As Evanston officials try to resolve the debate over branch libraries, one issue lurking in the background is the economic and racial disparity between the neighborhoods that do have branches and those that don’t.

Racial disparity

The North Branch library, at 2026 Central St., is located in census tract 8091. It and two adjoining north Evanston census tracts are the only ones in the city in which the population is more than 90 percent white.

The South Branch library, at 949 Chicago Ave., is located in census tract 8099. It is the next-whitest tract in the city with a population that is 88.67 percent white.

The estimated percentage of white residents by census tract in Evanston in 2009. Source: U.S. Census and Claritas via PolicyMap.com.

Across Evanston as a whole, 64.41 percent of all residents are white.

By comparison, the main library downtown is located in census tract 8094, which, with a population 73.58 percent white, is closer to the citywide average.

Economic disparity 

The census tract that houses Evanston’s North Branch library has the third highest median income of any census tract in the city, at $104,586.

Median household income by census tract in Evanston in 2009. Source: U.S. Census and Claritas via PolicyMap.com.

The three other North Evanston tracts near the North Branch have even higher income levels — ranging from $105,530 in tract 8089 to $123,905 in tract 8088.

The South Branch library’s tract, 8099, has the highest median income of any tract in the southern half of town at $93,519.

Across Evanston as a whole the median income is $64,408.

The median household income in the downtown library’s census tract is $46,235, substantially below the citywide median.

Branch debate status

In it’s latest vote on the branches, the City Council opted to keep them running on a reduced schedule for six months to see if branch library supporters can come up with private support to make them self-sustaining. That reversed an earlier vote to close the branches immediately.

The Library Board is expected to get an update on those fundraising efforts when it meets at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the main library downtown.

The City Council has scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Civic Center at which it may take a final vote on the budget designed to close a $9.5 million gap in the city’s spending plans.

Petition drives

Branch library supporters have been conducting an online petition drive for a couple of months now at BranchLove.org.

Within the past few days, residents who favor closing the branches as part of the solution to the city’s budget crisis have started their own petition drive.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

39 Comments

  1. Interesting… This strikes
    Interesting…

    This strikes me as all the more reason, then, to get off the proverbial dime and take action to close the two existing branches.

  2. Branch petitions
    Actually, if you look at the Branchlove petition you will see that it has been going for four years. The first signature is dated November 7, 2006.

    Funny, the branch supporters have been lobbying to save the branches for four years and yet this is the first year they’ve done anything to actually raise funds. This doesn’t sound like a long-term commitment to me. What they really want is to raise a token amount of money this year to prove that they’re in earnest, and then they’ll dump it back on the taxpayers. (Those of use who don’t live in the high median income census tracts.)

  3. Other levels of disparity
    One of the comments about the Central Street branch is that it serves as an economic engine for that business district, yet that business district is unwilling to support it with an SSA (i.e. a separate tax the rest of us don’t have to pay)

    This got me to thinking – neighbors have been putting in hours of volunteer time on projects to revitalize the Howard Street corridor. Why can’t we have a taxpayer-funded economic engine? What about the business districts on the West side? The disparity goes beyond just the household demographics.

    The petition now has a URL that’s easier to find: http://branchclose.org

  4. Howard Street has a TIF
    Hey Michelle,

    The Howard Street corridor is in a tax increment financing district, designed to revitalize that area. There’s your economic engine.

    The Central Street corridor is not in a TIF.

    If citizens really want to save the branch libraries, they need to put pressure on the City Council to cut back in other places, namely the Evanston Fire Department, which is not giving up anything in terms of layoffs of existing firemen, overtime pay, annual pay raises, more vacation time or unpaid time off.

    Speaking of Central Street, a good place to start in fire department cutbacks would be closing down one of the two Central Street Fire stations, and laying off personnel housed there.

  5. So the implication here is
    So the implication here is that availability of city services should be decided, at least in part, on the skin color of a neighborhood’s residents. That’s interesting.

    1. Here’s the implication that matters
      Here’s the implication that matters: for decades, the branch libraries have served the well-to-do while the rest of us have not had these same neighborhood resources.

