A group that says it represents minority contractors in Evanston says it’s teaming up with the Friends of the Evanston Public Library for a joint protest rally Saturday.

The Evanston Minority Business Consortium says that it plans to work with the branch library fans “to make the city council accept” the groups’ demands that at least 60 percent of subcontracting work in the city’s $18 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant go to minority- or women-owned or Evanston-based businesses, that the existing north and south branch libraries be maintained and a that new library branch be created on the city’s west side.

The city is currently promising that at least 25 percent of the subcontracting work on the federal grant will go to minority, woman or Evanston-based firms.

The city’s Library Board Monday approved a budget that adds more money for operation of the north and south branch libraries but makes no provision for additional branches.

The City Council is faced with deciding how to close a $3.5 million gap in its 2011 budget, and the city manager is scheduled to release a proposed budget outlining possible cuts on Friday.

What’s being called the “fair share rally” will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Parker Room at Lake Street Church, 607 Lake St.

Update 2:18 p.m.: In response to an e-mailed question from Evanston Now, Laurie Keenan, vice-president of the library friends group, says her group “believes that a library on the West Side would be a great complement to the work funded by NSP2.” Keenan’s statement did not embrace the minority contractors’ demand for a greater share of the work generated by the federal grant.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Road to More Bad Planning

      Not only is this discrimination but not economic.

      Contracts should be based on the bid covering the requirements [and hopefully the contractor actually talking to the city about whether the requirements are accurate], reputation of the firm and the lowest bid assuming the quality levels are met.

      If you award by preference groups, you may not get the best price/quality, you will be opening yourself up for fraud [‘front men", etc.] and probably years of litigation before and aferward.  That on top of discriminaton against vendors who may provide a better product.

      Evanston can’t afford to be "politically correct."  We have enough budget problems !

  2. Protest.

    Please correct me if I’m reading this wrong, but it looks to me like being an Evanston resident is only a fraction of what is being considered. Regardless of where you live if you’re a minority you should get the work? Here’s what I’m reading:
    “to make city council accept the groups’ demands that at least 60 percent of subcontracting work in the city’s $18 million federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant go to minority- or women-owned or Evanston-based businesses…”
    OR Evanston-based business. What ever happened to the bidding process? Regardless of what race you are the lowest most qualified candidates should be considered.  Furthermore it shouldn’t matter where you live, what race you are, what religon you are, or what gender you are.
    This is nothing more than another gimmick to further drive a wedge in the real issue, which is we have too many libraries, and not enough money. Yesterday somebody brought up the word embarrassment, and to that person I say, THIS is an embarrassment. This gimmick is out of line and out of touch with rational behavior and thought. 
  3. ‘Fair Share’

    Do minorities make up 60% of the Evanston population?

    If so then I guess the 60% figure would be fair. If not, then where do these two groups come up with 60% as a ‘fair share’ of the grant?

    And why is the EPL Friends involved in the grant money issue at all? Wouldn’t this grant come with specific usage terms? And is a West Side branch included in the Program?

    Sounds like the EPL Friends is trying to create as much animosity with the community at large as they possibly can. Interesting strategy…

    Perhaps there should be a EPL Friends and a EPLNSWB (Evanston Public Library North South West Branch) Friends. This might clarify which group one might want to side with in the ongoing saga a library funding.

    1. “Do minorities make up 60% of

      "Do minorities make up 60% of the Evanston population?"

      Probably not. But the group isn’t demanding that 60% of the work go to minorities… it’s demanding that 60% of subcontracting go to minority or women OWNED businesses, OR Evanston-based businesses. Minorities and women easily make up 60% or more of Evanston’s population; additionally, businesses owned by women and minorities are under the same fair hiring requirements that all businesses must adhere to under federal law.

  4. How ridiculous!

    So, if you have something to complain about I suggest you go along on Saturday and whinge with the rest of them.  This just goes to show what a bunch of selfish individuals these are.

    First, do the Friends really expect the voters and City Council to listen to a group which voted to keep the library branches open over funding fire service and police?

    Second, I would rather the bidding for these contracts went to those who submit the best bids, regardless of race, gender or any other demographic, including where they live.  The money saved could be put to good use in helping to provide minority businesses with some useful skills so they can win bids without the need for discriminatory practices.

    So, sure go along and use your right to free speech.  Just don’t expect anyone to listen.

