Evanston housing group leaders complained Thursday they’ve been frozen out of the city’s $18 million federal rehab grant. But Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said the groups lacked the track record to do the work.

Evanston housing group leaders complained Thursday they’ve been frozen out of the city’s $18 million federal rehab grant. But Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said the groups lacked the track record to do the work.

A resident asks a question at the town hall meeting.

At a town hall meeting at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, Tisdahl, alluding to cost overruns on previous projects run by the local groups, said the federal government provided the big new grant on the condition that “we would spend it wisely and well.”

“We can’t waste the money. We can’t be going back and asking for more on the same project,” she added.

And Sarah Flax of the city’s planning staff said the local groups, which have done small-scale projects with the city in the past, lacked the experience the federal government required to qualify for the grant.

She said applicants were required to have completed 75 housing units within the past two years in each of several categories to qualify, and that’s why the city chose to partner with Brinshore Development of Northbrook, which has extensive experience with government-funded housing projects, to make the application.

But the mayor had more encouraging news for local contractors in the audience of about 50 people who attended the meeting, saying that while the terms of the grant require that 25 percent of the work on the project go to minority or woman-owned or Evanston-based businesses, “that doesn’t mean it’s all we’ll do.”

She encouraged the contractors to frequently check a section of the city’s website that will list contracting opportunities on the project. She said contractors could also sign up on the website to be notified by e-mail when new opportunities are posted.

Flax said she hopes that the first opportunities for work will be made available within 60 days — but said the timing depends on progress by Brinshore in acquiring foreclosed properties.

She said the acquisition process may turn out to be difficult.

There are about 200 foreclosed or bank-owned properties in the two census tracts eligible for the program, she said. And some of those properties include multiple units. The grant is designed to rehab 100 units.

“But the banks are under no obligation to sell to us just because we want to buy,” Flax said, adding that the grant terms require that the city get the properties for less than their current appraised value.

“We have to negotiate the best price to be able to afford to do the rehab needed,” she said.

Brinshore, as the project developer, she said, is entitled under the grant to earn a 12 percent developer’s fee for its services. That would total a little over $2 million.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. If only Democrats could spend our taxes wisely and well
    Interesting. The condition of the $18 million stimulus money is for Evanston to “spend it wisely and well.”

    I wonder what the criteria of “wisely and well” is? Because it sounds subjective. When someone gives you money and says, “go out and spend it wisely and well,” it sort of leaves an impression that “it’s yours, have fun with it.”

    Someone ask Tisdahl what would happen if Evanston and Brinshore don’t spend the FREE money wisely and well? Would the Obama Administration ask for it back? Take over the project?

    I don’t know what Obama’s definition of wisely and well are but I wonder if he’s aware that Evanston has recently bailed out five failed affordable housing projects. I guess those projects approved by Tisdahl and the Council were unwise and did not go well. Oh well, it’s free money. Need more? Heck, just raise taxes.

    BTW-it will be interesting to see which bank or homeowner is willing to sell their property BELOW the appraised value. I wonder what current homeowners who have their properties on the market in these neighborhoods think about the banks selling BELOW the appraised value and how that would affect the value of their homes?

    I also wonder how much of the $18 million will be used to purchase the properties since Brinshore is getting $2 million and much more is needed to rehab then sell the properties to low income folks.

    One could argue that this stimulus money could actually lower property values and is not helping the Evanston economy since Brinshsore Development is not located in Evanston.

    But then again, most economists have concluded that the $787 Billion stimulus bill – the most expensive in world history that no one read and only Democrats passed – did not create many jobs or stimulate the economy.

    The irony here is Obama’s stimulus bill was not spent “wisely and well.”

    1. $18 million. Free Money ?
      Where do residents think the $18 million comes from ?
      Hedge fund manager ? CEOs ?
      No most of the ‘free money’ comes from ordinary people—Chicago single mother that takes the bus two hours a day to work, marginal farmers, parents hoping to feed their kids and pay for college, and Evanston homeowners facing foreclosure.
      And remember the ‘free money’ going to Kenilworth and Winettka comes from these same people and other Evanston resident.
      Does not seem so free now, does it ? At least the Governor and Legislator will get votes for all their ‘gifts’—apparently they think everyone is stupid !

    2. Employment Surges in Bright Sign for Recovery
      Al says:

      “But then again, most economists have concluded that the $787 Billion stimulus bill – the most expensive in world history that no one read and only Democrats passed – did not create many jobs or stimulate the economy.”

      Umm…really? “Most economists have concluded” that? Can you cite a source, or are you just making thinks up?