      Remember all of that wonderful diversity that everyone in Evanston champions? Well, it’s important that services be provided equitably across all neighborhoods and economic groups. This article highlights that the branch libraries disproportionately serve the wealthy and white.

      Given our current economic situation, the rest of us can no longer afford to pay for these frills.

      The article is based on facts about race and income. This information does raise a question: why were the branch libraries placed where they were? No matter what the reason back then, the reality of now is that we cannot afford these neighborhood extras.

      Those who want to keep the branch libraries open would prefer to cut overtime police time for the most violent parts of the City and fire protection response time for all of us. Fellow residents, people’s lives and property are at stake. Certainly those lives and property need to be the priority, not branch libraries that serve very few. And those very few can afford to hop on the bus or drive to the Main Library.

      1. the branch libraries have

        the branch libraries have served the well-to-do while

        That’s a completely different issue than skin color, and there’s a solid argument that can be made for a branch library in west evanston without invoking race. Implying that the city should stop providing a service because of the skin color of people in the neighborhood is just unnecessary race baiting. We’ve spent decades getting racists to stop equating skin color with economic and social conditions, yet here we have residents of one of the country’s most progressive cities bringing it back.

        The article is based on facts about race and income. This information does raise a question: why were the branch libraries placed where they were?

        Obviously to be close to the white people and far away from any minority groups, right? After all, the south branch has been on the same block since 1917, when the city was 92-96% white. The location clearly has everything to do with race and nothing to do with the fact that Chicago Ave is a major business corridor.

        1. CSNA policies result in loss of branch library
          I find it interesting that the CSNA crowd wants to save the north branch library.

          Perhaps keeping the branch libraries would be more justifiable, and have more political support, if more patrons used them. The CSNA and other anti-development groups have helped to prevent , delay, or downscale various development projects that would have provided a greater customer base for the north branch. Just look at that empty field at Kendall…too bad that there aren’t any apartments there with families and children, who would use the branch library. Central and Eastwood is another example.

          And all the anti-development people who clamored against ‘selling out’ Evanston’s charm and uniqueness and history for development and revenue: do you see what happens when the city doesn’t have revenue? It can’t afford to pay for branch libraries.

          And to everyone who supports low-density development and ample parking: If have low density, it means fewer people are going to be able to walk to branch libraries…so if they are driving to the library anyway, they can drive to Wilmette or Evanston Main. No need for branch libraries.

        2. I know that the truth hurts sometimes but we face the truth
          Your comment:
          “Implying that the city should stop providing a service because of the skin color of people in the neighborhood is just unnecessary race baiting. We’ve spent decades getting racists to stop equating skin color with economic and social conditions, yet here we have residents of one of the country’s most progressive cities bringing it back.”

          No one is race baiting by pointing out that the locations of the branch libraries disproportionately favor the well-to-do and white. You may not like that that fact has been clearly demonstrated and publicized but it is still a fact.

          No one is “implying that the city should stop providing a service because of the skin color of the people in the neighborhood… .” I am arguing that services that disproportionately favor the well-to-do need to be examined very closely in these tough financial times. These neighborhood frills for the wealthy need to go when compared to police and fire response times.

          Your comment:
          “Obviously to be close to the white people and far away from any minority groups, right? After all, the south branch has been on the same block since 1917, when the city was 92-96% white. The location clearly has everything to do with race and nothing to do with the fact that Chicago Ave is a major business corridor.”

          It was just a question — why were the branches (both of them) placed where they were? If you don’t know the answer, no need to assume that I had some racist intent in asking the question.

          Again, look at the equities of where the branches are located and why similar services have been withheld for decades from other neighborhoods. The facts indicate that the branches are extra neighborhood services for those who can well afford to drive or take a bus to the downtown library.

          I guess that the statement “the truth hurts” applies to your situation in defending the branches. I appreciate Bill’s efforts to bring these facts to light. I am sending this article to all of the council members to make certain that they consider these facts, rather than focusing on emotional attachments to things that we can no longer afford.

          1. It’s actually precisely what

            No one is race baiting by pointing out that the locations of the branch libraries disproportionately favor the well-to-do and white.

            It’s actually precisely what race baiting is.

            No one is “implying that the city should stop providing a service because of the skin color of the people in the neighborhood… .”

