Evanston’s mayor says she plans to offer a compromise plan for funding the city’s library at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she’s listened carefully to what library board members say they want.

Evanston’s mayor says she plans to offer a compromise plan for funding the city’s library at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said she’s listened carefully to what library board members say they want.

“I think they want to not have any more cuts in the money they receive and want predictable funding going forward and eventually more money for the library,” Tisdahl told Evanston Now.

She says the ordinance she’s proposing would set the current library budget as “a basement” below which funding would not be reduced, and it would provide that the library would get a proportionate share of any future increase in the city’s general fund budget.

“That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t increase the budget more if we could,” Tisdahl added, but it would mean the council wouldn’t cut any more and there’d be a predictable plan for any future funding increase.

The council has scheduled a discussion with the library board about library services and funding options during Monday’s meeting.

As an ordinance, the mayor’s proposal would be subject to change by the City Council in the future, and it’s not clear whether it would persuade the library board to reverse course from its plan to impose a separate library tax levy on city residents.

The mayor said she’s also unsure whether some aldermen will support the compromise — given the possibility the econmy could get worse and cause city revenue to slump further.

“There are legitimate concerns on both sides about that,” Tisdahl said, “but it’s a compromise I hope will work.”

She said if the city is faced with making more budget cuts “there really aren’t great cuts left.”

“But obviously we’d look at parks and recreation before police and fire,” she added.

She noted she’s scheduled a presentation at the council meeting by Joshua Rauh, a finance professor at Northwestern University an an expert on public pensions.

She said Rauh, an Evanston resident, “is going to come and tell us our pension obligations are going to sink us no matter what we do and will tell use when we will go bankrupt from the pensions.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Appreciate the Mayor’s civility, but….

    The Mayor is a civil and thoughtful leader.  However, I don’t think this ordinance is sufficient.

    But, the problem with this ordinance is that it rewards the underhanded tactics of the decidedly un-civil and anti-democratic Library Board.

    It basically is minimizing the council’s authority to determine the library’s budget by setting an artificial "floor."  What happens in the future if revenues decline?  The library board will not be subject to fiscal responsibility.

    Furthermore, there is no assurance that the Library Board will not unliaterally raise taxes over the objection of the council.

    If the city’s budget increases by, say, 3% and the Library Board doesn’t think that is sufficient, there is nothing to stop them from raising it even more by increasing their tax levy.

    We have seen already that their understanding of the actual costs for library operations is minimal.

    The underhanded tactics of the current Library Board already show a contempt for the public.  This ordinance really does nothing to keep that in check.

    The mayor does have the authority to sack library board members who have little concern for the public.  I would encourage her to go that route instead of advocating for an essentially toothless ordinance.

    1. The Library Board Did The Right Thing

      For 2 decades, the City Council has mismanaged our community’s finance.  This incompetence has been repeatedly documented here and in other publications.  The Library Board had no choice.  Their actions showed courage and commitment to our community.  It is the Council that has repeated engaged in duplicity.   As the truth about Wally B comes out, you will want to strip the Council of all authority.

  2. Details for Professor Rauh’s talk to City Council ??

    What date and time is Professor Rauh going to present to City Council ?

    Citizens interested in learning more about our City’s and State’s fiscal situation and the impact from unfunded pension liabilities should listen to Professor Rauh. He is a nationally recognized expert in this field.


    1. Rauh presentation

      Hi Jim,

      The date is next Monday, Sept. 13. Time is uncertain — because the start time of the City Council meeting is set as 15 minutes after whenever the Planning and Development Committee meeting ends, but no earlier than 7 p.m. Rauh’s presentation is listed as coming during the mayor’s announcements, early in the council meeting.

      — Bill

  3. EPLF claims proposed ordinance is unconstitutional

    The Evanston Public Library Friends (EPLF) is passing around warnings to its members that the Mayor’s proposed ordinance would override the Library Board’s vote for the new library tax.

    EPLF claims that the proposed ordinance is  unconstitutional because the City is attempting to override a State law with a local ordinance. EPLF also states that the proposed ordinance would require the permanent closure of both Branch libraries.

    I don’t know how much of this is true about the proposed ordinance but it sounds like EPLF might be bracing for a court challenge.

    Just what Evanston needs – more court costs. The city has a history of caving in when it comes to lawsuits (see Evanston Fire Union’s unfair hiring lawsuit or Ms. Rao who sued the city for taking down a tree).

    1. Library litigation

      This is not surprising…I would actually like to see what they are passing around.

      If you look at the committee who wrote the "Sustainable Financing" report solicited by the Library Board, it is comprised overwhelmingly of North Evanston lawyers.  That also is probably why there is nothing about actual costs of shifting financing models.  The report was simply a pretext for legal maneuvering–not for an assessment of actual costs and benefits of various funding models.

      It was clear from the get-go that these people were anticipating resistence from the public and (maybe) from the council.

      It should be noted that in May, the Library Board approved up to  $5000 expenditure for lawyers from the endowment to fight the city.  So even before the council was given the Library Board’s report, lawyers were on the bankroll.

      1. About legal litigation and libraries

        It should be noted that in May, the Library Board approved up to $5000 expenditure for lawyers from the endowment to fight the city. So even before the council was given the Library Board’s report, lawyers were on the bankroll


        Yet, whate’er false conveyances they made,
        The lawyer still was certain to be paid.
        In those dark times they learn’d their knack so well.
        That by long use they grew infallible:
        At last, a knowing age began t’enquire
                                                                                     — John Dryden, Religio Laici  

        At last, Evanston residents have begun  to enquire  about the finances of the library and the North Side lawyers who are trying to keep their silly branch library open.

        Even if Evanston were not facing a fiscal crisis, the branch libraries deserve to be closed because they are not a good use of money.

         Why is Central Street – a commercial district – a good place for a library?  We often hear about people getting hit by cars crossing Central.  Do we want old people and kids to get run over?  What about parking?  People parking for the library take away parking spots for businesses.  Central St. is so close to Wilmette’s library, and most people up there own cars.

        South Branch is in a bad building, and the location is not really convenient for anybody.  Even residents of South Evanston would be better served by a branch library in a different location…

        Or, as was suggested elsewhere, moving away from the idea of branch libraries as big rooms full of books and tables.  If we had the money, bookmobiles or kiosks and outreach are a better way to make librarians services available to the people.  

        It should not be about preserving an old building -whether it is a branch library or 708 Church or Chuckie Dawes’ house.  Our concern should be making books (or more generally, information) accessible to all residents of the City.  Having these fixed branch libraries is not the efficient way to do it.

  4. Revenue for City

    If the City would aggressively enforce the ordinance against using hand-held cell phones while driving, it would accrue enough income to help keep both branches open while making the city safer.  Twice I’ve nearly been T-boned by some pea-brain who cruises through an intersection while giggling on her cell.  A cop stationed anywhere on the south end of Dodge could catch a bunch of offenders every hour.

    This is especially important as a safety issue because Dawes School is at Dodge and Oakton, an intersection where it seems every 5th driver is on a hand-held phone.

    Judy Fradin

  5. Pension [Budget] Reform or Where we could land-up

    People could learn alot and prepare for the talk by reading Lowenstein, Roger (May 1, 2008), While America Aged: How Pension Debts Ruined General Motors, Stopped the NYC Subways, Bankrupted San Diego, and Loom as the Next Financial Crisis, Penguin Press HC,

    He details over generous [and sometimes corrupt] government bodies promising everything to government employees to keep labor peace.  Also how the government even forced on corporations pension/benefits that lead to the companies economic problems.

    EPL has this book as does Northwestern U..

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