Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl in her annual state of the city address today said that as tough economic times continue, the city faces a balancing act.

It must not increase taxes so much that residents and businesses have to leave, but also provide enough services so everyone wants to stay.

Tisdahl said the city is responding to the economic crisis by reducing spending, encouraging economic development and relying more on volunteers to help provide city services.

She drew applause when she praised the work of city employees who worked long hours to clear streets during this month’s blizzard.

She noted that the economic development staff recently helped persuade two local businesses to expand, adding more jobs in Evanston.

And she singled out efforts of volunteers on the Citizens Emergency Response Team who helped aid residents displaced by a fire at the YMCA last summer.

The mayor also encouraged business owners attending the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon at the Hilton Orrington, to apply to participate in a state affordable housing tax credit program that would aid workers in moving into some of the 100 housing units being rehabilitated by the city with a federal grant.

That would reduce their commuting time, stress, absenteeism and turnover, Tisdahl said.

She said the city now has control of 59 properties as part of the $18 million federal neighborhood stablization program grant.

She said that of about $1 million in subcontracts awarded so far 69 percent has gone to minority or women owned or Evanston-based businesses and nearly half has gone to businesses whose owners are low income or have a significant percentage of low-income workers.

She said some of the homes will be ready for occupancy by midyear.

Former mayor Lorraine Morton joined Mayor Tisdahl in presenting a plaque to chamber Executive Director Jonathan Perman at the luncheon. Perman is resigning after 19 years leading the group.

Related link

Text of the mayor’s speech (.pdf)

Audio recording of mayor’s speech

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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