People voting in an online poll conducted by the city have named renting out vacant space in the Civic Center and eliminating township government among their most popular ideas for closing Evanston’s budget gap.

The poll was based on a list of suggestions developed during community budget workshop meetings. It was available online from Friday through Tuesday.

People voting in an online poll conducted by the city have named renting out vacant space in the Civic Center and eliminating township government among their most popular ideas for closing Evanston’s budget gap.

The poll was based on a list of suggestions developed during community budget workshop meetings. It was available online from Friday through Tuesday.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons told the Mayor’s Budget Task Force Wednesday night that about 15 percent of the office space in the Civic Center now is vacant because of reductions in city staffing in recent years.

Also among the top vote getters in the poll were a wage freeze for city employees, creating a marina on the lakefront and the perennial favorites “stop spending money we don’t have” and “reduce outside consulting costs.”

Participants in the poll could select up to five options from a list of 55 suggestions. The complete results are available online.

The poll also asked residents to rank the importance of various city services.

If you see folks in the city’s vital records, fleet maintenance or city clerk’s office walking around with sad faces — it could be because they came in at the bottom of the list — with less than two percent of the people voting rating their departments as important.

At the top of the list in the poll results — police, fire and the library.

The full list of those results is also available online.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

14 Comments

  1. email campaign

    I received an email that had been forwarded many times telling me to go and vote to fund the library. I wonder if this affected the results of the survey?

  2. soviet election

    So Branch Libraries were permitted to remain as "Most Important Services", but any reference to cutting branch libraries was airbrushed out of the picture.

    See this article:

    Keenan said she was surprised to see "Close Library Branches" among the survey’s cost-saving options after city officials said they would not consider closing the branches at last week’s budget session, which was open to citizen input.

    The branch libraries were mistakenly added to the survey options, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

    If we aren’t allowed to discuss cutting the branches, we shouldn’t be allowed to list them as "important".

    1. Closing the Branches Should Be Considered

       The above quote demonstrates the desperation of the Evanston Library Friends.  It seems only reasonable that a survey of cost-cutting options should consider all City operations.  This would include the branches.    

       The Evanston Library Friends know that previous surveys have shown that the Evanston residents overwhelmingly favor closing the branches.

      Once again, the the Evanston Library Friends are trying to stifle debate and force their agenda on the citizens of Evanston.

      I want the option of closing the branches in the survey.  I want the City officials to consider the opinions of all of the voters, not just a small, hysterical minority.

       

      1. foi request

         Since Wally wasn’t willing to count the number of respondents who said "Close the Branch Libraries", can we count them ourselves?

        Aren’t these surveys public records, and subject to disclosure under FOI?

         

  3. Forget the poll – deal with the real issues!

    While a poll is nice and a great PR tool,  the real issue is the efficient operation of the city – not a rating of services as to their importance.  

    A low rated service, such as the city clerk’s office could be operating at high efficiency versus a large department such as the water plant which could  be running inefficiently. While everyone places police and fire services at the top, here again are they running efficiently?

    Vacant space is really much higher at the Civic Center than the city is projecting. As an example, many city employees have very large offices – due to the inefficient space in the building. One directors office is 3-4 times larger than any spaced given to a similar position in private industry.

    The city is talking about in-sourcing, that is selling out services to other communities. This might be OK if the city ran like a business, but it does not – so there is little point in doing this – the employees need to be eliminated. Recently the city offer to sell building department services to Lincolnwood for 2 days a week, they did not take the bid.  This leads me to believe the building department is over staff by at least 30%!  This clearly is not efficient.

    There is plenty more – that needs corrected – council members better wake up – we can not afford a 13% tax increase this year!

    1. Civic Center

      Vacant space is really much higher at the Civic Center than the city is projecting. As an example, many city employees have very large offices – due to the inefficient space in the building. One directors office is 3-4 times larger than any spaced given to a similar position in private industry.

      Ponzi is right…the Civic Center is much larger than what the City needs.  We can rent out some space in the short term, but the long term solution is to move into a smaller building, closer to dowtown.

