Aldermen remain interested in Evanston Township abolishment

Kimberly Railey

Trustees seemed to have more questions than answers as they weighed the consequences of abolishing Evanston Township at Monday’s special council meeting.

The concerns came as Evanston aldermen, sitting as town trustees in the session, requested their attorney at the end of June to look into how the township could be legally dissolved. During the meeting, these findings were discussed, though lingering issues – such as the cost of utilizing a referendum to rid the township – remain.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Evanston officials would be willing to stand alongside the trustees should they decide to move forward with any township-altering action. He expressed optimism that Evanston’s representation in Springfield would be responsive to community input on the issue.

“If you can come up with a model, we can go to the General Assembly and make it happen,” Bobkiewicz said.

However, he advised the trustees to be cautious in their efforts because tweaking township structure in Illinois has been historically infrequent.

“We want to be careful in reviewing many years of case law on the subject,” Bobkiewicz said.

One issue is the lack of certainty of which steps would be taken in the event trustees decide to abolish the township. Evanston attorney Grant Farrar said a referendum on the issue could be generated through a resolution of the governing body – the township board – or a voter-led petition.

The next election in which a referendum could appear on the ballot would be on March 20, 2012. The deadline for adopting a resolution is January 3, 2012, Farrar said.

Some trustees voiced concern about how the general assistance program, now under the purview of the township, would be handled if the township were to be dissolved. That program distributes various benefits to adults without children.

County Commissioner Larry Suffredin told Evanston aldermen during a previous meeting there is “no reason for township government” because its responsibilities could be assumed by the municipalities. He also said the boundaries of the township and the City of Evanston are the same and “that form of government was set up for a different era.”

However, City Clerk Rodney Greene said that if the township were abolished, it would endanger most of the people who need the services it offers.

“And if they get rid of one township, it could cause a domino effect,” he added.

But eliminating the township entirely was not presented as the only solution. Trustee Melissa Wynne asked the city’s legal department to expand on the possibility of creating an alternate form of township government.

“It’s up to you all to decide what you want,” Bobkiewicz said to the nine trustees.

Trustee Judy Fiske questioned why previous councils have not pursued action if the issue has been long-discussed.

“It’s all about politics,” trustee Ann Rainey responded.

[email protected]