Aldermen authorize bonds to finance new Robert Crown


Jennifer Zhan / The Daily Northwestern

“STOP BOND” signs plastered across council chambers. Residents protested the bonds authorization at Monday’s council meeting.

Sneha Dey, Development and Recruitment Editor

Alderman voted 7-2 to authorize the 2019 A&B General Obligation Bonds at a Monday City Council meeting. The bonds will impose a direct annual tax, according to city document.

The bonds are part of two series, 2019A and 2019B, each of which will not exceed $18 million.  The 2019A bonds will finance the construction and equipment of the Robert Crown Community Center while the 2019B bonds will go towards Evanston capital improvements, according to city documents.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) and Ald. Thomas Suffredin (6th) voted against motion.

“This (bond) can be the end of the world for some families,” Rue Simmons said. “We absolutely need Crown, but we don’t need to add to the expense of living here.”

The ordinance was first introduced at a City Council meeting April 8. At the council meeting, Rue Simmons was the only alderman to vote against the introduction and noted the bonds failure to comply with affordability.  

A number of residents showed up to voice their concern with the lack of transparency regarding letters of intent and the cost of Robert Crown. “STOP THE VOTE” signs were plastered across the council chambers. Rue Simmons asked the aldermen to hold the vote for one week, but her request was overturned in a 6-3 vote.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said holding the vote could jeopardize the continued funding of Robert Crown. The bond sale is currently scheduled for May 16 and would be followed by a final approval of bond terms, according to city documents.

Holding the vote would require the city to reschedule the bond sale date, Bobkiewicz said. The city would also have to take the bonds out of the market, putting into question how they would pay for the project.

“I don’t know,” Bobkiewicz said. “I’ve never been down this road before. We would probably need to stop work.”

Bobkiewicz also noted holding the vote could create “tremendous uncertainty” for donors and move them to question investing in the project.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th), who has been a longtime proponent of the project, emphasized the new community engagement center was not a tax problem but instead an opportunity to serve a part of the community which is currently underserved.

“This kind of chaos is perpetuated by social media, is perpetuated by a small number of people who simply want to stop the project and simply want to create adversity for our council,” Wilson said.

He said a community meeting was held in February to answer some of the same resident concerns.

Rue Simmons asked neither she nor residents “be dismissed.” She urged city staff to directly answer residents questions and recognize the burden any additional tax could put on low-income families.

“We won’t get to this point where we have to deal with the signs and the jeopardy of stopping a project and… all of these other potentially disastrous things if we respect everyone in our community as we say that we do,” Simmons said.

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