      Meanwhile, back in the reality-based community, we have ABC News proclaiming Employment Surges in Bright Sign for Recovery , with facts and figures::

      Employers added 290,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday, far more than analysts had anticipated. In addition, 121,000 more jobs were created in February and March than previously estimated.
      Private-sector job growth in April was much stronger than expected, with government hiring for the decennial U.S. census a secondary factor.

      While David Leonhardt in the New York Times reported on what most economists think of the stimulus:

      “Just look at the outside evaluations of the stimulus. Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.”

      Even more strange, Al, is that you cite the cost of the “stimulus bill” as $787 Billion. You do realize, of course, that that figure includes $286 billion in tax cuts, don’t you? Are you suggesting that Obama’s tax cuts are wasteful? Are you suggesting that tax cuts contribute to the deficit? Are you suggesting that tax cuts do not stimulate the economy? This seems to go against Republican dogma.

      (I don’t think that the tax cuts were a good part of the stimulus – I would have preferred more job-creating government spending.)

      Enquiring Minds want to know.

  2. Over $2 million fee for a private developer
    Over $2 million fee for a private developer to perform a function that the City could hire 2 individuals to do? The staff cost for the City to hire 2 seasoned professionals to administer this program would be $350,000. Mayor Tisdahl doesn’t know what she’s talking about when she says the City can’t ‘waste money’. The City is wasting approx $1.7 million on a developer fee.

    How do I know that the City could hire 2 staff to do the job? I ran a $100 million dollar project of similar scope. And it was: on time and on budget.

    Best of luck, Mayor, with a flawed, naive plan. You are treating tax money like its private financing.

  3. Sssssh, don’t tell the Democrats, unemployment rose in April
    Mr. Who Knows,

    I stand corrected – the stimulus bill that was passed only by the Democrats in the midnight hour without anyone reading it was actually $862 billion. And I forgot to mention the jobs bill – another $80 billion. So, let’s round it off – $1 TRILLION!!!!

    Which economist concluded that the Democrat’s stimulus bill is a failure, you ask? Here’s one from a large list – Robert Barro, Harvard professor of economics and senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. You can read his editorial in the Feb. 23 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

    He says: “…Thus, viewed over five years, the fiscal stimulus package is a way to get an extra $600 billion of public spending at the cost of $900 billion in private expenditure. This is a bad deal. The fiscal stimulus package of 2009 was a mistake.”

    Mr. Who Knows, citing a New York Times journalist to support your argument that the Democrat’s stimulus is working is highly naive and unconvincing.

    As we know, millions from the stimulus bill went to non-existing zip codes and companies. Obama and the Democrats urged the quick passage of the bill and promised unemployment would not rise above 8 percent. It now hovers near 10 percent and growing as the national deficit soars.

    Here’s a sampling of the $1 trillion stimulus waste and fraud:

    * A $67,726 federal grant to a casino outside the city of Green Bay, Wisc., to send employees to a local customer service seminar.

    * A $4 million allocation from the FHA to construct a 2.66 mile bike trail in Massachusetts.

    * $390,000 in stimulus funds for SUNY-Buffalo to conduct a study on the relationship between drinking malt liquor and using marijuana.

    * $3.4 million to build a passage for turtles and other animals under a state highway in Jackson Lake, Fla.

    Yes Mr. Who Knows, I love how you conveniently leave out key facts when you cite the Labor Department’s “sunny” report that 290,000 jobs were created in April.

    Uh, the Labor Department also indicated that 255,000 people lost their jobs in April! And 66,000 of the new April jobs were the temporary census workers. Oh, and the unemployment rate in April INCREASED!!!!

    You can’t spend your way out of a Recession. But as the Democrats have shown, you can arrogantly spend other people’s money to obtain more power and influence.

    I can smell the cool fresh November air as angry voters march through crinkly colorful leaves to have their say at the ballot box and increase the unemployment rate of Democrat politicians.

    1. Epistemic Closure, the Sequel
      Al, your repetition of talking points is getting tiresome. It is not so much your positions on the issues, but your inability or unwillingness to engage in honest discussion and enquiry.

      Let’s look at your opening:

      “the stimulus bill that was passed only by the Democrats in the midnight hour without anyone reading”

      The stimulus billed passed the Senate with three Republican votes (Specter has since switched.) It passed at 10:47pm – the vote actually started hours earlier, and they had 59 votes – but Senator Sherrod Brown was in Ohio where his mother died , and instead of showing any decency the Republicans made him come back to DC to break the filibuster before he could return to Ohio for her funeral.

      As for the silly claim that ‘nobody read it’ – like all bills, this was throughly discussed at several committee hearings and numerous amendemendents and compromosises were made. The bill was available for anyone to read. How do you know, Al, that nobody read it?

