Evanston Mayor, city manager travel to lobby DC, Springfield

Nathalie Tadena

A week after visiting federal legislators in Washington, D.C., Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz plan to discuss community concerns with state legislators during a trip to Springfield on Wednesday.

The two trips, funded by taxpayer money, are meant to lobby for state and federal funds for low-income residents and environmental programs, Tisdahl said.

“We are a unique community,” Tisdahl said. “Many people think Evanston is a rich community because they see an average income that is high, but they are not aware that we are a community with pockets of poverty.”

While in the nation’s capital last Wednesday and Thursday, Tisdahl and Bobkiewicz met with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).

During Monday evening’s City Council meeting, Tisdahl said Evanston’s representatives in D.C. are “doing everything they can” to support the city’s application for a $40 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant would be used to purchase foreclosed and vacant properties that can be converted into affordable housing.

The two city officials also met with Environmental Protection Agency representatives to discuss concerns about Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and funding the city’s water infrastructure projects. EPA representatives called LEED “the way of the future,” Tisdahl said to the City Council. The mayor also said she was interested in the prospect of training ex-offenders and others for green jobs through the EPA’s Brownfields program.

Bobkiewicz detailed the trip on the City of Evanston’s blog. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

“Both Senators are interested in Evanston issues,” Bobkiewicz wrote in his blog. “We need to now cultivate this interest to our benefit.”

Evanston must also look to work with neighboring municipalities in requesting federal funding, he wrote.

“We heard at every meeting the focus of the Obama Administration on giving money not to single jurisdictions, but to groups of cities/counties,” he wrote.

Similarly, the mayor and city manager’s trip to Springfield will allow them to speak with state legislators about the city’s social service programs.

“There are not a lot of stable integrated communities in this state,” Tisdahl said. “It’s important to describe Evanston, remembering that when state formulas are devised to distribute money to communities, there are communities that don’t always fit the formula.” Among the items to discuss in Springfield; the distribution of funds from the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program, a program to help low-income residents make their homes more energy efficient and funding for police and firefighters’ pensions.

Trips to Springfield and Washington will become an annual responsibility for the city mayor, Tisdahl said, but time will tell as to whether or not the trips have produced concrete results.

“We won’t know if it’s a success or not for some time,” she said.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said she hoped these trips will help the city secure more funding.

“People need to know who we are and what our needs are,” she said.

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