Where your tax money goes in Evanston, and where it doesn't

Hey Evanston- Did you know… It costs $211,000 to keep open the north branch. Whether you use it or not, this debate has spiraled into a community splitting debate over community access points to books and literacy activities. Meanwhile, city council spent your money in these ways, just this year…
$325,000 to purchase vacant property on Howard Street in Anne Rainey's 8th ward district (with the intention of re-selling it to a theater company, but no money has been re-claimed yet.)
$100,000 Grant for a feasibility study to discover if the old theater that sits vacant above the Gap building downtown can profitably be re-built.    There is still no theater in this space.  Nothing has been printed about it recently, and a private self-financed developer just proposed plans to create a theater where Tom Thumb now sits, in downtown Evanston.
$20,000 Grant to developer at Main/Chicago to pay for portions of their marketing materials.   Not sure why this development group could not take their own risk? 
$100,000 to clean up the site at 2424 Oakton Street in order to prepare for a Gordon Food services building.  Gordon Food services has not actually purchased the lot yet, or made any written commitment to buying the space after the location is cleaned. Furthermore,  city staff only recommended $40,000, but Anne Rainey convinced the council to spend more (the site is in her ward)
$41,450  Five buildings downtown Evanston  receive matching grants from city funds to beautify their exteriors
$55,000 city grant (to match a federal grant of $220,000) to conduct a feasibility study on the development of a new EL stop location on the yellow line in Evanston, which is also in anne rainey's district.    This is only puzzling when one looks and sees that just two months prior, the CTA was thinking of shutting down two purple line stops due to limited funds and low ridership. 
Just this month-
$25,000 in grants ($5,000  each) to these five business associations- Central street, Chicago-dempster,Dr. Hiill Business Association,Main Street Merchants, West End Business Association.   (The city has not awarded these grants yet, but invited all the merchants assn. to apply for these economic development grants. The city has final approval.)
$11,500 to Hecky's BBQ to finance a new facade, if the landlord agrees. Since when does a city pay for a store to have a new facade?  Maybe this is a nice thank pay back you to Mr. Powell for city service in the past?  
City Council also spent money here-
• $700,000 per year to run the 311 call center
• $1.26 million dollars per year for the Evanston Township Assessor. What does the township do you ask? The Deputy Assessor of  Evanston Township wrote this on the Evanston now blog on June 28th, 2011 “The Evanston Township Assessor has programming designed to locate comparable properties to contest your assessed value to either the Cook County Assessor or the Cook County Board of Review.” Basically, they provide advice to property owners about how to challenge their tax assessments – This information regarding tax assessments (i.e. getting PIN numbers, finding the assessed values of neighboring properties, etc.) is now easily available on the both the Cook County Assessor's web page and even on the City of Evanston's "About my Place" link.      Sounds like it could be cut?  The alderman needed to call for a study to look into it.  No editorial on how much this study will cost us taxpayers.  I could not find further information about whether or not the alderman decided to cut it or not.
The cuts don't apply to their salaries-
2008- When they originally said we needed to cut branches, they gave themselves a pay increase.
  2011- City Council  debates in March,  to give themselves a pension for their part time service.  The city tax fund  has to match these funds.



The North Branch library, if fully paid for from property tax levy, would account for a miniscule fraction – about 1/1000th – of the tax that Evanston property-owners pay. For the last full year in which two branches were operated, operating costs were roughly $5.33 per Evanston resident for both neighborhood branches combined. The "savings" from closing the South Branch will be, gross, about $5 on a $5,000 property tax bill, and it would be the same or less if the North Branch were closed. Meanwhile, there would be associated and offsetting economic losses to the City.
All theories of economic development involve stimulating resident, visitor, shopper and pedestrian traffic in commercial districts. A visionary approach to the library system, to a more sustainable Evanston of 76,000 residents, and to neighborhood equity would establish and maintain three neighborhood branch libraries (roughly NW, SW, and SE to complement the northeasternly-located Main Branch). The cost is a pittance compared to the benefit.
As to the other expenditures Jen cites, I won't comment here except to note that this community obviously has resources notwithstanding the constant poor-mouthing. Most do not dispute the basic concept of priming the pump a little on economic development. However, efficacy, and reflection of community values, need to figure more into that mix. The basic logic of maintaining and even expanding a full-service, all-neighborhood library system seems to have gotten temporarily lost in conversations about control, and posturing over power.