      As for the claim that “Oh, and the unemployment rate in April INCREASED!!!!” – this is really silly, Al. The unemployment rate increased because the number of job seekers increased. Everyone knows that ‘unemployment’ is measured by excluding ‘discouraged workers’ who are not actively seeking jobs. Again, you are reciting silly talking points.

      Also silly was your recitation of alleged ‘waste’, such as “$390,000 in stimulus funds for SUNY-Buffalo to conduct a study on the relationship between drinking malt liquor and using marijuana.” Mocking scientific research is always fun – it appeals to the anti-intellectual Republican base (like when Bobby Jindal mocked ‘volcano monitoring’ as a waste of money ).

      Since you complain about lawmakers who haven’t read bills that they vote on, I assume that you have thoroughly investigated the merits of Dr. Collins study . Why do you think that this study is a waste? On scientific grounds? Do you have a problem with the methodology? Do you think that all public health research is wasteful? Do you think that it is wasteful for the government to enquire as to the factors leading to marijuana use or addiction?

      Have you thoroughly evaluated Dr. Collins’ proposal with an enquiring mind, or are you just repeating the talking points?

  4. Congratulations
    In my humble opinion, the City of Evanston, the Mayor and Brinshore have demonstrated the true value of collaboration for the benefit of all. Our city had to compete to ‘WIN’ the $18 million grant that will benefit all of the residents and homeowners of our City. It provides necesary funds to stabilize the housing market that has been struggling as a result of the national/global recession.

    Evanston had to compete with hundreds of deserving communities around the country and because of the wisdom of the Council and the Staff and their decision to partner with Brinshore, created a partnership with sophistication and capacity, that successfully competed and won the grant.

    The grant requires that local, women and minority contractors be used for at least 25% of the work. However, I think the 25% should be viewed as the baseline and that the evaluation of the effectiveness of the community’s efforts consider success as how far we are able to exceed the 25%.

    Again, congratulations to the City/Brinshore Team.

  5. Mr. Who Knows, silly is as silly does
    Mr. Who Knows,

    Out of 183 Republicans in the House, not one voted for the $863 Billion stimulus bill. Soon-to-be-former Sen. Arlen Spector, who would vote to take his mother’s healthcare away if it meant he could stay in power, doesn’t count as as Republican vote. More Democrats voted against the stimulus bill than Republicans against it (only 2 in the Senate).

    The Democrats own this monstrous stimulus bill, pure and simple.

    I have to say it is your response that lacks honesty and openness. Either you don’t know or you’re duplicitous when you say that since the stimulus bill was discussed in committee then everyone, including Republicans, knew what was in it.

    Let me give you a civics lesson – bills change once it gets on the floor. The problem was since the Democrats had a SUPERMAJORITY, they decided to take a vote without debate or any chance for amendments. And, the Republicans were primarily shut out of committee process in the first place.

    BTW-the written version of 1,000 page $863 Billion stimulus bill didn’t become available until 11 p.m. the day before the vote. Remember, the $863 Billion bill is THE MOST EXPENSIVE IN WORLD HISTORY! You would think there should have been a little more time to digest the written version and maybe talk about it on the floor before voting.

    So it’s silly for me to say unemployment in April increased when there were more job seekers? How’s that? It’s interesting you never respond to the fact that 255,000 people LOST THEIR JOBS IN APRIL!! Oh how silly of you, Mr. Who Knows 🙂

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. I know liberals tend to exaggerate when excited but I never said or implied I was against scientific research.

    I’m sure Dr. Collins’ study is important to some as thousands of other research projects are. But I can’t see how finding out the relationshsip between drinking malt liquor and smoking marijuana is going to stimulate the economy or create LASTING jobs. If you think otherwise, Mr. Who Knows, might I suggest you take a break on the hopium.

    But when you spend $3.5 million to build a bridge for turtles, $4 million to build a 2 mile bike trail ($1 million per mile) or millions to remove gang tattoos or weatherize homes at a time when our budget deficit has skyrocketed to the point that our unborn children will paying off the debt, I kind of think we should be more careful how we spend the money. Don’t you?

    For example, will the turtle bridge and bike trail lead to permanent jobs and wealth creation? This is suppose to be a bill to stimulate the economy. Who do you think designed the stimulus bill anyway?

    Of course, you don’t respond to the fact that many economists, including Barro, say the stimulus bill is a mistake and the evidence one year later bears that out.

    Mr. Who Knows, I’m not repeating talking points but using common sense in arguing that the Democrats’ $863 billion stimulus bill is extremely poor legislation that has not accomplished its goal but rather sunk our nation’s fiscal health and burdened our unborn children and their children with debt.

    I’m guessing you don’t have children.

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