            Are you also going to try to claim that no one is implying that the city should stop providing this service because of the income levels of people in the neighborhood? Because, in case you missed it, those are the two things this post and comments discuss: skin color and income levels.

            It was just a question — why were the branches (both of them) placed where they were?

            The question was asked explicitly in the context of “race”: “The article is based on facts about race and income. This information does raise a question…” (emphasis mine)

            I guess that the statement “the truth hurts” applies to your situation in defending the branches.

            It very revealing that you assume I’m defending the branches simply because I called out blatant race baiting and cherry picking of facts. Apparently you’re among those who feel that anything goes when it comes to pushing your agenda.

          2. Why demographics matter
            There is only one reason it would make sense for everyone in the City to pay for a branch library: if it offered library services to a broad community who otherwise would be unable to access them. This is why demographics are important in this debate: I see no indication that the majority of people in the areas surrounding the current branches are unable to get downtown.

        3. Branches as study halls ?
          I’ve not seen a response from teachers or parent about what books the branch [or for that matter Main] libraries have that the children need to go there for. Have these parents ever examined the ‘educational ‘ collection at the branches ? If the schools don’t have, and the branches do, the books the students need, is that not a matter to take up with the schools—not the general public’s tax dollars ? Can’t the schools get them from other Evanston schools ? inter-library loan ?
          Are those children, who parents claim use the branches in such overwhelming numbers, going to the branches for as a ‘glorified’ study hall until 8PM ? Are not schools open for after-hour study rather than children having to walk to a branch ? Do parents really believe their kids are at the branch or are they at their friend’s houses and using studying as a cover ? If they use the branch as a study-hall, that covers Saturday but what about Sunday ? At the Main I see kids come in when the Loft opens—is that not a clue to parents about what the kids want—and not very many in the reading areas on the third floor ? Do parents prefer for the kids to be at the branches [or even Main] rather than being at home so parents can help with homework questions or is the branch just a way to get the kids out of their hair ? Maybe the parents should shut off their TV and study for their own careers at the same time their kids are studying. [Do the branches or even Main have staff to help with homework ?]

  6. Thank You!
    Finally we can shut down the argument that these branches are serving the underprivileged!! Anyone can see that the Central branch is in one of the most expensive sections of Evanston, and the South branch, while close to poor areas, is most convenient to families living in the mansions on Hinman and Judson.

  7. Branch libraries
    Closing the branch libraries will save the city $350,000. The Tif districts have about twelve million dollars sitting in their bank accounts. Next year they’ll have at least a half a million more.
    Once the branches are gone they’re gone. The city will be permanently lessened by their absence. If the council so desired it could easily use $350,000 of TIF money this year for approved uses and keep the libraries open another year until the city’s financial picture improves.
    Is there anyone out there who would close the branches if the city could afford them? Why would that be a good thing? The city can afford to keep the branches open. The aldermen just have to decide to do so. Call your alderman and don’t take no for an answer.
    One more thing. Why do the branch libraries have to support themselves? Why don’t other government services have to do so?
    I wish the people who want the branch libraries closed would think hard about what kind of a city they want to live in. We should have more branch libraries not less.

    1. Yes, close the branches
      Is there anyone out there who would close the branches if the city could afford them?

      In a word, yes. Even if we “could afford” them I think the $350,000 could be used to enhance our city in much better ways. We have a wonderful main branch library which is accessible to all through public transportation and the branch libraries are redundant.

    2. Demographics and fair use
      Branch libraries are NICE. But our current system does not serve those who need it most. Get rid of the branches and establish an excellent bookmobile program that will serve ALL of Evanston, not just the wealthy few who are lucky enough to live within blocks of their branch.

      Simply stated, we cannot afford what we have and we certainly cannot afford to build more branches in areas that truly need them.

      Nobody is denying the value of libraries, and (as you may have already heard) we have a great library downtown.

      Skokie is larger than Evanston, and has chosen to focus on having an award-winning single library system bolstered by — get this — a bookmobile.

