Mayor Tisdahl discusses crime, state budget crisis at town hall


Zack Laurence/Daily Senior Staffer

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl speaks at Thursday night’s town hall meeting. Tisdahl said she is concerned about the effects of the state budget impasse on Evanston.

Nora Shelly, Assistant City Editor

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl discussed recent crime incidents in the city, as well as problems Evanston is having due to the state budget crisis at a town hall Thursday night.

The city is experiencing limited funding and a potential threat to revenue because of the budget impasse — which has gone on for nearly a year, Tisdahl said. She said she has talked to Gov. Bruce Rauner three times as part of her duties as the president of the Northwest Municipal Conference, primarily about her concern with Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, which advocates for a property tax freeze, restructuring the motor fuel tax and giving local governments the ability to file for federal bankruptcy.

Tisdahl said Rauner told her that under the plan Evanston could have a possibility of declaring bankruptcy — an option the mayor said she wants to avoid.

“It’s tremendously important to keep cognizant of the amount of debt we have in this community, and to be sure that we don’t spend ourselves into Gov. Rauner’s scenario of going bankrupt,” she said.

Tisdahl told The Daily that Evanston wasn’t in danger of going bankrupt. However, she said the possibility that money could be taken from the local government distributive fund and allocated to the state would be a potential threat to the city’s funds.

Also essential in light of the budget impasse is for the city to continue putting money into the fire and police pension funds, which are both currently funded at under 50 percent, Tisdahl said.

Along with the budget, Tisdahl discussed the status of affordable housing in Evanston, saying it’s something “we’re always working on.” However, Evanston resident Jane Wickenkamp, who attended the meeting, said she has concerns about the status of affordable housing in the city, particularly for older residents who may not be able to afford to stay in the city.

“That’s my concern, that we’re getting (to be) like a Winnetka and everybody is being priced out,” she told The Daily.

The community has also expressed concern for the potential effect of Chicago’s increased crime rates on the city, Evanston Police Department Deputy Chief Aretha Barnes said.

“One of the sad facts is that three young men have been killed — two of them have been killed in Evanston,” she said. “We cannot blame the homicides on spillovers from Chicago because these are young men who grew up in our community and they are us.”

EPD has issued an arrest warrant in one of this year’s homicides and are confident they will come to a “good conclusion” in the investigation into the other homicide, Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew said.

Evanston has seen a 26 percent decrease in violent crimes so far this year, Barnes said, but there has been an increase in some less violent crimes, including residential and car burglaries.

At the event, Tisdahl also answered questions about various city properties, such as Robert Crown Center, Harley Clarke Mansion and the Canal Shores Golf Course, all of which are under discussion for possible redevelopment or repurposing.

A priority for Tisdahl is the proposed renovations to the Robert Crown Center, she told The Daily, due to its central role in the community.

“It would be a tragedy if our children no longer had the ability to play basketball there or skate,” she said during the meeting. “I don’t know that we need a mansion on the lake. I think it would be nice to have, but if you want me to pledge millions of dollars to it, I don’t see that as great a need as the Robert Crown Center.”

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