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Voters appear to reject tax hike

Voters appear to have rejected a proposal by Evanston aldermen to raise the real estate transfer tax 20 percent to fund affordable housing.

With just four of 70 precincts left to report, the referendum is trailing by a 48 to 52 percent margin.

Referendum backers would have to get more than 75 percent of the vote in the remaining four precincts to pull out a victory.

The latest vote totals show 10,056 ‘yes’ votes and 10,741 ‘no’ votes.

City Clerk Mary Morris says, “my opinion is that it has failed.”

But she added, “I could be wrong,” because, in addition to the four uncounted precincts, “we don’t know how many early or absentee votes are out there.”

County officials have until Nov. 21 to finish counting absentee ballots, some of which probably have not even arrived yet.

The ‘no’ vote has led by roughly the same margin throught the counting of yesterday’s ballots.

Ms. Morris said no information is available on which Evanston precincts still remain to be counted.

She added that it appears almost all the referendum questions in the county — especially those seeking tax increases — went down to defeat.

“I think to pass a referendum you really have to work and get people involved,” Ms. Morris said, “and I don’t think that happened here.”

“People already have to pay a lot of taxes in Evanston,” she said, “and it just wasn’t clear who was going to benefit from the increase. Also, a lot of people think we already have enough affordable or subsidized housing in Evanston.”

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he was disappointed by the outcome, “but I think it was a result of not having enough time to explain the issue.”

He said aldermen might try to rework the referendum proposal to more clearly specify how the money would be used and submit it to voters again in next spring’s election.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she was surprised by the outcome. “This doesn’t seem to be the Evanston we thought we lived in,” Ald. Holmes said, “but after Darrow Corners I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”

The Darrow Corners proposal for subsidized rental housing at Darrow Avenue and Church Street drew opposition from some immediate neighbors and ultimately was rejected by the City Council earlier this year.

Ald. Holmes said she hadn’t thought about what to do next to address the problem of housing affordability.

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