    3. Good point
      This is exactly the issue – I want to live in a City where I don’t have to fear violence, where I will be taken to the hospital in time to save my life if I have a heart attack, where my property is safe from burglary, fires and from damage by neglected City trees. I want to have access to library services – though I don’t mind travel to do so. I want the snow plowed in winter and the streets clean in summer. I want garbage removed in a timely manner, and the rat problem addressed. I want our infrastructure maintained so that we don’t get hit by another deferred maintenance bill like we did with the water/sewer system. To me, these things are far more important than “extras” like convenience libraries that serve a population perfectly able to get downtown.

      Most importantly, I want to ensure that my neighbors who are struggling financially are not driven from their homes by increased property taxes. While I realize that the City is only one budget that draws from from property tax, at least it seems to understand the struggles of its constituents.

      If we don’t cut the “extras” to help our neighbors, then what kind of Evanston are we?

  8. South Branch
    My children attend Lincoln School. Lincoln has a 40% low income population. The students at Lincoln represent all races in Evanston. Lincoln students regularly make walking field trips to the South Branch library.

    While you did a thorough job of presenting the demographics of the neighborhood immediately surrounding the branch library, perhaps a more balanced look might have included the people that are actually using the library?

    Does anyone ever consider who uses The Levy Center?

    1. Poverty, schools and branch libraries
      It’s delightful that students at Lincoln can walk to the branch library just a quarter mile away.

      If you check the District 65 school report cards you’ll see that Lincoln has 39.2 percent of its students classified as low income, slightly less than the district-wide average of 40.5 percent.

      But let’s look at the other elementary schools south of Dempster Street.

      Too bad that students at Washington, where 54.2 percent of students are classified as low income, would have to walk nearly a mile to get to the South Branch library.

      Too bad that students at Oakton, where 69 percent of students are classified as low income, would have to walk over a mile to get there.

      Too bad that students at Dawes, where 55 percent of students are classified as low income, would have to walk over a mile-and-a-half to get there.

      If we’re talking about how to best serve impoverished children in southern Evanston, Chicago Avenue and Lee Street seems like a poor location for a branch library, now doesn’t it?

      (For data on “actual users” of the libraries by geography, see this story.)

      — Bill

      1. walk a mile
        While I can appreciate the general basis for the argument, let’s understand some distances.

        The distance from Washington to the South branch library is approx. .66 miles. Well under a mile. We live on Asbury, not far from Washington and regularly walk to the downtown district, the beach, etc. These walks are really not as far or as cumbersome as some would think.

        My daughter goes to Washington and they recently had a walking field trip to the library…the MAIN library downtown. So I am not sold on the idea that walking to the branch library on Chicago/Lee is really all that imposing.

        Just one person’s view.

        1. Distance
          Oh, sure, we should all be walking miles each day.
          But the whole premise of the branches is convenience.
          If we all are up for walking miles, then everyone can walk to the main library downtown and there’s no need at all for branches.

          BTW, as to your estimate that it’s .66 miles from Washington to the South Branch library, you might want to check your pedometer …
          Google maps says it is 0.8 miles from the corner of Ashland Avenue and Main Street to the corner of Chicago Avenue and Lee Street.
          The city of Evanston web site mapping section pegs the distance from the front door of Washington School to the branch library front door at .85 miles.

          1. Walking to the Library
            Walking/biking a mile or two a day is not a big deal. I walk/bike to NU and then downtown Evanston and back to NU [1.6 mile total]everyday from by the Stadium and sometimes from downtown Evanston to the Jewel on Greenbay [2.4+ mile]. That is no big deal. It is easy to reach EPL-Main by walking/biking/bus/train. Even if I lived next door to a branch, I’d still go to the Main for their resources [certainly if I wanted a decent chance to get to a computer].
            For all the talk of students using the branches, are there numbers ? The few times I’ve been to either branch, I’ve never seen a child without a parent—and even those children were under seven. Children and ‘educational use’ are being used as a smoke-screen by parents who want to have source of romance novels close.

          2. Why are school kids walking to branch libraries?
            I am wondering why schools are taking students to the branch libraries? Don’t the schools have their own libraries? What do the branch libraries offer that the school libraries don’t? Perhaps this is something that should be asked of D65, given the large bite that they take out of our taxes.

      2. It’s delightful that students

        It’s delightful that students at Lincoln can walk to the branch library just a quarter mile away.

