Presidential debate distracts residents from Action Plan feedback session


Manuel Rapada/The Daily Northwestern

Sarah Flax, grants administrator with the city’s planning and zoning division, waits for residents to show up at the first of two public comment sessions on the city’s 2013 Action Plan. The Plan will allocate more than $2.4 million toward programs for the Evanston’s low- and moderate-income residents.

Manuel Rapada, Assistant City Editor

No Evanston residents showed up at a Tuesday night meeting to discuss the city’s $2.4 million Action Plan for housing, economic development and public service projects.

Aside from Sarah Flax, the city’s grants administrator for Community Development Block Grants, only one person attended the meeting. That person, however, wanted to observe a public meeting for a class assignment.

The Housing and Community Development Act Committee hearing was held Tuesday night at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. It was intended solely for accepting public comment on the plan.

“People don’t come unless they’re coming to protest, so one can look at that positively,” Flax said of the dismal turnout.

None of the nine members of the committee, which includes four aldermen, attended Tuesday night’s hearing.

The 2013 Action Plan draft, which the city released Oct. 5, commits funds to programs that address the needs of the city’s low- and moderate-income residents.

On Sept. 27, the committee, chaired by Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), made funding recommendations for the $1.9 million in CDBG funds  available to the city.

The committee suggested allocating more than $315,000, or nearly a sixth of the CDBG funds, to the city’s public works department for projects such as an alley-paving program and sidewalk ramps.

Several nonprofit organizations are also slated to receive CDBG dollars to fund programs and projects affecting all age groups.

The Grandmother Park Initiative will receive $5,000 for their proposed west Evanston tot lot, and the Youth Job Center will receive $35,000 to fund its youth employment programs, according to the plan draft. Meals at Home, an organization that delivers food to seniors and the disabled, will receive $14,000.

Flax attributed the low turnout partly to the presidential debate scheduled a half hour after the public comment session and also to the already public process of allocating funds. Over a series of September meetings, organizations made presentations to the committee prior to the funding recommendations being made.

“I think we do try to do our allocations and planning in as public a way as possible to make information available,” Flax said.

The 30-day public comment period for the plan closes on Nov. 4, days before the City Council is scheduled to approve the plan at its Nov. 12 meeting.

The committee is scheduled to meet next Tuesday to discuss public input and to recommend plan approval to city council. The last public comment session is slated for the Housing and Homelessness Commission meeting Thursday at the Morton Civic Center.

“The Thursday one isn’t up against the presidential debate,” Flax said.