Evanston leaders prepare for Springfield trip

Ani Ajith

Evanston leaders and residents, together with Northwestern students and staff, will showcase local business opportunities and community activities and discuss policy priorities with state officials at the second annual “Evanston Day in Springfield” next month.

The city has rented a bus to transport participants to the Governor’s Mansion on March 30 for a luncheon hosted by University President Morton Schapiro. Gov. Pat Quinn was invited to the luncheon but has not confirmed his attendance, said Bruce Layton, who is spearheading NU’s contributions to the event.

Participants will attend other meetings throughout the day and return to Evanston in the evening.

Layton, NU’s special assistant to the president for government relations, said Schapiro will meet with officials and legislators as well, but because legislators don’t frequently commit to meetings months in advance, final confirmation will likely come a week before Evanston Day.

Matt Swentkofske, the city’s intergovernmental affairs coordinator and the main organizer of Evanston Day, said NU has been “instrumental” in helping plan Evanston Day by working to arrange meetings with state officials and lining up a “key speaker” for the luncheon, who has not yet been selected.

Last year Schapiro hosted a “terrific” evening reception in Springfield, said Lucile Krasnow, NU’s special assistant for community relations.

Organizers introduced a new element to this year’s Evanston Day by booking the Capitol’s North Hallway to showcase local business opportunities and community activities. Evanston businesses, nonprofits and other organizations will set up display tables where they can distribute merchandise, product samples and brochures.

“We reached out to organizations in Evanston so we can give state legislators a flavor of the Evanston and Northwestern community,” Swentkofske said.

NU’s Athletics and Recreation Department has reserved an exhibition space, joining Rotary International, the YMCA and the Evanston Community Foundation, among others, Layton said.

Jim Phillips, director of the Athletics and Recreation Department, said interns and work-study students “who know the department best” will staff the table, answering questions about NU’s athletic and recreational opportunities and activities and giving away NU-themed merchandise.

“We want to show some purple pride in the State Capitol,” Phillips said.

Layton said student groups are welcome to attend the event. Interested groups should contact Swentkofske to request a display table or seat on the city’s bus to Springfield, he said.

Swentkofske echoed Layton’s call, inviting “as many people who live in and call Evanston and Northwestern home” to attend.

Display space in the hallway is still available for interested Evanston organizations and businesses.

Last year approximately 60 to 65 people traveled to Springfield for Evanston Day. Swentkofske said the city hopes to increase attendance this year by meeting with top business leaders to increase participation from Evanston business owners.

The $60 per person fee for participants includes the cost of the bus ride and meals.

Evanston Day was born out of an initiative by Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl to work with NU to talk with state officials and legislators about the priorities of Evanston residents and NU students, Swentkofske said.

“It’s important that we raise the profile of the city and its relationship with Northwestern, a world-class institution,” he said.

Evanston officials worked closely last year with Evanston’s state senator and representative – Jeff Schoenberg and Robyn Gabel, respectively – to organize meetings with state agency heads, other legislators and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Swentkofske said.

“Our representatives already know what Evanston’s like,” Swentkofske said. “We’re trying to meet with other state elected officials and agency directors to show them what it means to be a resident of Evanston.”

Last year, meetings involved discussions on a wide variety of topics, Swentkofske said, including transportation and health and human services.

City staff, in conjunction with Schoenberg and Gabel, are still working to arrange meetings with state officials – many of the same as last year, and potentially several more – and will soon reach out to the offices of the governor and various state agencies.

[email protected]