The Daily Northwestern

Evanston City Council discusses policy goals for coming term

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz presents four-year goals to aldermen at Monday's City Council meeting. Reducing crime, promoting economic development and strengthening University ties were on the list.

Rachel Janik/The Daily Northwestern

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz presents four-year goals to aldermen at Monday's City Council meeting. Reducing crime, promoting economic development and strengthening University ties were on the list.

Rachel Janik, Reporter

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Evanston’s 79th City Council began mapping a course for the next four years Monday and raised the city’s annual budget by $6.5 million.

As the new council prepares to move forward after last month’s elections, aldermen discussed the strengths, weaknesses and goals of the community to be targeted during the coming term at their meeting Monday night at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz prepared a presentation for aldermen about city staff’s assessment of opportunities, threats and plans.

“I’m here tonight really to challenge you to make the most of these four years as you can,” Bobkiewicz told the council.

Crime and safety concerns topped the list of weaknesses and threats to the city. City staff applauded community outreach efforts taken by the council in the wake of gun violence last year, particularly in response to two shooting deaths near Evanston Township High School.

Bobkiewicz named Northwestern among the city’s strengths. He said “lively discussion” occurred among the staff about its inclusion, and the University was almost removed from the list. Recently, some residents clashed with NU over its plans to build a new visitors center on the lakefront. And despite aldermen’s stated intentions to tackle the city’s contentious over-occupancy rule, the so-called “brothel law” remains on the books.

“While it’s a great strength on many levels, it remains one of our great challenges,” Bobkiewicz said of NU.

The city staff’s recommendations included establishing a stronger bond with the University and utilizing more of NU’s resources to tackle community problems.

Other community goals included prioritizing economic development, increasing sustainability and streamlining communication among city departments and Evanston community groups.

“You can do anything,” Bobkiewicz said. “Your staff is anxious and ready and feels that this will be a great opportunity for the city.”

The council plans to meet for a more detailed discussion on planning in the coming weeks.

Aldermen also approved an increase in the budget for fiscal year 2013 by unanimous vote. Budgeting changes included funding for sewer repair, sidewalk replacement and bike lane construction on Davis Street.

An additional $2.2 million to expand Piven Theatre was taken out of the budget for further discussion.

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