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Recap: Evanston City Council

Here's a recap of our live coverage of tonight's Evanston City Council meeting. 

Meeting is called to order at 7:45 p.m. 

Alderman Dolores Holmes, 5th ward, and Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd ward, are absent.

Public hearing for fiscal 2014 proposed city budget.

Director of Administrative Services (CFO) Marty Lyons says 2014 budget as proposed is $252,295,571. 

Public hearing is in the middle of the budget process, he says. Says residents have info regarding process to date, and info is available at the Clerk's Office, and a budget is also on file at the public library. 

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl opens citizen comment. 

Last meeting I was corrected on fact about fire station number two…  says waste of taxpayer money if spend 1.6 million for new kitchen for the station, says they don't need it says Junad Ritzki. Condition of that kitchen is perfectly fine, he says. That needs to be killed, says Ritzki. 

Hearing is closed.

Truth in taxation hearing opened.

City has done a truth and taxation hearing regardless of increase each year, says Lyons. 

We budget out tax levy without 2 percent loss factor, budget amount we expect to get it, we disclose the amount that will be levied with loss factor included. Numbers he reads will be 2 percent higher than in budget, amount extended not necessarily levied. 

Total prop tax extended for all city funds for 2013 is $45,657,563 and with 153,000 removed from library, that is a 5.02 percent increase, was published as 5.37 percent increase. Town fund property tax levied for 2013 is same as 2012 at $1,181,375.

The library budget we received and published on city website had correct budget? Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th ward, asks.

That was not correct, Lyons says. Library was not levying $150,000 twice. As part of budget process that amount may go away in any event…he says.

I support the library and we have underfunded the library for years, Tisdahl says. Wise for us to support the increase. 

Why different magnitude of loss factor for township levy? Asks Alderman Jane Grover, 7th ward.

Township solely dependent on taxes, higher loss factor in the event they do not make collections, impact on ability to provide services for that year, Lyons says.

It's a completely phony number because when u pay your taxes, everybody pays the entire tax bill, Rainey says. I want to use a term I was criticized for using before, it has to do with a certain kind of economics, this is just wrong, we cannot do it. Truth in taxation it is not when you charge 5 percent plus 2 percent loss factor for township, that is not truth in taxation. Not pointing a finger (at Lyons), Rainey says.  

Ritzki returns to the podium to speak. 5.3 percent increase is what we're hearing on our tax bills, that's really the issue, not all these funds and fees, he says. The water bills are going up 10 percent again, Ritzki says. 

I think the question is this 5.3 percent what we're going to see, I was told there might be infusion of money that might possibly change it. I'm afraid money might go somewhere else and we taxpayers be stuck with another bill, Ritzke says. 

Betty Ester comes to the podium to comment. What is the amount that is going to be in capital improvement, that line that's going to appear that makes the final property tax bill to the city, she asks. Says windfall expected from building permit fees.

If you pass this and this has to be certified to the assessor's office on Dec. 31 and we do not have those bills in hand, we don't have the check, you have levied this 5.3 percent and then come Feb. 1 get money for building permits, how is that levy handled for the people? Ester asks. Does levy get lowered? 

What is debt service levy, Rainey asks Lyons.

We do not have anything levied for capital improvement fund, Lyons says. As proposed debt service fund changing from $12,038,751 to $13,588,043 with a loss factor included, he says.

Hearing is closed.

Tisdahl recognizes Fred Schneider, president of Evanston Environmental Association. "Fred played instrumental role in development of roadmap to financial self reliance for Evanston Ecology Center," she says. Fred is an inspiration and a valued team member, unfortunately he is moving to California and will be greatly missed, she says. 

This is not an easy place to leave, even if it's going to San Francisco Bay, Schneider says. Asks city to consider staffing the Ecology Center appropriately.

Taught me a lot about what it means to be in green city, he says of people he's worked with in Evanston. 

Veterans Day ceremony very well attended despite rain and cold, Tisdahl says.

Township open house on Thurs. Nov. 21 says City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. 

5:30 p.m. Nov. 22 tree-lighting to covene at Fountain Square. All invited to attend. 

Citizen comment opened. 

Nancy Traver, of 2617 Thayer St., heard public libraries part of budget being discussed. I go to library twice a week, she says. I know Evanston libraries funded at a lower level than other libraries, she says. I went to the library and found people of all ages and races, while there watched high school student get help on paper, another for their resume. Witnessed library staff help people, she says. Says someone was also there to help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act. 

"There's so much going on at the library, and so much more than it used to be when my mom was a librarian and used to check out books," she says. Traver says Evanston Latino population has increased and library has offered services targeted to them. 

