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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Evanston 101: Would You Fail?

By Elizabeth GibsonThe Daily Northwestern

There’s an exciting new feature on the City of Evanston Web site.

It’s a test to gauge your civic involvement.

Under the guise of a “City of Evanston Boards & Commissions Review: Resident Survey,” the quiz quickly uncovers whether Evanston residents know or care about their city government. The survey asks for feedback about the effectiveness of meetings to help fulfill the Evanston Strategic Plan’s goal to “more effectively utilize Boards and Commissions.”

Take the survey, I dare you. I’ll even provide a study guide and list of suggested readings.

If you want to forgo my generous offer, go straight to the Web site and get your fill of embarrassment. The quiz consists of 14 questions with varying degrees of difficulty, some multiple choice, others short answer.

If you didn’t know the Strategic Plan adopted last March outlines the city’s vision for the future, it might be a sign you’ll need to do extra research. Otherwise, start off with 20 points for keeping tabs on the city. Try checking the plan out, too. You paid to have a consultant walk the Evanston City Council through the plan’s formation, so you might as well make sure you like it.

As for the survey, you’ll begin by answering how many city board and commission meetings you’ve been to. If you’ve never been to a meeting, there’s still time before the survey closes.

Pick your pleasure from the online calendar and drop by the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave. During your visit, take a look at the place and decide for yourself whether the deteriorating historic building is worth preserving. Get 10 points if you signed the petition to bring the Civic Center ‘s future to a referendum that would settle the question once and for all.

I’ll award anyone who decides to visit a meeting 10 points. If you have the honor of checking the survey’s box for “more than 35” meetings attended in the last year, you get 50 bonus points. But you might want to call your family members to let them know you’re still alive.

If you get particularly attached to the debate at one of the meetings, consider joining one of the boards. The city Web site shows vacancies on nine boards, commissions and committees – 20 points for direct involvement.

But really, can you even think of a board or commission off the top of your head?

The Preservation Commission, the Board of Ethics and the Plan Commission show up in the news regularly. Do they sound important? Look them up. Another 10 points for every group you could remember without peeking at a list. Don’t worry, I’m not taking points off if you couldn’t come up with anything.

Then, the survey starts in with the hard-hitting questions. Did you “observe” or “participate,” “listen” or “engage”? Child’s play, right? I’ll give you five points for watching, and 30 for having the guts to speak publicly.

Double all your points if the board or commission paid attention, which probably signified a well-thought-out argument on your part.

Now for the fun part: Steal 10 points from the city for any trouble you had hearing, locating or making time for the meeting. Of course, Evanston gets to start with 100 points for going to the trouble of asking for feedback. We’ll hold off on presenting its other 100 points until we see how well they respond to the survey results.

Longer comments will give aldermen and consultants a better idea of how to make your life easier, so cash in on 10 points for every cohesive, complete sentence you write in the comment boxes.

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Evanston 101: Would You Fail?