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Katherine Driessen and Elise De Los Santos

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Northwestern and Evanston share a zip code and all the love and drama that comes with that sort of proximity. Regardless of whether you know what an alderman does, Evanston and its relationship with NU helped define where we lived, how we partied and the people we interacted with. Here, we break down the top-six city stories from the past four years and how they impacted NU.

6. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl elected, promising better town-gown relations

In spring of 2009, Elizabeth Tisdahl became the mayor of Evanston.

During her first year in office Tisdahl’s leadership on tough issues like budget cuts and creating more affordable housing were lauded by aldermen and residents.

She also committed to trying to even out a historically rough relationship between the city and NU. With University President Morton Schapiro newly inaugurated, the two looked for a fresh start and collaborative relationship. When Evanston bid to become a test city for Google’s broadband internet, Northwestern students created a video; Tisdahl attended football games, helped plan a welcome party for Schapiro and attended ASG meetings.

Of her relationship with Schapiro, Tisdahl told The Daily in 2009: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

But 2010 and 2011 proved more trying years for Tisdahl and her pledge to forge a strong relationship with the University. The controversial brothel law enforcement and the near closure of The Keg were far from popular with students. Schapiro, though, has reiterated that his relationship with Tisdahl is friendly as ever.

5. Evanston decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana

Last November, the Evanston Council decriminalized possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. All nine aldermen unanimously voted in favor of the proposal. Rather than being arrested, those caught with small amounts of cannabis are instead issued a ticket.

Tisdahl proposed relaxing the punishment because she wanted to ensure young people were not restricted from entering the job market because of such offenses.

The proposal received widespread support from city residents, especially Hecky’s Barebecue owner Hecky Powell.

“I will confess – when I was a young man, I smoked marijuana and I inhaled,” Powell said at a council meeting. “But seriously, as far as the young people are concerned, if we keep putting these kids in the system then we are really destroying their whole life.” 4. Proposed Tilted Kilt restaurant tests town-gown relations

There’s nothing like the prospect of a Celtic-themed restaurant featuring waitresses in Hooters’ inspired costumes to cause a stir in Evanston. When the chain restaurant and bar applied for a liquor license in Evanston last spring, vocal residents opposed the “values” of the restaurant and pleaded with Tisdahl, who heads the liquor board, to deny the restaurant a liquor license.

Some students argued that denying the Tilted Kilt a liquor license was yet further proof that Evanston residents were antagonistic toward NU.

“Once again, the Evanston community has taken up the fight against what they see as a rowdy, immoral and offensive college environment,” Daily blogger Armen Changelian wrote in a post about the Tilted Kilt.

The tensions came to a head at a “Tilted Kilt debate” where almost 50 resident showed up to voice their opinion about the establishment. Many accused the restaurant of demeaning its female employees.

“Actually, I would have much more respect if they were trying to open a strip club because that is at least honest and authentic,” Damien Flynn, an Evanston resident said at the meeting.

Tisdahl listened and rejected the restaurant’s application for a liquor license just a week later. After issuing her decision, Tisdahl told The Daily that seeing the restaurant’s business cards, which feature scantily clad women, was the “final straw.”

3. LEND brings microfinance to Evanston businesses

Lending for Evanston and Northwestern Development was started in February 2010 by a group of NU students to provide non-profit microlending and business training services for Evanston business owners.

With help from ASG, faculty and alumni, LEND established a program of loans and workshops available to Evanston business owners. Undergraduate ambassadors worked closely with their Evanston partners to help them improve their businesses. It became one of the few local organizations that offer microloans.

Over the next two years, LEND gave financial assistance to four businesses. In May 2012, LEND’s first-ever loan was repaid in full by Ebony Barbershop.

2. The Keg closes, then reopens

When it comes to the local bar scene, The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St., has long reigned supreme. So when Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl revoked the cherished watering hole’s liquor license in January, undergrads and Kellogg students alike lamented the end of an era.

In making her decision, Tisdahl cited the 111 alcohol-related citations The Keg had received since 2005 and the perception that it was easy for underage students to gain admission to the bar. Tisdahl even referenced a twitter account for The Keg that she said “offers incontrovertible proof that The Keg, through its use of social media, expressly incited, encouraged, and assisted underage patrons in coming to The Keg and consuming alcohol.”

It was soon discovered that the infamous Twitter account was likely run by a student unaffiliated with the bar, and after much debate The Keg reopened on March 8, citing automatic stay provisions in the Illinois Liquor Control Act. But not before Keg owner Tom Migon had the opportunity to share some emotional reactions to the potential closing: “I’m sweating right now,” Migon told The Daily in January. “It’s like waking up with a cancer in my brain every morning… This is my livelihood, it’s my job, it’s what I do. I’m taking it very seriously.”

The drama isn’t over yet. The State Liquor Control Commission has ordered the Evanston’s Liquor Board to rehear charges against The Keg of Evanston and its fate could be decided this summer. 1. Off-campus listserv message about rowdy student
s goes viral

In October 2010, Northwestern played an evening football game at home, conditions that set the stage for a low point in NU-Evanston relations – and turned out to be the first of a series of events that would put the University in the national spotlight.

Over that weekend, the University received many complaints from Evanston residents about NU students “being rude, urinating and vomiting on people’s property,” prompting Dean of Students Burgwell Howard to send a reprimanding email to over the off-campus listserv. Though Howard encouraged the recipients to share his message with their fellow students, the email soon traveled beyond the NU community.

It was featured on Gawker and picked up by other news outlets across the country. Reaction ranged from sympathy for the Evanston residents and condemnation of the students’ actions, to disbelief at “overreaction” from the University and residents, and comparisons to rowdier behavior at other college campuses.

The incidents caused the University to be more vocal and proactive about facilitating and improving town-gown relations throughout the rest of the academic year.