Auburn Tigers gear makes an appearance at City Council

Debate over a controversial proposal to eliminate two branches from the public library system continued at the Evanston City Council’s Monday night meeting.

Nine of the 10 residents who spoke during citizen comment criticized the proposed closure of Evanston Public Library’s north and south branches, initially presented in City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz’s suggested 2010-11 budget in late December. The council is slotted to vote on the matter by the end of February.

“My observation is that the North Branch library is the heart and soul of my community, of our community,” said Jonathan Polish, an Evanston resident. “It would be remarkably penny-wise and pound-foolish to abolish them, to abolish that rich heritage, which is so emblematic of the City of Evanston.”

Many aldermen and city residents, some of whom dressed in T-shirts advocating for the libraries, are fighting to keep the branches alive.

“All three of our libraries in Evanston are vitally important to the business districts that they inhabit,” Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said. “In 2009, there were 75,000 people who came to Central Street for the library there. I don’t know how we can replicate that foot traffic.”The council also discussed the Green Building Ordinance, a law to make businesses more environmentally friendly. Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) proposed an amendment striking an extra fee charged to small business owners whose commercial property consists of fewer than 5,000 square feet to help small business owners “who are working very hard to get retail stores established downtown and in other business areas.”

In response, Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) said she thought it would “set a bad precedent” to accept a “last-minute” amendment without examining all the ramifications.

After further debate, Fiske withdrew her amendment proposal. The ordinance passed in an 8-1 vote, with Fiske as the only dissenter.

During his ward report, Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) expressed similar sentiments as Burrus, agreeing that, throughout the budget process, “everybody wants to put their pet project up first.”

“I suggest that we look at the budget in its totality,” he said. “If we’re going to try to deal with our own narrow interests, then I’m going to come back with some proposals to spend money to open certain institutions to serve areas that are underserved.”

As the meeting began, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and most of the aldermen entered the Council Chambers sporting Auburn University football jerseys, courtesy of the Auburn City Council, home city of Northwestern’s opponent in the Outback Bowl. Tisdahl had wagered with Auburn officials that the council of the school that lost the game would have to wear the victor’s uniform to the next meeting.

“I realize that in 16 years as mayor, Lorraine Morton never got us into a mess like this,” said Tisdahl, referring to the council’s blue and orange.

Earlier in the evening, the Administration and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a motion directing staff to explore bringing bus shelters to Evanston. The city could potentially install and maintain the shelters for free, Committee Chair Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said.

The committee also heard two proposals related to safety in the city’s schools, both proposed by Ald. Donald Wilson (4th). In the first proposal, Wilson suggested the committee approve an optional competition between the city’s elementary and middle schools to create a poster, video or radio public service announcement promoting school safety. The proposal will be revisited at the next meeting of the City-School Liaison Committee.

Wilson also presented a proposal to raise the fine for speeding in a school zone to $500. The committee expressed interest in the proposal but asked the alderman to refine it and report back.

The Planning and Development Committee also approved two funding requests from local groups to alleviate housing concerns in Evanston. The Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs asked for $25,000 to bolster its foreclosure prevention counseling program. Connections, a service organization for the homeless, requested $11,000 for a computer tracking program Executive Director Paul Selden said will enable more than $1 million in additional federal funding.

The next council meeting will take place at 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 in the Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

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