Member of Board of Directors at Youth Job Center, she says. Says library helps their mission. 

Ritzki gets up to speak. Says top of water tank could be replaced for $4 million, city wants to replace the whole thing for about $26 million. Says NU wants the tower moved and they should pay for that. To move that tank would be 20 percent increase in water bills, on top of 30 percent increase already seen, he says.

The taxpayers cannot afford this, Ritzki says. I feel public officials playing politics with millions of taxpayer dollars, he says. Money needs to go to replace water pipes. 

Resident talks about Chicago Avenue Jewel Store moving bench from protected area to area where seniors will be exposed to elements. Also says Revolution Spin causing noise in neighborhood. Does city determine noise level based on ethnicity of owner, because Latino owner of boxing club has noise limits placed on him, she asks. Owner of Revolution Spin is white, she says. Noise from Revolution Spins continues despite complaints to Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th ward, she says. Says business disturbs with loud yelling and music for hours, and sometimes opens the door during classes. 

Also says city spent $800,000 on legal fees to keep Jewish school out, says it strikes her as anti-semitic. 

Carolyn Murray, of 1930 Gray, says it will be year since (her son Justin Murray's) murder took place in Evanston. Last year when I called into play some of the unsolved homicides that had taken place in Evanston, it was 32, now it's approx. 36 homocides in Evanston that are unsolved. Called to meeting with the police chief, advised based on interviews… that concluded they wanted to name a young man found dead (referred to him as Ross boy) in Chicago, no charges to move forward, no concrete evidence… from all of the information told to me and regularly by the police, by family members, residents, we know there were at least three people in the scene of that crime. For the police to infer clear or close an investigation, knowing at least three gunman present…find it ironic they want to blame this Ross boy for a murder and he was never arrested. Insensitive to mother of this young man, she says. 

My story continues on she says. This city has been voted the most livable, the most livable for what? Until you die? she asks. Asking to turn over investigation to hire private investigator to properly get conclusive information to make an arrest, not one person that's dead. He can't defend himself, that's not fair, Murray says. Told by FBI trying to get charges against men outside her mother's house with assault weapons. 

I can go away but my story is not going, she says. Some audience members clap.

Resident says two sons murdered, but investigators took documents from her. The homicide case is gone, she says, I can't believe it, it's a hidden crime. First they say they have camera and clue, now they say nothing. They said we need DNA…took our DNA test, and I don't know what they are going to do… I don't know who to trust, how can we get help from police when they don't serve the community. I want to focus on homicide, not on DNA, not on adoption. 

Jaunita Ross, grandmother of Blake Ross. Says he was killed in Chicago. Said police from Chicago to come to tell her. Says it took Evanston police 5 hours to tell her. Tried to get info from them about who killed Blake. Says two weeks before Blake murdered, he was shot at and the bullet missed my great grandson who was 13 years old. Daughter identified shooter, but great grandson didn't see so they couldn't do anything. During time Murray boy got killed, they had Blake down at the police station, they questioned him and let him go. Says informed Blake had a warrant. I would like to know why Evanston didn't know, she says. 

Public comment concluded. 

Consent agenda.

Admin/Public Works Committee:

Approval of update of Accela software, contract extension for automotive oils, anti-freeze and lubricants, contracts for snow towing operations. 

Approval of ordinance amending City Code regarding cost of collecting unpaid fines. 

Approval of Class M liquor license for In Grape Company, LLC. 

Expansion of Howard/Hartrey TIF district. Three ordinances passes 7-0. 

Introduction of tax levies. 

Planning and Development Committee

Approval of special use permit for commercial indoor recreation facility at 2800 Central St. Passes 7-0. 

Ordinance amending zoning to allow commercial parking lots as special uses. Passes 7-0.

Human Services

Approval of Township bills, including Sun-Times Media bill of $17,640.

Approval of next steps for Harley-Clarke Mansion

Economic Development Committee

Approval of downtown Evanston fiscal year 2014 request for budget contribution share. 

Housing and Community Development Act Committee

Resolution approving 2014 one-year action plan.

Resolution reallocating unspeant 2009, 2010 and 2011 Community Development Block Grant funds totalling $52,288.00. 

Consent agenda passed 7-0. 

Rainey shouts out to BMO Harris, says she is trying to talk to them about a building in 700 block of Howard Street. "We are calling you, we are calling you, we are calling you."

When you see abandoned, foreclosed properties, they are owned by bank who refuses to move on them, she says. She says BMO Harris "don't give a damn about properties in south Evanston they own." Says she will conduct telephone campaign to get them to call city. 

Meeting adjourns at 8:58 p.m. 

City Council convenes executive session immediately following open session adjournement. 

 

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