Evanston’s aldermen, acting as the township board, voted Tuesday to put an advisory referendum on the March election ballot asking voters whether they think Evanston Township should be abolished.

The board backed away from a plan to hold a binding referendum to abolish the township after some members voiced fears that it would prompt costly lawsuits by people intent on preserving township government.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, proved to be the swing vote on the referendum issue, voting against a binding referendum, but in favor of an advisory one.

While no one said the advisory referendum approach would completely avoid the risk of a legal challenge, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl suggested that it would be difficult for a plaintiff to argue that the township board shouldn’t be free to ask its residents what they want the board to do.

And even an attorney for other townships who showed up to oppose the dissolution vote, Gregory Pelini of Champaign, Ill., suggested that the advisory referendum would raise fewer and presumably less costly issues to litigate.

Aldermen Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, voted against both referendum options.

While they appeared to conceptually favor the idea that the city could perform township services at lower cost, they both focused on the potential legal expense of a challenge to a referendum, given what Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar described as the unsettled and contradictory status of state laws on the subject of township dissolution.

Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, also voted against both referendum options. They indicated they weren’t convinced that abolishing the township would be a good idea.

At Wilson’s suggestion, the board also voted 6-3 to ask the state legislature to adopt a statute that would provide a clear path for voters in Evanston, and the handful of other townships around the state that have the same boundaries as municipalities, to decide whether their own township should be dissolved and its duties taken over by the municipality.

As it now stands, Farrar said, while the state constitution and election code appear to provide a path for a single township to be dissolved, the township code appears to require a county-wide vote to dissolve township government.

Aldermen Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, joined Braithwaite in voting against that proposal.

Tendam said he feared the issue would just get buried in Springfield. Burrus said “kicking the can” down the road to Springfield wasn’t the best solution. Both favored holding a binding referendum.

The board will meet again Dec. 5 to approve final language for the referendum question and the request for action by the legislature.

Top: The township office at Main Street and Dodge Avenue (file photo).

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. The City Council has no cahones

    Wonderful. Aldermen Don Wilson and Ann Rainey have allowed the duplicative and wasteful Evanston Township Assessor's Office to survive the storm.

    An advisory referendum will have little teeth in court, where this issue would ultimately end up if someone in the City of Evanston show some cahones. The City Council unbelievably followed the advice of the township's own attorneys who oppose dissolution. 

    Does Wilson and Rainey really believe state legislators will act on this? Sen. Schoenberg and others have said they favor dissolving the Evanston Township but have they done anything about it on the state level? Of course not. The state is sinking into bankruptcy; no one cares about township dissolvement. And why are they afraid of a lawsuit? The city probably gets handed a lawsuit every week. Take the Evanston Township to court. What judge is going to rule in favor of the Township code over the state Constitution and a binding referendum? 

    I would love to hear Wilson, Rainey, Holmes and Braithwaithe explain how the township code trumps the state Constitution. Common sense tells you it doesn't, and if the city is sued then it would be a slam dunk if voters approved the township dissolvement in a BINDING referendum. Tendam, Burrus and Grover tried to do the right thing, and kudos to them.  

    Meanwhile, the city raised our taxes 5 percent this year and increased the rates in our water, sewer, carts, meter, transfer tax, traffic tickets, city stickers and decriminalized possession of marijuana under 10 grams just to gain more revenue. At the same time, the City Council voted to eliminate the branch libraries, sell the Noyes Arts Building and the lighthouse mansion that houses an art museum and had talked about closing the Chandler Rec Center and the Ecology Center. But several government unions will get annual pay raises this year.

    Oh, the deputy assessor of the Evanston Township Assessor's Office got a pay raise this year and last year the City Council raised the township's budget 80 percent! Let's not forget that the Evanston Township Assessor, Bonnie Wilson, a former president of the Evanston Democrat party, applied for a pension even though she works part-time. So taxpayers will probably soon pay Wilson a lifetime pension and who knows what other part-time union employees will get in on the part-time pension act when the gettin is good.

    Cook County offers every service the Evanston Township Assessor's Office provides. 

    In 2013,  I am confident voters will voice a binding referendum on booting out City Council members.


    1. The Referendum on the Township is Bogus!

      AL – the council members are the trustees of the township – they do not need to abolish it, they need to run it.

      They are too afraid to cut the funding – they can do that right now.

      The Township has 1 million dollars in reserves.   The city council I believe raid those reserves as it cut some funding to social services in the city budget they took the townships money to pay for those items.

      Wally claims he can cut 400,000 off the township budget, from 1.3 million to $900,000 why can the council members do that now, cut the budget – its true they can not tell the township what to do with the $900,000 so they could still waste it.

      Don't get to hung up in all this legal nonsense the truth is the council isn't going to save you one cent, they are just going to transfer the township functions to the city, so there will be no real savings.

  2. Run Al Run!

    Come on Al! Run for alderman or mayor!!  Word on the street is that Tisdahl will step down and Grover is being groomed for the spot-  No way-




    1. A coalition of fiscal conservative candidates is the remedy

      Thanks Jen for the compliments and encouragement.

      2013 is a long way off.  One fiscal conservative on the City Council won't make much difference. But a majority of fiscal conservatives on the Council would turn this city around in no time.

