A fear of change pervaded many questions and comments at an information session on two referendum issues that will be on the March election ballot in Evanston.

Mary Summerville.

A fear of change pervaded many questions and comments at an information session on two referendum issues that will be on the March election ballot in Evanston.

Mary Summerville, of 2661 Lawndale Ave., held up a thick folder of papers she accumulated while challenging the property tax assessment on her two-bedroom bungalow.

She said two attorneys failed to find a solution for her after the Cook County Assessor had improperly valued her home at more than $1 million, but Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson and her staff had found the error in the assessment and managed to get her taxes cut roughly in half.

Summerville, like Wilson a local real estate agent, was joined by another agent, Lynne Heidt, in voicing doubts that city staff could pick up the work now done by the township assessor.

“It scares me to think that a bureaucracy would be set up in the city to do the kind of job the township has been doing,” Heidt said.

Heidt also said she was shocked at what she said was the endorsement of the township referendum by the local board of realtors.

(Update 10:55 a.m.: Howard Handler of the realtors group, in response to a question from Evanston Now, says the local NSBAR organization has not taken a position on the township referendum in Evanston. Handler says the statewide realtors’ association is supporting state legislation that would let voters in any township petition to have a referendum on township dissolution.)

The referendum on the township’s future is purely advisory, and asks whether voters want the town board, which consists of Evanston’s mayor and aldermen, to continue to explore the possible dissolution of the township.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said his staff has estimated that the city could perform all of the township’s existing services while cutting overhead and other costs by enough to save $300,000 to $400,000 a year from what’s now a nearly $1.5 million township budget.

Barbara Janes, of 802 Colfax St., asked what the new staff configuration would look like.

Barbara Janes.

And Bobkiewicz responded that there would probably be employees at the city collector’s office to handle property tax questions and that staff would be added, likely on the ground floor or first floor of the Civic Center, to handle requests for general assistance.

The other referendum question is a binding questions that would authorize the city toenter into a Community Choice Electricity Aggregation agreement with an energy supplier other than Commonwealth Edison.

The program — designed to let the city negotiate lower electric rates — would make the default electricity supplier for local residents the new company, rather than ComEd.

Residents could still opt out of the agreement and continue to have their power supplied by ComEd if they chose.

Bevery Dyer.

Beverly Dyer, of 1620 Pitner Ave., said the city “is asking me to willfully blind my eyes and willfully go into your blind trust.”

“This was a beautiful city 20 or 30 years ago,” Dyer said, “but now it’s totally changed. It’s frightening. You see poor people who have their electricty cut off.”

After Bobkiewicz assured her that even if the referendum were adopted she could continue get her electric power from ComEd, Dyer responded, “I’m still going to get screwed.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Referendums: “Fear of Higher Taxes”

    If people are concerned about change, how do they feel about higher taxes?

    Our Federal taxes are going UP

    Our State taxes are going UP (the "temporary 3% to 5% State Income Tax is here to stay & likely headed higher)

    Our Local taxes are going UP – City of Evanston raised taxes 8% and raised fees, School taxes (both D202 & D65)are going higher – and significantly so if we build a new school – both to build it and operate it

    So if we want to kick us middle class people out of Evanston, and make this a City that only the rich can afford, keep the Township and spend $1.5 mm (and this will grow) each and every year.

    BUT if people want a diverse community (racially, ethnically and socioeconomically) eliminate the Township, provide the SAME SERVICES and SAME LEVEL of service to those in need, and SAVE $300,000-$400,000 each and EVERY YEAR into eternity.

    As an artist, the last several years have been challenging and from what i've read, household incomes in Evanston have been under pressure for the last 5+ years. So with weak income growth, and higher taxes, is it a surprise that many people are struggling? In addition to eliminating the Township structure, our leadership in Evanston may want to consider other cost saving measures instead of spending money as if we had unlimited resources.

