Faith leaders demand aldermen put people first in budget


Colin Boyle / Daily Senior Staffer

A man holds a sign outside the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Over 70 residents gathered outside on Monday to protest a number of proposed budget cuts, chanting “prioritize our people, we shall not be moved.”

Kristina Karisch, City Editor

Over 70 residents gathered outside the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center Monday to protest a number of proposed budget cuts, chanting “prioritize our people, we shall not be moved.”

Attendees at the rally, which was co-organized by a number of churches and community organizations throughout Evanston, demanded a full accounting of the city’s budget process with a focus on its potential cuts to social services across the city.

Interfaith clergy leaders held a press conference on the steps of the civic center, addressing various proposed cuts to the city budget. Since its release at the beginning of October, the 2019 budget proposal has garnered criticism from residents for proposed cuts and restructuring to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Youth and Young Adult Division and the possible closure of Evanston Fire Department Station 4 in the 2nd Ward.

The group labeled itself as POP — Prioritize our People — and focused on the human impact of the proposed budget cuts.

Rev. Michael Nabors, who represented the Second Baptist Church and the NAACP, said residents are aware of the deficit, but even more aware of the programs that would potentially be cut.

“Every citizen and resident of our town should be inspired,” Nabors said. “Inspired that they are in a town where our voices are heard. Inspired that they are in a town where our opinions matter, and inspired that we are in a town where the consent of the governed is the lynchpin for effective government.”

Nabors said residents and aldermen should ask themselves what is more important to them — a balanced budget or “balanced families.” Nabors weighed the city’s need to fill its projected $7.4 million budget deficit with needs of residents, and urged local leaders to advocate for a long-term solution to the budget process, not a quick fix.

He said Evanston should not try to “find an easier route to make ends meet rather than taking the long, arduous avenue that includes everybody.”

“My simple task is to say this along with every single person of goodwill in Evanston,” Nabors said. “We care for the less fortunate, we watch out for the distressed. We speak up for the voiceless. We are one Evanston. What happens to one person and one program affects every person and program.”

Rabbi Andrea London, of Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, echoed Nabors’ sentiments. When Nabors began in the ministry, she said, he may have felt like he could change the world. Now, he feels like he and other residents can change Evanston, and London said she stands with him.

“We’re going to be that shining example,” London said. “We are the power of the people to make this change. We are going to have a budget that says our value is that we love each other as we love ourselves.”

Pastor Daniel Ruen, of Grace Lutheran Church, said he wonders what the city would do if the interfaith communities across Evanston would cut their services, in a similar manner to the proposed budget cuts. He said the effect on the city would be great, and that city officials should look to these communities and the way they provide services.

“We are powerful, and it’s time for the city to recognize that we pick up a lot of their slack that they should be providing,” Ruen said. “We have a powerful voice to go into the city and say: ‘Look you say you can’t find money? You know what happens when we can’t find money? We do it anyway.’”

Samantha Handler contributed reporting.

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch