Drinking ban, taxes capture city’s attention

Paul Thissen and Paul Thissen

It’s budget season in Evanston again, which means it’s time for a tax increase – and that’s probably the best option.

This year, the proposed increase in the city’s portion of the property tax is nearly eight percent, a doubling of last year’s proposal. Citizens will come to meetings to declare that taxes should not rise and the city is wasting money.

Ironically, though, it will likely be the same voices calling for taxes to remain flat as it was who pushed for a multi-million dollar inoculation program for the city’s American elm trees. These people, often residents of the wealthier portions of the city, will have no problem paying the extra property tax. They are just offended at the prospect of a tax hike. And many of the programs they will call to cut affect primarily the poor.

It is the poor that bear the brunt of a tax increase. For people struggling to get by, the increased taxes may push them out of the city, either directly or by causing rents to increase.

Although the tax hikes hurt for those struggling to get by, the service cuts they avert would be worse. The first services to go are always those for the poor: branch libraries in poorer parts of town, mental health services for people who cannot afford them or programs to help people find a new job.

Unfortunately, these are the programs seldom defended during the public comment period at Evanston City Council meetings. The poor people they help have no time to go to a city council meeting – they are working. They are taking care of their kids. They have enough to do without attending a seven-hour council meeting. Nonetheless, it is their voices Evanston’s aldermen should keep in mind while revising this year’s budget.

drinking amendment not the full answer

Underage drinking, the favorite scapegoat of city officials, has been back to the Evanston City Council recently for a new drubbing.

Thankfully, 18-year-olds will be let back into bars for special events, but bars will lose the privilege of hosting such events after three underage-drinking violations. Given the number of students who enter Evanston’s bars with fake IDs, this rule means that bars’ ability to host such events depends only on how often police decide to do ID checks.

What is the actual effect of all this regulation? More people will buy and use fake IDs because they won’t be able to spend their Monday nights at The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St. More people will drink themselves into oblivion in friends’ apartments because they have no place to go without a fake ID.

Nineteen-year-olds are not going to stop partying. If the city really wanted to promote health and safety, it would be trying to provide controlled environments for them to do so. Every 19-year-old without a fake ID dancing at The Keg is one who is not partying at an apartment and waking up the neighbors (or vomiting on their lawn).

Ald. Cheryl Wollin (1st) should be commended for standing up for her constituents. It is rare in this city for an elected official to overtly defend students’ interests, especially when it comes to night-life. Wollin is showing the students who turned out to support her that she is not afraid to take their side.

The council’s amendment to allow fundraisers at bars stops their law from screwing over charities. It doesn’t stop it, however, from screwing over students and their neighbors who’d like to sleep.

City Editor Paul Thissen is a Medill junior. He can be reached at [email protected]