Tisdahl announces $5 million donation from Northwestern in annual address

Alice Yin, Development and Recruitment Editor

Northwestern ​will donate $1 million to Evanston annually for the next five years, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced Friday at her 2015 State of the City address.

The gift will go toward projects that will be jointly decided by Tisdahl and NU President Morton Schapiro, the mayor said during her speech at the Hilton Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave. Every July, Tisdahl will create a list of projects for potential funding. Schapiro and Tisdahl will meet to agree on the list. The donation will officially start each year on Sept. 1 for five years.

“Northwestern University, our businesses, residents of Evanston, our schools and not-for-profits are … partners in making this city great,” Tisdahl said after revealing the news. “So I say to you in confidence that we can and we will solve our challenges.”

The address began with Tisdahl acknowledging looming budget cuts from the state that would take place under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s new budget proposal, which plans to slash Evanston’s share of the Local Government Distributed Fund by $3.75 million. Evanston Township High School stands to lose about $4 million, and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 could lose about $10 million total under Rauner’s proposal, Tisdahl said. She ​added that Evanston nonprofit Connections for the Homeless could lose about $300,000.

“As you know, the state of Illinois is in terrible financial condition,” Tisdahl said. “I just got back from Springfield and it’s worse than I thought. It’s imploding … It’s taking money you were promised … and it’s gone.”

Tisdahl said her trip to the state capital to plea Evanston’s case “did not go well.” She encouraged residents to join city leaders and make the trek down to the annual Evanston Lobby Day in Springfield on April 14 to urge the state to choose a different solution to the fiscal crisis.

The mayor went on to congratulate Evanston’s business growth in recent years. Last year, 43 new businesses opened, adding 212 new full-time jobs, while 19 closed. Unemployment also went down to 4.2 percent in December 2014, which is lower than the national and Chicago average.

“There’s proof that well-spent economic development money can change a neighborhood by filling it with fun, pride and a sense of community,” Tisdahl said.

Evanston is also committed to being a safe, trusting community, Tisdahl said, addressing the recent spotlight on crime and police accountability after a white officer’s shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.

“People ask me what we’re going to do about Ferguson,” Tisdahl said. “We are not Ferguson. We are absolutely, positively not Ferguson.”

Tisdahl expressed her gratitude toward the “excellent police work” by the Evanston Police Department. Officers have engaged in ongoing diversity training, with more planned for the future, she said.

Crimes against persons, such as homicide, robbery and arson, went down 20.8 percent in 2014, Tisdahl said. There was one homicide last year, compared to four in 2013.

The mayor also touched on the city’s commitment to sustainability, celebrating Evanston’s 2015 World Wildlife Fund U.S. Earth Hour City Capital award. In addition, the city has made strides in decreasing pensions and will work on affordable housing.

“Gentrification, crime, climate change, the state of Illinois’s finances … if you want challenges, we have plenty,” she said. “My message is we are working on it. We have extraordinarily talented residents, aldermen and city staff. We have an extraordinary university helping us.”

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