        Lincoln draws students farther away from the south branch (1.12 miles) than the farthest Washington students (1.09-1.10 miles).

        Too bad that students at Washington, where 54.2 percent of students are classified as low income, would have to walk nearly a mile to get to the South Branch library.

        Lincoln’s attendance area only goes west to Sherman. There are Washington students within blocks of the South Branch. Washington school itself isn’t even a mile from the South Branch, and most of the school’s attendence area is to the east and north of the school.

        For the record, I went to Washington for part of elementary school and went to the South Branch.

        Too bad that students at Oakton, where 69 percent of students are classified as low income, would have to walk over a mile to get there.

        The vast majority of Oakton students live within a mile of the South Branch. The only part of Oakton’s attendence area that’s farther than a mile away from the south branch is roughly the area south of the skokie swift tracks.

  9. Race and economic disparity of library use is false and divisive
    If you suggest that census tract 8088 is “near” the North Branch Library then the same logic applies to tract 8092. In other words, many homes in 8092 are closer to the North Branch than homes in 8088. And, according to the map, 8092 is less than 50 percent white, and earns under the median income.

    Also, tracts 8097 and 8103 are in relative proximity to the South Branch Library, and both are 70 percent or less white, if I am reading this map correctly.

    Though interesting, the racial disparity argument doesn’t neatly fit according to what I see on the map, especially when you consider the city is 65 percent white.

    Conversely, there seems to be economic disparity when it comes to fire stations in Evanston. Four of the five Evanston fire stations appear to be in areas that earn $52,000 or more – above the median in the legend. The other fire station is in an area that earns $42,000 or more – the median, according to the provided legend.

    So, why are there no fire stations in the poorer areas – under the median earnings?

    Two of the fire stations are in tracts, “ranging from $105,530 in tract 8089 to $123,905 in tract 8088.” Both are on Central Street. Perhaps we should close one?

    Yes, I know the services of branch libraries and fire stations are vastly different, and I know the poorer areas are covered by these fire stations. My point in this exercise is to demonstrate that an argument to close the branch libraries because they do not serve a particular race or class is a false and divisive one.

    As I have pointed out before, I think the city could save a lot of money by closing down one of the Central Street Fire Stations and laying off staff. At least, there should be some discussion about it.

    That way, the city might have enough money ($350,000?)to keep the libraries open and who knows, maybe open another branch library or two in the less priviledged neighborhoods.

    1. Close?
      Hi Al,

      The closest tract 8088 comes to the site of the north branch library is two blocks. The closest tract 8092 comes to the north branch is seven blocks.

      Fire officials say they can get an engine to any location in Evanston within four minutes, given the current station configuration.

      They couldn’t do that if there wasn’t a station #4 on Washington just east of Dodge and the only south Evanston station was where station #2 is on Madison at Custer — not far from the South Branch library.

      That there are racial and economic disparities by neighborhood in Evanston is the truth. It’s not divisive to note that, just inconvenient to those who wish to ignore the truth.

      –Bill

    2. Al supports the public option?
      Al,

      Given your previous right-wing pro-teaparty postings, I am surprised that you advocate keeping the branch libraries.

      Public libraries are, by definition, public. This means that they are run by the government, and compete (or eliminate) the private sector.

      Shouldn’t we close all public libraries?

      They take business away from companies like Barnes & Nobles, Borders, and Amazon.

      They use up tax money. Don’t you want smaller government?

      Most importantly, do we want the government deciding what books we can read? Do we want Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama and Bill Ayers and Elizabeth Tisdahl serving as a literary ‘Death Panel’, deciding which books will circulate and which will not?

      This whole “public library” scam is just part of a Democratic plot to take over the publishing industry and impose European socialism on America.

  10. Race and class should not be a benchmark for services
    Hi Bill,

    I don’t dispute the fact that the branch libraries predominantly serve white residents who earn above median income.

    What I do dispute is using this fact as a basis to close the branch libraries. If we start going down that road where does it end? To do so is divisive and pits neighborhoods against neighborhoods.

    1. Benchmarks
      Al,

      The current state of affairs has been inequitable for over half a century — at least since the west-central and southwest sections of Evanston were fully developed with housing after World War II.

