Evanston residents last night offered a sharp critique of the proposed strategic plan the City Council is scheduled to adopt next month.

At a community meeting at Evanston Hospital, John Fuller of the Evanston NAACP said the plan needs to make stronger provisions to encourage development of affordable housing. “If we wait for five or ten years,” Mr. Fuller said, “this city is no longer going to be diverse.”

People can’t afford what’s being built now, he said, “If you want police officers and teachers to live in Evanston, you have to make it affordable.”

David Galloway, president of the local architects’ group Design Evanston, said the city is going through a flurry of development unforeseen and unprecedented in its history, and yet the plan makes no mention of managing growth or encouraging quality design.

“What about Fountain Square?” Mr. Galloway said, “there’s no reference to it in this document. What about connecting the disparate portions of downtown, so visitors partake in all parts of it, not just the restaurants and shops adjacent to the theaters.”

Jean Lindwall criticized the plan’s mention of developers as one of the city key constituent groups. “Unlike residents, business owners and other entities,” she said, “developers don’t have a long-term stake in the future of Evanston.”

Ms. Lindwall said that if the city caters to developers, “any effort to maintain diversity will be doomed to failure. Development leads to a rise in property vales and makes it harder for existing residents to stay in the community.”

Marybeth Schroeder, a member of the city’s Library Board, said she liked the plan’s call for more library outreach to the neighborhoods, but she said its suggestion to keep school libraries open longer hours to serve the community “hasn’t worked out very well nationally, except in rural areas.”

Hal Mead, of the Network for Evanston’s Future, said the plan should deal with a wide variety of environmental issues. “We need an ongoing sustainability commission for the city,” Mr. Mead said. He suggested studying efforts already underway in Portland, Ore., and Ashland, Wis.

Other residents suggested:

  • Providing free wireless access throughout the city, as is being proposed in other cities, including Philadelphia.
  • Creating a recreation center for teenagers – with a roller rink, a pool hall, a bowling alley and other features – at the recycling center on Oakton Street.
  • Improving human services programs for the disabled, the elderly and the homeless.

The strategic plan’s style also came in for criticism. “Let’s have a copy editor go through it,” one speaker said, “It can be more succinct and focused.”

And Frank Koppelman said, “It’s so general, so vague, almost vacuous, that it leads us no place. We need to get focused on what to do first, and how to do things to make these beautiful ideas a reality.”

Related links:
Daily Northwestern – Residents call for more time to ponder city’s future
Evanston Now – Council reviews strategic plan draft
City of Evanston – Strategic plan documents

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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