  2. Our Federal taxes are going UP?

    "Our Federal taxes are going UP"

    Simply not true.  You are repeating the teaparty nonsense.

    Federal income taxes have not been increased by this President.

    Federal payroll taxes have temporarily been cut.

      1. Tea party is correct?

        "Looks like the Tea Party is correct."

        yeah…if you believe "CNS News":

        According to Wikipedia:

        The site was founded on June 16, 1998 under the name "Conservative News Service", using the domain name

        It was later officially named the Cybercast News Service,
        As of 2007, described its role as serving an audience which puts a "higher premium on balance than spin." 

        So…the usual "fair and balanced" nonsense.

        1. Wrong again

          It's nonsense when you dismiss a report because you don't like a particular grassroots movement or a news service that doesn't fit your worldview. Open your mind.

          You rely on Wikipedia to tell you about CNS and then make a conclusion rather than taking a few moments to go to straight to the source – the CBO – to verify the facts.

          I did go to the source and I quote – "under current law, revenues [taxes] are projected to shoot up by almost $800 billion, or more than 30 percent, between 2012 and 2014—from 16.3 percent of GDP in 2012 to 20.0 percent in 2014."

          Yep, the Tea Party is correct.

          1. Under current law


            The reason taxes are projected to shoot up is because the Bush tax cuts will expire "under current law". They've already been extended several times and the extension has been a political football each time.

            The Bush tax cuts are a major reason (two expensive wars are another) why the Federal government has run up its enormous debt. Oh, by the way, Bush also introduced a major entitlement increase covering prescription drugs.

            If the Tea Party wants to hold anyone responsible for the fiscal mess this country is in, it need only look at the last administration.

          2. Obama and Democrats are mostly to blame for the poor economy

            Not exactly,

            Here's proof straight from the source.

            “The pace of the economic recovery has been slow since the recession ended in June 2009, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects that, under current laws governing taxes and spending, the economy will continue to grow at a sluggish pace over the next two years. That pace of growth partly reflects the dampening effect on economic activity from the higher tax rates and curbs on spending scheduled to occur this year and especially next."

            Did you get that part about "the dampening effect on economic activity from the higher tax rates?" 

            We’re spending $1 trillion more than revenues bring in. No amount of tax increase on just the wealthiest Americans can close that gap (the estimates by CBO include dramatic tax hikes on middle-income Americans). In fact, even a massive tax increase on them and nominal spending cuts won’t solve the problem.

            The CBO predicts our federal government will run a $1.1 trillion deficit in the fiscal year that ends in September, the fourth year in a row over $1 trillion.

            Of course Mr. Zbesko, you're in the blame Bush camp. When do you think Obama will assume responsibility for our economy?

            The CBO also said the real unemployment rate is 10 percent. And the CBO report noted that federal employees' lavish pay and benefits put them far ahead of their private sector counterparts.

            Noncollege educated federal workers averaged "36% higher total compensation than similar private-sector employees," the CBO said. Those with a bachelor's degree averaged 15% higher. Overall, "the federal government paid 16% more in total compensation" than the private sector.

            We're seeing that kind of treatment here in Evanston as local government unions enjoy jackpot pensions, pay raises and full-proof job security (the city can't even layoff firefighters without being sued for unfair labor practices) in a state with almost 10 percent unemployment in which Democrats more than doubled the state income tax to help pay the unsustainable union pensions coming to a train wreck near you.

            Americans will hold Obama and many Democrats responsible this November. I hope that sentiment trickles down to the local level, too. You can't keep blaming Bush or the Tea Party and expect positive results.



  3. Both Referendum Issues Should Pass

    The Township Assessor office is an outdated office that just adds to the tax burden. Illinois is number one in the country for having the most levels of government. No other state comes close to matching us. Most states could double their levels of government and still not match the bureaucracy of Illinois. Illinois has many levels of government that should be dissolved. The local assessor office should be first with many others to follow.

