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A handful of fervent supporters of township government tried Wednesday night to deny Evanstonians a chance to cast ballots on whether they want the township abolished.

Padma Rao is sworn in as moderator for the meeting.

A handful of fervent supporters of township government tried Wednesday night to deny Evanstonians a chance to cast ballots on whether they want the township abolished.

In a sometimes chaotic township meeting called in response to a petition signed by 22 voters, the people present in the City Council chamber elected Padma Rao to moderate the session.

Rao, known for her ceaseless criticism of the possibility any trees might be harmed in the redevelopment of the former Kendall College property, defeated Township Trustee and Alderman Jane Grover for the moderator’s slot on a 17-12 vote.

Grover later said it was an election “I’m happy to lose.”

Rao, of 2246 Sherman Ave., then proceeded to order Trustee and Alderman Don Wilson off the dias and denied City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz the opportunity to read a statement from the special attorney hired by the town board to present the board’s views on the legitimacy of the referendum.

Wally Bobkiewicz.

At the behest of her private attorney, Douglas R. Cannon of Skokie, Rao also refused to let the town board’s attorney, Mike Kasper, speak, claiming he had a conflict of interest because he’d been hired by the board.

Wilson, who had voted as a town board member to not hold the advisory referendum, told the crowd he was disappointed with “the lack of respect for the democratic process” evident at the Wednesday night meeting.

“What could be wrong with asking the voters their opinion?” Wilson asked.

Several speakers offered a wide range of criticisms of township and city government.

Kevin O’Connor.

Kevin O’Connor, of 1227-1/2 Isabella Ave., argued public notice for the meeting was insufficient. “Transparency in this town is all lip service,” O’Connor claimed.

Betty Ester, of 2031 Church St., insisted that savings Bobkiewicz has claimed can be achieved through having the city provide township services won’t happen. And she criticized the mayor’s recent online Twitter Town Hall session for “denying a lot of people access.”

Priscilla Giles.

Priscilla Giles, of 1829 Ashland Ave., said shutting the township would cost township workers their jobs and is “a legal way of driving out the poor.”

In the end, the group voted to direct Township Clerk Rodney Greene to send a letter to County Clerk David Orr asking that the referendum be taken off the ballot. They also voted to reconvene the town meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7.

Township and City Clerk Rodney Greene.

Given that ballots for the election have already been printed, and that the town board claims it was legally entitled to place the issue on the ballot, it appears the question of whether votes in the referendum will be counted is likely to end up being settled in court.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. It took 22 names to end the voter referendum, just 22

    How in the world did tree activist Padma Rao prevent any discussion at this so called public meeting and give City Clerk Rodney Greene the needed authoritative direction to send a letter to Cook County Clerk David Orr that the referendum be taken off the ballot?

    Rodney Greene earlier this month said publicly that David Orr's office told him they would not count the referendum votes if the Township sent a letter to his office to withdraw the referendum question.

    So that's it. It took 22 names on a petition and a shutdown of any opposing views at the Evanston Township meeting and the votes on the advisory referendum the Council passed will not be counted.

    Once again, voters have no say. And Evanston Alderman Jane Grover was all too happy to lose a vote to Rao to moderate the Township meeting. Where's the outrage?

    In 2010, the City of Evanston let Rao "get away with not paying a special assessment for alley paving even though she lost a court case at the center of the dispute." That court case cost Evanston $40,000. City officials said they won't add Rao's condo to a list of tax delinquent properties whose unpaid taxes could be sold at auction.

    The city spent $40,000 to fight Rao's delinquent tax but refused to fight the Evanston Fire Union when it sued the city for laying off three firefighters. Instead, the city rehired the firefighters and agreed to let a third party decide any firefighter layoffs.

    I wonder if it would take 22 names on a petition to withdraw the new school petition? Hmmmm?

    The City Council several months ago refused to give voters a binding referendum to eliminate the duplicative Evanston Township but instead took the route the township attorneys asked for and passed an advisory referendum. Now I know why the township attorneys wanted the advisory referendum. They knew it would only take 22 names on a petition and a letter from the township to withdraw the counting of the votes.

    Hard working taxpayers and voters get fooled again.

    VOTE the aldermen rascals OUT!!!!!!

    Then pass a BINDING referendum to eliminate the Township Office. Put a freeze on government union pay, lay off some firefighters, and LOWER our taxes!!!!

    My property values keep declining but taxes keep rising – 11 percent in the past two years.

    We need change NOW!!!!

    1. The Township Code dictates…

      I am far from any expert on the Illinois Township Code, but the Township Code allows the electorate of a Township (not just Evanston, but all over the state) much more direct opportunity to control and force the direction of a Township as compared to other units of local government.

      It is a complex process that few voters know how to manipulate, but the tools are there to maneuver operations such as this.  I'm not saying one way or the other that  this particular meeting was by the books or will be fly in court, but I'm saying options along these lines exist.

  2. once again the tax payer pays

    So deny the people their vote to keep yourself on the public payroll. Once again faced with the facts that unless for goverment they would be unemployable elsewhere. So deny the public their opportunity to vote because you know that the people don't want to continue paying for services that are not necessary. Keep driving up those tax dollars to squeeze the property owners for everythign they have.

    And the arguement is that we should keep the township to save the poor… OH please….

     

  3. This story is a great argument to abolish duplicative townships

    If townships provided services that could not be handled by the city, township supporters would welcome putting the question to an advisory vote. What are they afraid of?

  4. Pathet Rao

    Who is this Rao lady? What township/city office does she hold? How and why can she run a meeting and disallow free speech? Once again, the inmates are running the asylum!!!

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