      In a time of financial crisis, should we:

      A. Perpetuate the current inequitable system at substantial continuing expense?
      B. Spend more to end the inequity by adding more branches and thereby deepen the financial crisis?
      C. End the inequity by making everybody go to the main library?
      D. Impose a special tax on those who most benefit from the current branch locations, and offer the option of creating additional special tax zones for new neighborhood branches?

      The BranchLove folks reject options C and D. The budget hawks reject A and B.

      Given the facts, what is the most plausible choice?

      To take your position is to say that inequity should be allowed to continue forever because it is divisive to discuss it.

      That’s the ostrich solution, which doesn’t appeal to me.

      And I believe that there are only a limited number of issues on which, in recent times, Evanston has been inequitable in its provision of services. So I think your fear of a descent into inter-neighborhood warfare is greatly overblown.

      Bill

    2. West Side library
      I am wondering where all the “branchlove” folks were nine years ago when there was a strong movement to bring a branch to the Dempster-Dodge Plaza- to serve families who had been without a branch for the past 30 years. If their commitment to the value of branch libraries is as strong as it appears to be today perhaps their support and advocacy for equity on this issue could have tipped the scales back then——instead of this move dying for lack of political and community will.

      1. West Branch
        Dickelle,

        branchLove is earnestly investigating and supports bringing library services to the underserved populations in Evanston, and among those efforts is looking into dempster/dodge, as well as other, city-owned properties. I just read the 1999 study/report about library services in Evanston to the Low and Moderate income residents — I agree, it’s appalling. We have also spoken to the former West Ward librarian, and looked into the Digital Divide – there are many, many options that we need to explore and we have asked for input from the community. Please get involved, it is your perspective and input that will be important as we move forward. As for nine years ago, personally then I had 3 kids ages 5 and under and work full time, so this may not have been on my radar then. But it is now, and I can assure you, is a priority for branchLove and supporters of branch libraries, the Library Board Task Force and the community.

        1. Only in Evanston—Have a Deficit and Propose More !
          We have a budget crisis and need to cut costs like the branches and yet the response of Lori k. and I assume others is to open another branch and spend more money when there seems to be no evidence the existing have any value—except for providing Jackie Collin novels.

    1. Petition to Close the Branch Libraries
      Please pass this petition on to your friends
      We have a wonderful main library with lots of books, qualified staff, events and a fantastic new children’s loft.
      very sincerely
      Manon Kavesky

  11. Union employees need to give up more, not the libraries
    Bill,

    Life is not fair. What might be equitable to you may be considered inequitable to someone else or vice versa.

    Consider the $18 million stimulus money that will be poured into two low income neighborhoods to try and stem the tide of foreclosures. Well, I can assure you that there are foreclosures and short sales in tracts 8089, 8088 and other high income areas, granted it’s not nearly as pronounced. I know families in these areas who have lost money on their homes and some are now struggling financially.

    Maybe this stimulus money could be used to help these families or buy foreclosures in these areas, which also are experiencing property value decline, and are burdened by rising property taxes. Isn’t it only fair that they get some of this stimulus money?

    Shouldn’t the areas that pay the most in taxes get the most? Isn’t that only equitable? You pay more, you get more. It depends of course on whose perspective. Right?

    My point is if you close the libraries do so on the basis of a financial decision not on a decision regarding race and class or because you think it’s inequitable to those who live too far away to walk to the libraries.

    To be clear, I’m not opposed to closing the libraries even though I use it on occasion. The library budget is small potatoes compared to other budget items I think need to be cut first – namely the fire department, which I have mentioned is giving up basically nothing in the budget proposal. There is a lot of fat there, in my opinion.

    In your multiple choice, I pick E) – make significant budget cuts elsewhere, namely the fire department and freezing salaries like what’s happening in the private sector. All city union employees, according to the budget proposals, will get their annual merit pay increase but non-union employees have no such luck. The merit pay increase alone is a costly budget item. If the city has to, then break the union contract. It can and has been done.

    Then go back to the library issue.

    1. Budgets: Libraries vs. schools
      Evanston Roundtable 2/17/10 reports “School District 65 Projects Deficits of $31 Million Over the Next Five Years.”