  5. Evanston-Based Business?

    What constitutes the Evanston-Based business?  That they have an Evanston address only?  So the entire workforce could live outside Evanston but we still give them the work?

    Also why do we have to earmark money to minority / women owned business?  Do they live in Evanston?  Do we chose an male owned Evanston based business versus a Chicago based minority / women owned business? 

    If the plan is to involved Evanston residents, then the we should be looking at the canidates that provide the best quality while employing the most residents regardless of office location.

    But these should not even be an issue, bids should compiled with specific criteria by individuals not making the final decision.  For the final decision, the names and the ownership of the companies should be withheld from those individuals so they decide on the terms of the deal.

  6. Shooting their mouths off

    So what, if anything are these so called "Friends" of the library doing to actually raise funds to keep the branches open other than bullying the city for more money? Seems to me the "Friends" should do a little fund raising, grant seeking or using a little of their hard earned money to keep the branches open.

    The world does not respond to bullies (as we have seen in the news lately) bullying is detrimental to your cause.

    Stop shooting your mouths off "Friends" and do something constructive! And stop spending money we don’t have!

    1. Well, as a matter of fact…

      EPL Friends have done a ton of fundraising. In fact, we paid for the Branches to remain open for the next six months. Anyone using a branch library these days is doing so thanks to the Friends.  We’ve raised several hundred thousand dollars, and have tapped a huge resource of talent and energy willing to work hard to improve our libraries. We’ve worked hundreds of thousands of hours and have more than 3,000 families who have joined our group. It’s surprising to me you haven’t read about it. Although, there’s not a lot of news about our good works reported here at Evanston Now.

      As a matter of fact, now that you mention it, we’ve even got a fundraising event this weekend, Gladys.

      Maybe you’d like to come, being so civic-minded as you are and all. 

      You can read about the event here on Evanston Patch, or here on TribLocal. 


      1. Those numbers are very impressive…

        In the past half year or so EPLF has had more than 3000 families join.  With the 2000 census indicating that there are less than 16000 families in the city, that means one in five families belongs to EPLF.  Most impressive, especially considering that only about 7500 people actually check an item out of the library in a given year.

        And EPLF members have worked ‘hundreds of thousands’ of hours.  Taking the most conservative number possible (200,000) that means that each and every one of the families has on average donated 70 hours of their time to the cause.  Truly remarkable, the energy of this group.

        1. Bizarre, Actually

          Hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours – to keep services to branches that are open 4 days per week and are a convenience for fraction of the community, many, if not most of whom could travel to the Main Library or buy books for themselves. 

          Just think how much more good could have been done if those dollars and those hours had been spent raising money for services to homeless families who have no shelters in Evanston; providing quality preschool services to students who enter school less prepared than their peers; funding suicide prevention training in the public schools to prevent more loss of life amongst our students.

          There are so many worthy causes in Evanston, one has to wonder why the Evanston Library Friends are spending so much time and money on this one. If this wasn’t about keeping the North Branch open but only about building a branch on the West Side, would so many people be putting in so much time and money?! Will these same people who are so concerned about the plight of their neighbors on the West Side be lobbying for a new school in the 5th Ward?

      2. Why Not Here, Lori?

        You complain that Evanston Now doesn’t cover your events. But apparently the articles on Evanston Patch and TribLocal were posted by you. Why don’t you post the same article here? You obviously have a login on Evanston Now but you only seem to use it to respond to comments about the Evanston Library Friends. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly here why not publish your own perspective?


  7. Make the City…accept

    This bidding process and the "strong-arm" tactics being used are typical Evanston. Why are we surprised? The Evanston Minority Business Consortium cleary spells it out.. "to make the city council accept".  There is nothing hidden there. They are going to "make" the city accept their plan. Pretty clear to me that force, of some sort, will be used. If anyone should reject their proposals, they will immidiately be called racists, hate mongers, bigots, etc. Now if that doesn’t quiet everyone, I’m sure a lawsuit would be the next reasonable step to "make" the city accept their plans. Sounds reasonable to me.

    Why should we have a bidding process at all? Sorry. That was a dumb question. On the surface the City must appear to entertain the other bids. Right? So much for DIVERSITY and ACCEPTANCE. The only way most of us can even voice our opinions regarding this farce, is due to the ability to post "anonymously" on web-sites like this. For fear of being called the "R" word.

    By the way. Friends of the Library…way go on hitching your wagon to a vocal minority group when neither have anything to do with one another. Bravo!

