Evanston city manager unveils plans for major changes to services, department structures

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

Illinois Budget Crisis

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz announced a restructuring of his staff into groups focusing on a major realignment of city departments and invigoration of infrastructure projects.

With the uncertainty of the state’s 2016 budget and its likely negative impact on Evanston, Bobkiewicz sees this as an appropriate time to make changes to the city in order to best serve residents, he said. The temporary staffing will remain until the end of August.

“The city has made great strides in making Evanston the most livable community, but the city government structure is not aligned to make the kind of forward progress that the community desires,” Bobkiewicz said in a news release.

Bobkiewicz said that four of the city’s infrastructure projects must see major progress in 2016, including the Robert Crown Center, Howard Street Theater, Harley Clarke Mansion and Downtown Performing Arts Center. Planning work for the projects must be submitted by August 14.

Bokiewicz has also asked assistant city manager Marty Lyons to examine the Public Works and Utilities departments to determine how to best serve Evanston’s need to conserve resources to the benefit of the city. It is likely that both departments will be eliminated and replaced with one or more new departments, Bobkiewicz said.

He turned to director of health and human services Evonda Thomas-Smith to improve her department, particularly in providing affordable housing and shelter for the homeless. He tasked director of community development Mark Muenzer and sustainability manager Catherine Hurley with solving traffic problems between transportation vehicles and people, both walking and biking.

Another of Bobkiewicz’s announcements shifted oversight of the Evanston Animal Shelter from the police department to his own office. This decision, effective June 1, comes just over a week after aldermen chose the nonprofit organization Saving Animals for Evanston to run Evanston Animal Shelter.

The city manager has also assembled a trio of staffers from the police department, fire department and city office to suggest improvements for planning and training for emergency responses as well as community relations.

“The staff of the city of Evanston has demonstrated many times in the past our ability to address challenges head on,” Bobkiewicz said in the news release. “The Evanston community expects the city to thrive despite challenges and in order to do so we must continue to be forward thinking and nimble in our approach to problems.”

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