      In my opinion, the best way to change the direction the current City Council has taken us is to form a coalition of fiscal conservative from across Evanston. These candidates from as many wards as possible would meet and agree on solutions to major problems in Evanston and run on those platforms. Some of those solutions I believe should include a promise not to raise taxes, pay freezes on union salary negotiations, layoffs in the fire department, privatiization of city services and possibly a tri-city fire service agreement with WIlmette and Skokie that would permit the closing of one of the Central Street Fire stations. At the same time, these candidates would offer creative and innovative ideas to keep and attract more businesses to Evanston.  

      It would be an uphill battle because I believe the Democrat party has a stranglehold on Evanston politics. Every time a local candidate gets the endorsement of the Democrat party or someone like Jan Schakowsky they win. Tisdahl and Tendam won in a crowded field of candidates because they garnered these endorsements.

      The good news is that there will be a window of opportunity to change the status quo in Evanston next year. People are really angry and ready to kick out incumbents at every level of government. If this coaltion of candidates organizes in time they could pose a formidable challenge to the status quo council members who are backed by a well-organized and well-funded political machine. Folks want creative solutions not the same old annual increases in taxes, fees, fines, water rates, etc. How many fiscal conservative candidates have run for the City Council in the last decade. I can't think of one. It would be a breath of fresh air that most Evanstonians would enjoy.

      I like your enthusiasm, Jen. Your community involvement with the library might provide you with the right connections to help kickstart a community coalition of future City Council candidates.

      Here is my candidate wish list:.

      Tom Fischl for mayor – Fischl, a lifelong Evanston resident, has already announced he is considering a run for mayor. Fischl served in the military and is heading the Evanston Small Business Association. He correctly understands that the consistent increases in taxes and regulations have hurt the housing market and the Evanston business community.

      Jaimie Vehovsky for 7th Ward –  Jaimie and Marie Lynch organized and led the fight to save the Chandler Recreation Center. Jane Grover made a huge political mistake when she told 7th Ward residents that discussion of closing Chandler "involved the possibility of doing something different with the building" as the city manager considered selling it. But Grover did not say what that was and she should have known what ideas the city manager had for the building. It was later revealed that the Salvation Army had their eyes on purchasing the building. If not Jaimie then Marie Lynch for 7th Ward. They already made their mark and successfully saved the Chandler Rec Center from the chopping block.

      Mike Vasiiko for 6th Ward – Mike is making a name for himself, especially when he at no cost provided the city with an interesting lakefront plan involving a performing arts center, hotel, restaurant and marina. This is the kind of innovative thinking the city needs to generate more revenue. The only problem here is the 1st Ward is highly organized and influential in city politics and totally opposes any lakefront commercial plan. This group played a big role in denying the city a federal grant just to see if a marina was feasible in southeast Evanston.

      1. Candidate wish list

        I also think Tom Fischl would make an excellent mayor-

        Jamie is one of my personal friends. I'm not sure she would be interested in running,but I can ask her.

         George Harrison, of Harrison street, and one of the AYSO commissioners expressed intest to me in getting politically active.  I think he is 7th ward too. 

        I don't know MIke-

        Many many people are tired with the trajectory of things. 

         Lori K of library fame and I have been talking about meeting up and getting together ideas for candidates. If you want to join in, let me know-


        1. Evanston Government Dream Team

          OK…since we are all playing fantasy politics…here is my Dream Team, to create the most amazing government Evanston can possibly have:


          There were too many good candidates from the 6th and 7th wards, so we're going to have to make these at-large positions:

          1. Ponzi

          2. Mimi

          3. Barnaby

          4. Vasilko

          5. Judy Fiske

          6. Kevin O'Connor

          7. Former Township Assessor Eckersall

          8. Jeff Smith

          9.  Anonymous Al  ( assuming he is not one of the people above – then let Fischl have this spot )


          Since this is largely a ceremonial position, it should be a famous Evanstonian, past or present:  Perhaps John Cusack…or maybe that  famous branch library-lover  Audrey Niffenegger…or maybe Northwestern professor John Michael Bailey.

          1. dream team politicking-

            –  If MIchael Bailey runs, we'd all be screwed, ha ha. .-

              For real though, we just want more candidates who use more common sense when spending our money.

             If you can think of anyone who fits that role, speak up for real-





  3. It should have been a binding referendum but

    The township assessor's office has an important sounding name that has nothing to do with property assessments. It is a level of Illinois government that we don't need. Eliminating the township will not off set the creation of another taxing body, the library.
    It is nearly unbelievable that Illinois has more levels of government and taxing bodies than any other state and they keep creating more. This does not include the hundreds of committees that don't have direct taxing authority but continue to eat our money.
    Let's get rid of the mentality that leads our politicians to create more government jobs to pay off their friends at our cost.

  4. why don’t you run Junad?

    Do you have any interest in running for office next fall?

      Al and I are looking for some sensible candidates-

      A possible yes from fiscally conservative George Harrison in the 7th ward- AYSO co-commissioner, helped get the indoor field house idea pushed through-  Great ideas overall on how to save the city $..

      I like Al's idea of getting together some fiscal conservatives (but socially liberal too.. )

      We should set up a meeting…



  5. Isn’t it fascinating what the

    Isn't it fascinating what the council allows us to vote on.  Library closure?  3-1-1 and related terminations?  Outsourcing?  Payments to developers?  Economic development staff at big bucks?  Payments to neighborhoods for beautification?  Raising taxes?  We do get to vote for council and mayor, and there must be an election coming up sometime.

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