  8. Setting the Record Straight

    Per my earlier email communication with Bill Smith, see below.  An announcement was released by EMBC prior to EPLF approval. The correct information was sent by email today at 1PM, but the story has not yet been updated.

    EPLF’s efforts are focused on the second statement. Our goals include strengthening the library system and extending library service outreach to the West Side with the current Boocoo book wall and, eventually, a library.  EPLF believes that a library on the West Side would be a great complement to the work funded by NSP2.  In conjunction with the rally, we will be showing our West Side documentary video about library services. 

    Dear Media, et al


    As a point of clarification, see release below regarding EPLF’s involvement at the Fair Share Rally Saturday. 
    Our goals include strengthening the library system and extending library services outreach to the West Side with the current Boocoo book wall, and eventually, a library. 
    EPLF believes that a library on the West Side would be a great complement to the work funded by NSP2. In conjunction with the rally, we will be showing our West Side documentary video about library services. 
    If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. 
    Lori Keenan


    EPLF supports libraries as a way to strengthen community. We support better equity and collaboration in Evanston in all of its many facets of civics and community. We want better lines of communication and more citizen input for the things that the community values as important. 

    Our mission includes greater library outreach and service delivery to the neighborhoods of Evanston — all neighborhoods.

    We know that neighborhood branches are powerful tools for community-building, economic development, and educational support. We welcome the support of EMBC as an ally in working toward the betterment of Evanston for all its residents.

    Our discussions began about West Side library services. EMBC has voiced their desire for libraries and we support that idea. This was one of the City’s charges to us in supporting West Side outreach, and we are working to fulfill that goal. We’ve begun with the boocoo Book Wall and believe that a new branch library on the West Side would be a great complement to the work funded by NSP2. We are working together to have a stronger voice, and hope to support each other’s efforts towards this end. 

    EPLF’s participation will include showing a video documentary supporting the need for library services on the West Side, which was produced for EPLFriends by Gaylon Emerzian of Trillium Productions. 




    Evanston Public Library Friends is an independent, community-based organization dedicated to strengthening Evanston Public Library’s innovation, leadership and neighborhood outreach. Formed in March 2010, the group is currently more than 3,000 families strong. For more information, visit on the web at http://www.eplfriends.org.



  9. Nutty meet crazy, crazy meet nutty, kooky nutty, crazy kooky

    What in the Sam Helen is going on with the Friends of the Evanston Public Library?

    Lori Keenan, vice president for the Library Friends, says her group does not "not embrace the minority contractors’ demand for a greater share of the work generated by the federal grant" but yet its members will be on hand for the Fair Share Rally. 

    I see. While the Evanston Minority Business Consortium rallies to make the City Council accept its demands, Friends of the Library will be there advocating for a west side library and showing a video documentary about library services.

    So while members of the Minority Consortium picket and shout for their fair share, members of the Library Friends will be milling about, talking about how wonderful it would be to have a library on the west side.

    Jon Stewart should relocate his "Restore the Sanity" rally in Evanston.

    Say Lori Keenan, does Audrey Niffenberger approve of the video documentary? Just wondering.

    This is what happens when people become too dependent on government, which is usually not the solution to our problems but is THE problem.

    Perhaps we need a new organization in Evanston that organizes and rallies on behalf of taxpayers. It would be called – Friends of Evanston Taxpayers. Just sayin.

  10. Has the money been turned over to EPL

    Did EPL get the money already so as to fund the Branches ? 

    One way we find out how much they actually raised, is to have the money physically turned-over and reported by a neutral third party, e.g. auditor.

  11. Who are members of the Evanston Minority Business Consortium?

    I’ve never heard of the Evanston Minority Business Consortium.  Bill, which businesses are part of the group?


    Also, the grant already requires somewhere between 20-25% of the contracts to go to minority, women-owned, or Evanston businesses.  Sixty percent is crazy.

    1. EMBC

      Hi Franklin,

      Robin Rue of Signature Construction Services has been sending out e-mail messages on behalf of the group.

      I haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend any of the group’s meetings, so I don’t know how many other contractors are involved. But judging from the names on the e-mail distribution list, there might be as many as 30.