      As long as we have that giant mausoleum of a Civic Center,  the number of bureaucrats will grow.  Like a gas that expands to fill any volume, the bureaucracy will expand to fill any empty offices .

      Let’s downsize our bureaucracy by downsizing our ‘Civic Center’…we could probably fit the entire City government in the abandoned Borders, with maybe a little spillover into the 1603 building.

    2. Building department

      I agree with that they are overstaffed.  In order to justify their existence they are trying to sell the services to justify the revenue.  Based on what Evanston tax payer currently get for what we pay for, I way good for Lincolnwood for rejecting!

      The building department consists of property standards, building inspection, building maintenance, and building permits.  We can throw in zoning and planning.  With all that pay and benefits we have to pay to keep all separated, it is great return on the tax dollars.

      A good Evanston Now article maybe a some kind of comparison study into what similar towns spend money and employment on this kind of stuff.  That’s when we can clearly see how city is doing with this stuff.

       

  4. Civic Center rentals

    The Township Supervisor and Twp. Assessor pay rents for very large spaces at Main and Dodge. Our state reps and state senator pay rent at 828 Davis. If 2100 Ridge is a civic center as we call it, wouldn’t it make a lot of sense for those elected officials to be paying possibly lower rents, but rents nonetheless, to the taypayers who contribute that money to their budgets?

    Someone can probably go through the records and detemine what the township offices pay. It never made any sense to me when those offices moved out of 2100 Ridge where they used to be.

    And I would hope that if the health clinic is reopened, it does not pay rent somewhere else. It was housed at 2100 Ridge for years and should be there again. If there is federal money included for rent, pay it to the landlord:  US!

  5. I agree with previous

    I agree with previous comments alluding to the apparent zealotry of the library activists in, as it were, stuffing the ballot box.  When I took the survey, I approached the consideration of "what city services are most important" by envisioning what daily life would be like in the absence of each one. Measured against that yardstick, I find it astounding that "sewer" came in so far down on the list — far below all of the library facilities.   Hmmmm — perhaps when we no longer have sewer service due to lack of both funding and interest, maybe we can all line up outside the restroom doors of those untouchable branch libraries.

  6. Rent Space AND Outsource City Government

    Kill 2 birds as they say… Let’s rent the Civic Center to the company we outsource our City jobs to and everyone comes out a winner.  The city gets money to rent out the building, non-redundant staff can be re-hired by the outsourcing company (who is in the business of making sure things are run efficiently) and the pensions for our city workers can be managed to a 401k by the outsourcing company. 

    A private company would have to be run quite badly to compare with the current state of our ineffecient and pet-project run city government.

    1. Amen to outsourcing and renting out City Hall

      Amen and Amen !

      Outsouce everything possible.  What can’t be outsourced move to an existing building—old Chandler’s building not in use should be plenty large.

      As was said then 401k’s for employees they hire.

      I’d say even the current government could operate communications in cyber-space but then again they never respond to email so they either ignore the public or don’t know how to use email.

  7. Flawed Survey

    How could we possibly be asked to select only five things under "most important services?"

    If you just choose law, street maintenance, sewer, police, fire and water, you’ve already gone one over.

    It’s funny that the least popular selection was "law." How many would vote to live in a lawless city?  

    On the other hand, perhaps the voters are confident that nearly all city services could be contracted out to the private sector or done away with. And apparently they feel that federal and state laws are plenty!

  8. Poll not scientific

    It seems that anyone could have participated in this poll, including police, fire and city employees – most of whom do not live in Evanston.

    Also, the City of Evanston should have mentioned it somewhere that this poll is not scientific. 

    Based on these two facts I certainly hope that the Council and city staff take this online poll with a grain of salt and instead take the hardline approach for more cutbacks and layoffs.

    But I won’t hold my breath since the city in this economic crisis felt the need to spend about $1 million and hire 20 more employees this year to open a 311 call center – the key to more taxation.

    In fact, the city should have hired a consultant to conduct a scientific poll of Evanston residents rather than relying or even considering taking in sloppy unscientific data. 

    But I noticed one of the items in the poll was not to hire more consultants.

    Oh well, ignorance is bliss.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.