to operate Evanston wisely and with careful fiscal prudence.

  2. The disappointing aspect

    The disappointing aspect of this is that Judy Fiske, Peter Braithwaite, Melissa Wayne, Mark Tendam and Jane Grover support this taxation without representation.  They should be voted out of office the next election for blatant disregard of the citizens.  I congratuate aldermen Rainey, Burrus, Wilson and Holmes for respecting the constitutional rights of the citizens of Evanston.

    1. But don’t we want a better library?

      My understanding is that one reason that EPL is inferior to Skokie and Wilmette is because we spend so much less per citizen on the library.

      And one of the reasons we spend so much less is that EPL is a city dept, subject to the vagaries of the city, while our neighbors have independent library boards, all in compliance with the law.

      I am not sure what is more important, a decent library or taxation with representation.  Are they mutually exclusive?

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. Required fields are marked *