      — Bill

  12. Seriously…?

    I have read through all of these posts and am truly surprised at many of them:

    1.  ‘Most, if not all, can make it to the main library or buy books’ is so far off base as to be laughable.  There are MANY families who are still struggling financially and cannot just go buy books.  More importantly are the 5,000+ elementary and middle school children who regularly use the library  —  in addition to the families with younger children and the retirees.  Let me ask you this:  Do any of YOU want your elementary school children, or your elderly parents walking to the main library?  Especially if you live all the way on the south side or NW corner of Evanston?  Probably not.

    2.  Many of these opinions sound as if they are simply feeding off an article or other postings  —  they do not sound as if the writer has actually spent any time attending City Council meetings, Library Board Meetings, the recent Budget workshops, etc.  If they had attended, they certainly would not have written what they had…  For instance, I have noticed that it is the City Manager who keeps bringing up the issue of  ‘Close the Branch Libraries or Get rid of Police/Fire services’.  At the most recent budget workshop, citizens did NOT suggest cutting Police or Fire personnel or services.  As a matter of fact, it was the citizens who suggested that fees for their services (ambulance runs, crowd control at NU functions, etc) be INCREASED.   I caution folks to be wary and smart on this issue because blame is being cast in what appears to be the wrong direction, but what I have yet to decide is why the City Manager is doing it, and what he hopes to accomplish by dividing the residents in this manner.

    3.  Building codes are complex and designed to ensure that work is being done properly.  If we are confident in the skills of the Inspectors employed by the City, then we should also be confident that the end result will be safe.  That being said, and combined with the lawsuit crazy environment we live in, I think it is terrific that the City plans to earmark a portion of the funding towards considering minority, women or evanston based businesses ahead of other firms outside of the city.  Ironically, Minority and Women Owned businesses are forced to submit to a grueling compliance certification program in order to achieve that designation  —  it is NOT a matter of simply checking a box!   IF these are established firms with solid backgrounds, good performace records, etc AND their bids are competitive, then I support the City in awarding those firms the business.  There are dozens in Evanston  —  it would be nice to see them represent their hometown in a positive way.

    4.  For the person who questioned "hundreds of thousands of hours" in volunteer time  —  have you ever worked as a long-term volunteer?  I personally have my causes that I am passionate about, and I choose to juggle my job, my family, and those causes day in and day out.  I realize that it isn’t for everyone, but for those many folks who are like me  —  putting in 200 hours a month on our volunteer work is normal.  Some folks obviously put in less, and some folks put in more.  It is pretty simply math though, no matter how you crunch the numbers…  A couple of hundred thousand volunteer hours is pretty easy to accomplish…

    5.  Finally, If you are not willing to give yourself some type of name and insist on remaining Anonymous  —  how on earth are people supposed to take you seriously?!!  What I see are people willing to stir up bad feelings, promote rumours, and do a little name calling  —  but then run away.  Man up!  If you have opinions that you are proud to share and subsequently write about, then provide a name. 

    ps:  Audrey Niffenegger clapped loudly following the video tape at the Library Board Meeting, and went so far as to congratulate the folks from EPL friends on a job well done.  Oh, and since you obviously missed the Library Board meeting  —  she grew up going to North Branch, and told all in attendance that  "the branches are basically an extension of our childrens schools.  To close them would be silly  —  so don’t be silly."

    1. Silly?

      I’d rather be silly than broke.

      And my kids sure don’t consider the branch libraries "an extension" of their school.  They find them depressing and even my 3 year old asks to go to the main branch instead.

    2. Audrey Niffenegger clapped

      Audrey Niffenegger clapped loudly following the video tape at the Library Board Meeting, and went so far as to congratulate the folks from EPL friends on a job well done.


      Again, when did  Audrey Nifenegger  become the Queen of Evanston?  What makes her the authority here?


      [Like 99.42% of Evanston residents, I never heard of her ]


  13. CTA does go to the library

    As to the comment " Let me ask you this:  Do any of YOU want your elementary school children, or your elderly parents walking to the main library."


    Can someone provide this person with a CTA bus and train schedule—also Metra.  They apparently never heard about them.

    How many blocks from a branch does the writer think kids should walk ?  Probably if the family lived more than five blocks they would not have the child walk even to the branch.  Months ago a north branch supporter mentioned she and her kids walked to the north branch several times a week.  She gave the distances from the north and Main branches, which put her by Loveless Park even if you use the street layout instead of "as the crow flies" and the borders of Evanston.  She never responded how the kids felt about walking those miles several times a week year round.  Hint to her: Wilmette Library would probably be closer.

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