Say no to free money?

A decision by Evanston aldermen to include $90 million for a civic center reconstruction project in the city’s wish list for funding under the federal stimulus plan drew fire from mayoral candidate Barnaby Dinges this week.

Dinges accused fellow candidate Elizabeth Tisdahl, who now serves as 7th Ward alderman, of going back on her opposition to the replacing the existing Civic Center by helping Mayor Lorraine Morton present the wish list to staff members of the local congressional delegation.

Tisdahl defended her actions, saying that the majority of aldermen wanted the item on the list and that the mayor explained to the government officials that the civic center project was highly controversial in town.

Dinges’ complaints picked up on a protest letter leaders the Friends of the Civic Center organization sent last month to lawmakers urging that funding for the project be denied.

The Friends letter made the assumption that "reconstruction" would mean tearing down the existing Civic Center — although the word — left unexplained in the city’s list –might encompass a thorough restoration as well.

The aldermen have over the years considered a variety of alternatives for the Civic Center — including building a new one on downtown, or on the city’s west side or on the existing site — as well as major renovation projects for the existing building.

Under some of those proposals the existing building would be demolished. Under others it would be converted for use as condominiums.

Beyond the Civic Center proposal, the aldermen came up with roughly $50 million in other projects to ask the feds to fund.

Related links

The city’s project list

The Friends’ letter

Editors’ Picks