    It sounds like Evanston could hire the current township assessor as a full-time employee (currently the township assessor is a part-time job) and still save several hundred thousands of dollars.

    The electric company referendum is a no-brainer. If the city makes the right choice based on economic only, it could be very good for the citizens of Evanston. If they introduce costly things like solar panel and wind generated electric power with only a small rate reduction, you can always change to another electric company that truly has a better rate. You are not locked into the city's choice.

    Vote YES on both referendums.

  4. Taxing bodies keep raising their levy

    The Cityof Evanston and schools represented 87.02% of the 2010 property taxes paid in 2011.  These taxing bodies usually increase their levy annually.  The Township of Evanston (General Assistance + Town Fund) represented 0.67% of the 2010 property taxes paid in 2011The township hasn't increased the levy and won't in the future due to the surplus of funds it has in the bank.  The question I ask is…How can property tax payers save money on their property tax bill if the main taxing bodies continually increase their levy?  

    This seems like a scene from the Wizard of Oz!  Don't look behind the curtain at the increase in the city levy, look over there at the township wasting money on people who need the township's help!  For every $1,000 in property taxes paid in 2011 only $6.70 went to fund theTown of Evanston and $870.02 went to the city and the schools. 

    In conclusion, don't be fooled by this distraction!  Only reducing the cost of city government and more state funding for our schools wiil lower our property tax  burden.

  5. “curbs on spending”


    Did you get that part about "the dampening effect on economic activity from curbs on spending?" That's the result of the Republicans in Congress. President Obama took responsibility for the economy January 21, 2009. Remember those days? This country was facing a strong possibility of another Great Depression. Instead, we were "lucky" enough to get away with only a Great Recession.

    One of the reasons employment has struggled is because of the shrinkage of workers at the state and local level- including Evanston. In the short term- defined as a Presidential term- how is laying off tens of thousands of government employees and cutting the wages of the survivors supposed to help the economy?

    Perhaps you should go back to school and take a course in macroeconomics so you can make better informed arguments. (BTW, the criticism that the unemployment rate is dropping only because of "discouraged" workers is partially misguided- many people are choosing to go back to school to improve their skills.)

    1. “Higher taxes,” high unemployment – it’s the Democrats, stupid

      So now I'm a dude,

      You of course never addressed the CBO's claim of higher taxes having a dampening effect on the economy. 

      Then you claim employment has struggled because "of the shrinkage of workers at the state and local level- including Evanston." Really? Illinois has a high unemployment rate – almost 10 percent – because of state and local government layoffs? 

      Not ONE state union employee has been laid off since the Recession in 2007. Democrat Governor Quinn promised AFSME no layoffs and then the union quickly endorsed him and donated to his campaign. Now Quinn wants to layoff these union employees but it is a contract and the unions are taking the matter to court.

      Not ONE Evanston firefigher has been laid off since the Recession. And finally after three years into the Recession, Evanston laid off about 42 city employees but then hired 20 more to work for the new 311 Call Center. At the same time, Evanston raised taxes 11 percent in the past two years.

      Under Obama's $1 trillion stimulus bill, hundreds of billions of dollars went to states to keep public sector employees in those states working. During the worst of the downturn, the private sector was hammered with massive job losses while the public sector held fairly steady. But the stimulus money is dwindling and state and local governments must face the inevitable. Where was the stimulus money for private sector companies?

      It's interesting you made no mention of federal employees, who by the way, are not unionized. There are 12 percent more federal workers today than there were when the downturn started, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      A separate tally by the Office of Personnel Management, which counts most executive branch employees but excludes the Central Intelligence Agency and a few other agencies, shows a 14.8 percent increase in the number of executive branch employees from September 2007, right before the recession began, to June of this year. That number will grow with the new massive federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And don't forget about the 275,000 more executive branch workers who have been hired since September 2007.