      If you think the library closing is a big issue, wait until taxpayers are asked to make up for this !

      People pointout that the branches, Media, Ecology Center, etc. are ‘each’ a small part of the budget. But to modify an old saying, “a hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there and eventually you are talking about real money.”
      Just like people say a few solar panels, bio-fuels, wind, etc. maybe small, they contribute to the enviornment, so each of the budget savings where there is waste, duplication, pet projects that really serve no use or purpose, can go towards the budget balance.

      A serious look at the schools—quality through-out each school, enrollment, class size, teacher pay/benefits, support staff, merging schools, administration [a BIG and long neglected issue], special programs [music, band, sports, playgrounds] and on and on.
      Do the branch lovers, Media and Ecology Center supports and other prizes of the elite want to be responsible when the school bills [bond issues, property tax, etc.] come due ? They may have their pet project but will kids get an education they probably say they support ?
      We already have a foreclosure problem—and probably people walking away from such property. The city and before long school budget problem will make the ‘walk away’ from foreclosured and under-water equity make it much easier for people to leave Evanston as well as those higher income people think about leaving and such thinking about Evanston, go elsewhere. Thus taxes will have to increase and each such round will force more people out.
      As the saying goes “pay me now or pay me later” and that does not mean rasing taxes to cover pet projects.

      1. Chapter 9 ?
        For all those who want to bury their heads in the sand, keep all pet projects [branches, Media Center, Ecology Center, etc.] and ‘hope’ the budget crisis will just be a bad dream and heal itself.
        They should read the 2/18 Wall Street Journal article “Muni Threat: Cities Weigh Chapter 9” and a story there, NYT and Trib about states $1 trillion shortfall in promised public employee pension/benefits—and Illinois is the worst. One of the main reasons cities are considering Chapter 9 is to get out of or at least re-negotiate pension/benefit costs.
        Branches, Media, Ecology Centers today or Fleetwood, Chandler, Robert Crown, Levy, Art Center tomorrow ?

  12. Shamelessly playing the race card, ignores history
    The insertion of race and class into the library issue begs this question of our current and previous aldermen and mayors: Why was the last TIF created in Evanston, the West Side TIF? Why did our local politicians put the west side last, yet considered the old City yard, more blighted (quite a stretch), to put the recently closed Downtown II TIF in first?

    Another thing missing from any of the comments or article above is “ownership” of how we ended up in such a budget crisis. The misguided anger over the library should be directed at our current politicians who allowed this forseeable fiscal disater to happen on their watch. We should be angry at ourselves as voters and citizens for letting them get away with it.

    Our thin skinned aldermen do not get to decide what their bosses (ie: the taxpaying, voting citizens) think is a hot button issue. Speaking of citizenship:Where were the aldermen and citizens of these underserved neighborhoods before this current budget debate? Did the citizens not speak to their alderman? Did the alderman not listen? Did the previous mayor not recognize the issue? Nothing happens overnight, so it is curious that it would be a newly founded community group that somehow is at fault for any shortcomings.

    One great quote on citizenship from the philosopher Hannah Arrendt: ” It is citizenship that confers equality, not equality that creates a right to citizenship.” The fact that citizens and elected officials choose to not get involved in their ward’s problems and inequities is unfortunate, however we owe a debt of thanks to those who shone such a bright light on our library issue that our politicians and local media were forced to pay attention rather than be ostriches.

    Finally, our City’s misplaced priorities come shining sadly through if one considers a couple of economic facts: 1) the budget for last year included 500k for developers from the Economic Development Fund and 2) last year the Economic Development Committee voted in 40 minutes to give a 1 million dollar 10 year sales tax rebate to the forthcoming grocery store at Oakton & Asbury. Do we really wish to privatize profit and socialize risk for the fortunate few? How is that fair to the businesses that don’t come hat in hand looking for a handout of taxpayer money. Do we have such low civic self esteem that we have to give the store away to have anyone invest here? It is no surprise that we are broke and our elected officials would have us believe that it isn’t their fault. Shame on them and shame on us. As my buddy Seymour says: ” I believe in equality. Some are more equal than others.”

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