Tisdahl discusses violence, state budget crisis at annual address


Madeline Fox/Daily Senior Staffer

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl speaks at her annual State of the City address Friday. Tisdahl highlighted the death of Curt’s Cafe graduate Benjamin “Bo” Bradford-Mandujano, who was shot in January, in a discussion of gun violence in the city.

Madeline Fox, Campus Editor

Evanston faces challenges with gun violence and the absence of a state budget, but the city is taking steps to address them, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said Friday at her annual State of the City address.

The mayor discussed violence in the city, highlighting the death of Curt’s Cafe graduate Benjamin “Bo” Bradford-Mandujano, in her speech at the Hilton Orrington, 1710 Orrington Ave

Bradford-Mandujano was fatally shot January 15 in the 1300 block of Darrow Avenue. The same day as the 20-year-old’s funeral, Tisdahl said, shots were fired near Family Focus and the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center.

“Shots did not used to be fired near community centers. Shots were not fired at three in the afternoon — shooters did not want to hit their little sister, nephew, cousin or friend’s child by mistake. Now they don’t care,” Tisdahl said. “We need to acknowledge a serious problem in Evanston and we need to work together to solve it.”

Tisdahl highlighted Evanston’s outreach programs and her Summer Youth Employment Program as efforts to combat violence, but stressed that Evanston needs to be “smarter” in its violence-reduction methods.

To that end, she said, director of the city’s health and human services department Evonda Thomas-Smith requested three Centers for Disease Control and Prevention interns to study violence as a public health problem in Evanston. Though the request was denied, Tisdahl said the city’s health and human services department has assigned its current intern to look into the issue while the city continues to push for CDC input.

In addition, the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, which offers summer jobs to Evanston students, will add 600 additional jobs at Six Flags Great America thanks to an agreement with Metra to offer reduced fares for participants, Tisdahl said. Tisdahl said the city had 685 students applying for the 650 placements already offered prior to the Metra agreement.

“Best practices tell us that providing a thousand summer jobs will reduce violence,” Tisdahl said. Having more jobs than applicants this year is “historic,” she added.

Tisdahl also discussed the state budget impasse and its effect on Evanston. With Illinois in its ninth month without a budget, Evanston is addressing the possible budget cuts by including $1.5 million in the 2016 city budget to cover possible reductions in state revenue, she said.

Tisdahl acknowledged the uncertainty created by the budget stalemate, but emphasized the cautious measures Evanston is taking to account for it.

“Local government is still functioning regardless of what happens at the state and federal level,” she said. “Democracy needs an activist and sometimes an enraged citizenry, and we have that.”

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), who attended the luncheon, said she felt the city was handling the situation as best as possible.

“I think Evanston is OK, but things would be much better if we had a (state) budget,” Holmes said.

Tisdahl announced the recording studio in the Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, 1823 Church Street, will be named for Holmes, thanks to a $25,000 donation from Northwestern. Naming the space after Holmes, who will not seek re-election to the 5th Ward aldermanic seat at the end of her term next year, was NU’s only requirement, Tisdahl said, praising University President Morton Schapiro for picking “the very best name” to put on the studio.

Tisdahl also discussed Evanston’s environmental efforts, its debt levels and its business climate — the city welcomed 67 new businesses in 2015, up from 43 new businesses in 2014, she said.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the state of the city is “strong,” but praised Tisdahl’s address as a reminder to community members of areas in which it can improve.

“The mayor really sets out a vision for the community, and when you have all the community’s leaders here, it’s sort of a shot in the arm for all of us to go out and continue to make Evanston the spectacular place it is,” he said.

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