Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons late today defended the decision to make a $5,000 donation of Evanston city funds to a campaign to provide safe drinking water to Flint, Mich.

Tisdahl, in an email message, said, “The money is coming from the water fund. When another city needs water helping them is the right thing to do, and Evanston has a long, proud history of doing the right thing.”

The donation was announced Thursday, three days after a CIty Council meeting at which no discussion of the contribution occurred, and several months after news of Flint’s drinking water contamination problems first became widely known.

Lyons, who’s filling in as acting city manager while CIty Manager Wally Bobkiewicz is on parental leave, said the manager is authorized to make expenditures within a given fund’s budget limit without prior City Council approval, if the expenditure is is less than $20,000.

The council typically approves those expenditures retroactively, on the next meeting’s bills list.

Lyons said that several line items within the Water Fund budget could be used to cover the donation to Flint and that he’s recommending the public education account, which includes money for water conservation programs.

“If we could practically send our best-in-state water to Flint, we would,” Lyons said, but they still get a benefit from the cash donation — which he said, amounts to just 7-cents for each Evanston resident.

In announcing the donation to Flint, Tisdahl also urged Evanston residents to make their own donations to a Flint Water Fund operated by the Genessee County United Way.

Related story

Mayor sends city money to help Flint (1/28/16)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. No discussion? There are many

    No discussion? There are many worthwhile causes around town that need addressing. How about putting Evanston first considering it's our money?

    1. Worthwhile causes
      I’d like to see an extra $5,000 spent on destitute families at Christmas time, so they have a nice meal, and gifts for their kids.

  2. Good to Give to those in need

    I truly believe that most people in Evanston would help the people in Flint if they can afford to do so. I think that most people would have more respect for the mayor if she were donating her own money rather than the taxpayer's money.

    I wouldn't blame people if they deducted 7 cents per person in their family when they pay their next water bill. It appears to be the fair thing to do before making their personal contribution to the people of Flint,

    Mayor, that would be the right way of doing it.

  3. Worthwhile
    I understand the need for fiscal discipline, but I think donating to the Flint fund was a good move in this case. If they gave $500k, i would be upset, but $5k is small amount, and it sends a message. When I read the story on Evanston Now I followed the link to the United Way to donate money myself. It would not have occurred to me to do so if the city had not made news by its donation. I would assume that there are many others like me. So for $5k there was a bigger benefit for people of Flint.

  4. Evanston’s gift to Flint

    Dear neighbors, I applaud the Mayor for her leadership in providing support to the people of Flint in their time of great need and I hope that everyone who can, our mayor included, will make personal contributions. The grim and even disastrous impact of lead on very young children–not just on their present but on their future capacities–is well established. If it were Evanston facing this situation, I would hope that others would reach out to us. The amount sent is a token in the face of an enormous problem, but the gift of hope embodied in the gift is important.  Evanston's gift helps raise awareness (and maybe even alarm) that aging infrastructure coupled with a priority on cutting spending rather than making public investment poses a serious if not a grave danger to public health now and for generations to come–and not just in Flint.

    1. Who are you kidding?
      How does it take leadership to give away other peoples money? It doesn’t. If the mayor announced that she was giving 5k of her own money and encourage others to give, that would be leadership.

      Let’s encourage her to be a leader.

  5. Misguided
    And how many Evanston residents have had their water disconnected due to financial struggles? Where is Tisdahl for that?

    And too many of our Evanston neighbors can’t afford proper food and medicine. Where is Tisdahl for that?

    Never mind the unfunded pensions……

    Tisdahl and her little sidekick Lyons work for the residents of Evanston and have an obligation to put Evanston residents first at all times. That is their job.

    It is NOT their job to donate Evanston money to pet charities.

    In this case giving away money was not the “right thing to do” now matter how important the cause. What would have been “the right thing to do” would have emailing Evanston residents to make them aware of the Flint Water Fund website, and to encourage private donations. That in my opinion would be entirely appropriate.

    Next time mayor either ask first or spend your own money. Otherwise keep your hands out of the till.

      1. clarification
        Yes, pet charities as in pet projects. I suppose I should have said: “…..money to their pet charities.”

        I’m not referring to organizations that benefit dogs and cats.

  6. Lead Pipes In Evanston

    In light of the lead pipe issue being raised in Flint Michigan, every city including Evanston should survey what remains of lead water pipe infrastructure in our streets and in our homes.  I am sure there are many old homes and commercial buildings with old lead pipe plumbing.  The $ 5K donation was a nice gesture, but the money might have been better spent towards testing water comming out of the faucet of each home in Evanston.  I get the impression Evanston doesn't think we might have some issues with lead in our water in our own homes.

    1. Lead pipes

      Hi Mike,

      Most older Evanston homes still have lead service lines running from the water main in the street to the house. The section of that line from the street to the outside water shutoff at the property line is considered to be the city's responsibility, the rest is the homeowner's responsibility.

      The city replaces its portion when it installs new water mains. But since only about 1 percent of the water mains are replaced each year, that's going to take a long time, although the city has stepped up the pace of the replacement program a bit recently.

      The city will also replace its portion if a homeowner first pays to replace his/her portion of the line — a project that can cost around $3,000.

      More about the issue in this document and this one, both from the city's website. Chemicals are added to the water here to reduce the transfer of lead from pipes to the water — something officials in Flint failed to do.

      — Bill

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