evanston150-110826

The panel chosen to pick 10 big project ideas to celebrate Evanston’s 150th birthday has voted to work in secret — not even disclosing the names of the panel members until after their work is done.

The panel chosen to pick 10 big project ideas to celebrate Evanston’s 150th birthday has voted to work in secret — not even disclosing the names of the panel members until after their work is done.

Evanston 150’s project director, Stephanie Kulke, says the 21 member “selection jury,” chosen by the organization’s steering committee from a pool of more than 50 applicants, made its own decision to operate in private, apparently to avoid being influenced by advocates for various ideas.

“Just as the deliberations of courtroom juries are not subject to input from interested parties, the Evanston150 jury has chosen to take this approach for the time being,” Kulke said in an email message to Evanston Now.

The panel’s decision to operate in secret doesn’t sit well with at least one Evanston resident, architect Mike Vasilko, who is an advocate of more intense development of the city’s lakefront.

“Much is being conducted behind closed doors,” Vasilko says. “Personally I am a bit tired of worrying whether efforts like Evanston150 are driven by some small group of people with an agenda, who will ultimately claim their effort was city-wide and therefore the results are gospel.”

Evanston150 has publicly identified the 13 members of its steering committee — who are associated with groups ranging from the Evanston Community Foundation and First Bank & Trust to the Second Baptist Church.

It has received financial support from organizations including the bank and community foundation as well as the city, Northwestern University and Evanston’s two hospitals.

The idea of celebrating the city’s anniversary by coming up with a short list of civic improvement project ideas that could be implemented in time for the anniversary was borrowed from a similar project a few years ago in Dubuque, Iowa.

The panel is scheduled to reduce the current list of more than 2,000 ideas to 100 to be included in a community-wide vote this fall. The community vote is designed to narrow the list to 30 ideas, from which the panel will then make the final cut to 10 ideas for implementation.

The full list of over 2,000 ideas is now available from the Evanston150 website.

(Editor’s note: Evanston Now is a media sponsor of Evanston150 but not a member of the steering committee or the selection jury.)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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