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Some voices support budget cuts

More than 50 people spoke to aldermen Monday night, and about 90 percent of them sang the same tune — don’t cut the program I like.

But a handful of people stood up to defend City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz’s plan to cut at least $9.5 million in spending to balance the city’s budget without increasing property taxes.

More than 50 people spoke to aldermen Monday night, and about 90 percent of them sang the same tune — don’t cut the program I like.

But a handful of people stood up to defend City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz’s plan to cut at least $9.5 million in spending to balance the city’s budget without increasing property taxes.

Chris Ernst of 1639 Hinman Ave. said the proposed budget "is fair and realistic."

He said Evanston has "a history of spending on non-essential items with money we do not have."

He said that he expects the city to provide essential services — like roads, sanitation, parks and public safety.

But he said that, faced with the budget shortfall, the city needs to cut spending on all non-essential items — from the media center to the branch libraries and the mental health program grants.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jonathan Perman said the City Council’s commitment "to tackle the structural financial issues and make tough decisions both this year and in the next several years is laudable and deserving of respect and support."

He praised the openness of the budget process this year, which he said "has encouraged many good ideas and resulted in unprecedented participation from citizens and from city staff."

And he said the proposed budget "is a long-overdue recognition that Evanston municipal government must center its attention on the delivery of essential services including safety, public works and infrastructuure, parks and recreation, and community and economic development."

Jason Hays, of 712 Dobson St., a city firefighter, said too much attention is being paid to people clamoring after luxury items at the expense of basic services.

"It’s foolish to ignore the gas bill to pay the cable bill," Hays said.

Mimi Peterson of 748 Wesley Ave., said she appreciated the city manager’s effort to come up with a balanced budget and that the city should consider cutting the branch libraries. But Peterson opposed any cuts to fire services. She also opposed cuts to parkway tree maintenance, saying continuing that program is cheaper in the long run.

Among those who only spoke in opposition to particular cuts:

  • Eleven said they opposed cuts to funding for the Evanston Community Media Center. Several said they liked the program their church pastor broadcasts on the public access channel. Others said they believe the center provides career training for young people. The aldermen Monday seemed inclined to cut funding, but disagreed about how deeply to cut.
  • Nine opposed cuts to grants made to private agencies by the Mental Health Board, including several staff members of the agencies that receive the grants. The council may debate that issue Wednesday night.
  • Seven speakers opposed elimination of the city’s dental clinic for children. And the aldermen heeded their pleas.
  • Five senior citizens opposed staffing cuts at the Levy Senior Center and the proposed termination of the senior citizen shuttle bus service. The aldermen last month voted to keep the shuttle bus, but to go ahead with the other staff cuts.
  • Five opposed the manager’s plan to close the Ecology Center. The aldermen last month voted to keep it open.
  • Three city employees spoke in opposition to the elimination of their own, or colleagues’ jobs in the fleet services department. The aldermen didn’t address those concerns Monday.
  • Three people opposed closing the branch libraries, but the aldermen Monday voted to do just that.
  • Two people, including a forestry worker, opposed cuts in the city’s forerstry operation. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, has voiced opposition to forestry cuts, but the council as a whole has yet to address that issue.
  • Two people, including one of the affected employees and the retired former head of the department, spoke in opposition to last-minute cuts proposed in the Community Development Department as part of a plan — that aldermen rejected Monday — to keep the branch libraries open.

The aldermen next meet to discuss the budget at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

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