Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Aldermen include NU in their vision of Evanston’s future

Aldermen are still working on a plan for Evanston’s future – but they have a vision.

The City Council brainstormed the “vision” for Evanston at the second Strategic Planning City Council meeting Saturday. The tentative vision statement focuses on the nation’s list of “most livable cities,” and they emphasized tapping into Northwestern resources.

“Creating the most livable city in America that readily embraces our citizens’ diversity, hopes and dreams,” the vision statement reads.

To define this statement, the council broke into three groups. The first discussed social programs, natural resources, green city goals and a neighborhood plan. The second examined economics, infrastructure, facilities and transportation. And the third looked at government, government services and partnerships.

The consulting firm Executive Partners is leading the city council through a series of meetings to develop a “strategic plan.” This summer aldermen discussed broad topics such as what they want to do as part of the council. Resident input was collected at two sessions to help guide the process.

The vision statement is designed to reflect what aldermen wanted, not how they would accomplish it. At later meetings the council will develop and narrow down the general ideas they created Saturday.

“Creating a vision statement is uncomfortable because today is all about pragmatism,” said Larry Kujovich, a senior partner with Executive Partners. “But it can be really powerful.”

Unlike a typical city council meeting where aldermen deal with formal ordinances and resolutions, these exercises will help the council build an ideological energy for their work, said Robert Oberwise, CEO and managing partner of Executive Partners.

Instead of analyzing how a development would impact Evanston, aldermen each took a piece of tablet paper and on the spot wrote down their own declarative statements in colored markers.

“It’s a process the aldermen desperately need,” said Joel Freeman, one of about five residents observing the meeting. “When this is all done, the city council will have a kind of camaraderie they wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

In the three breakout groups, all of the aldermen, except for Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th), who did not attend, tried to put together a slightly more specific image of what they wanted Evanston to become in the near and distant future.

Developing reciprocal relationships was a recurring theme. Aldermen said they needed to find shared interests with boards, commissions, neighboring cities and Northwestern.

Ald. Ed Moran (6th) said if the council wants to solicit more of a contribution from NU, aldermen can’t just ask for a check.

“If we’re going to engage Northwestern, we have to engage them in something they’re interested in,” he said.

Alds. Cheryl Wollin (1st), Melissa Wynne (3rd) and Delores Holmes (5th) suggested approaching students about focusing engineering and economics projects on Evanston.

Moran, Rainey and Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) reviewed economic concepts. They said NU might be interested in supporting affordable housing, crime and parking issues.

The meeting was about ends ,not means, so aldermen said they are unsure of how to proceed, but they’d like to maintain the current mix of housing in the city.

Other aldermen decided they wanted to see more free recreational opportunities, particularly along the lakeshore, in Evanston. They also expressed a need to set an example as an environmentally friendly and clean city by modifying open space and facilities.

By the time the aldermen started presenting group ideas, they had about 40 pages of poster-size paper filled with their hopes for the future.

“It’s not a declaration,” Jean-Baptiste said. “It’s an aspiration.”

Reach Elizabeth Gibson [email protected].

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Aldermen include NU in their vision of Evanston’s future