      Finally, you failed to respond to my comment that federal employees' lavish pay and benefits put them far ahead of their private sector counterparts. The same thing can be said in Evanston. Our fire chief, earning a six figure salary, retired at age 53 and now collects an annual six figure pension for life as he works full time as a fire chief for a neighboring town, collecting a six figure salary where he could earn another six figure pension in 10 years. Our former police chief did the exact same thing. 

      Illinois could see its pile of overdue bills climb to an unprecedented $35 billion in five years if the state fails to rein in unsustainable pension and Medicaid costs. Illinois’ pension system is hopelessly insolvent with about $60 billion of assets and $200 billion in “legacy” liabilities. Just ask Northwestern University pension expert Professor Joshua Rauh of Northwestern who estimates that by 2018, all pension assets will have been liquidated.

      This is what Tea Partiers, Republicans and many sensible Americans are concerned about.

      Meanwhile, Democrats continue to raise taxes, increase spending or at least try, and basically ignore the unsustainable government union pensions.

      No one needs a course in macroeconomic to understand the problem, Zbesko.

    2. Spending and curbs


      How about curbing spending on government positions.

      Where do you think that money comes from?


      The problem gets worse when you run out of other peoples money.

  6. Power Referendum

    A referendum in March, if passed, will bind Evanston voters into an agreement as a city to negotiate better prices from a single electricity supplier. If the referendum in not passed, then citizens will continue to arrange for their own electricity needs.

    If the city buys the power, then willing citizens will band together and let the city negotiate for better prices for electric power. If there are so many customers involved, cheaper rates could probably be secured. Citizens will be able to choose what percentage of their energy comes from green sources as well. The process would be much simpler for citizens, as the city would handle all the negotiating and the implementation of any switch that would be made. Another benefit is that all the people who don’t know how to negotiate for themselves would not be left behind, because the city would negotiate for them. Anyone who would disagree with this referendum would have ample opportunity to opt-out of the agreement and still go on to choose their own energy supplier.

    However, there are some reasons not to vote for the referendum. When citizens join the agreement, they lose the power to choose their own electricity supplier, and would have to use the same supplier as everybody else involved. This might include not being able to pay the cheapest rates for reasons that don’t affect everybody. It is easy to negotiate your own rate if you simply learn how to do it. Sure, you can let the city handle these issues for you, but then you would lose the chance to find the best rate for yourself. A website like Power2Switch offers an easy-to-use database of energy suppliers and prices based on locale. A tool like this would be very helpful to any citizen who would want to find their own supplier.

    What it boils down to is do we want to work together to get lower rates for everybody, including the chance to choose how much we want from renewable sources; or do we want to go at it alone, and make our own decisions, and possibly get an even lower rate? It will be interesting to see the debate that unfolds over the issue, and to see if ComEd starts charging less in response to this action.

  7. Only 50% to the beneficiaries

    The best argument for dissolving the Township is illustrated by its 2011-12 budget. According to the staff's presentation, $546,041 is budgeted for "Client Payments", i.e. the money that those in need actually receive. Payroll is $270,657 and "GA Administrative Overhead" is $276,210.

    So, out of a total budget of $1,195,158, only approximately 50% actually winds up in the pockets of the needy. Compare to a charity- would you be happy contributing to a charity where half your contribution was spent on overhead?

    City staff feel that they can provide the same service for less cost. I certainly hope so.

  8. ‘Red Tape Blues’

    I would hope Illinois and Evanston official would read the July 5, 2014 'Economist' article with this title.

    Illinois [and I assume Evanston would also] was ranked an 'F' for over-regulation of Small Business—one of only four states to get the worst ranking [California and N.J. were two of the others].

    To be fair, Evanston does not discriminate un-equally against Small Business.  It applies the same over-regulation [and taxes] to all sizes of business.  Doubt it ? just look how many businesses have to leave Evanston and currently how Culvers say they need $800,000 and apparently a tax deal to come to Evanston.

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