Tisdahl prioritizes violence prevention with university donation

Marissa Page, Assistant City Editor

Allocations of the first installment of Northwestern’s five-year, $5 million donation plan to Evanston will go largely to Sheridan Road repairs and violence prevention in the city.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced NU’s Good Neighbor Fund donation to the city in March, a $5 million gift that the University will roll out in million-dollar increments over the next five years.

The first $1 million was divided up Oct. 9, with the largest chunk, $500,000, going toward the Sheridan Road improvement project, which includes resurfacing and painting in a new bike lane.

Mayor Tisdahl elected to parse out the first installment of the Good Neighbor Fund donation with an emphasis on combating violence in Evanston, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said. The mayor set aside a $50,000 chunk of the donation to aid families affected by violence, and another $250,000 will go toward at-risk youth job training and development programs in the city’s Youth and Young Adult Division. The remainder of the gift, $200,000, will go toward supporting Evanston Fire Department paramedics.

“Certainly whatever (Tisdahl) can do to combat violence in the community is a priority for her,” Bobkiewicz said. “Many of the things there were mostly preventative measures… with the job training money and the donation to a fund that she set up to help families impacted by violence.”

University President Morton Schapiro said the mayor decided to set up the violence outreach fund.

“I said ‘put it to something you think is really important,’ and that’s what she did,” Schapiro said.

The projects selected have relevance both for the city at large and also to NU: The fire department provides daily services to the university and Sheridan Road is a major thoroughfare through campus. Bobkiewicz said the Sheridan Road project will likely be the focus of a portion of next year’s Good Neighbor Fund contribution.

“The Good Neighbor Fund’s allocation for year one is being directed towards projects that will help Evanston reach its goal of becoming the most livable city,” Tisdahl said in an Oct. 9 news release. “Northwestern is a great university and its presence strengthens our community. I thank President Schapiro for the Good Neighbor policy and look forward to seeing positive outcomes from this generous donation.”

Bobkiewicz said that the gift gives the city greater spending liberties given the city’s budget constraints this year. In particular, he noted the support for the fire department’s services as freeing up additional resources for the city.

“It’s a million dollars we didn’t have before,” Bobkiewicz told The Daily. “We’re able to put more money in the coming year toward violence prevention and workforce development … and that’s probably, given the state of our budget and the state of Illinois’ budget, something we wouldn’t have done.”

Schapiro said this first step for the Good Neighbor Fund exemplifies NU’s cooperative relationship with the city.

“We really work very closely,” he said. “I don’t know of another university where the president and senior staff have the same relationship with the mayor and the city manager. I completely trust those people — they’re gonna keep our campus safe and support the greater good of this incredible town we’re blessed to be in.”

The headline of this story was updated Oct. 14 at 1 a.m.

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