John Zbesko - Candidate for 7th Ward - Speech to CSNA

Friends and Neighbors,

My name is John Zbesko and my family has lived at 1120 Noyes St. for over 20 years. Today, I am a candidate for 7th Ward Alderman.

Ever since 1986, I have involved myself in the Evanston community. I worked to redistrict my neighborhood into the 7th Ward after the 1990 census and keep it there after the 2000 census. More recently, I worked to save the elm trees and to save the Civic Center as the seat of Evanston government. I have served as coach and member of the AYSO soccer Board of Directors and I am a former President of the Democratic Party of Evanston. My family was a founding family of a Sunday school for interfaith couples- Jewish and Catholic. Currently, I am a Trustee of the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District and I am making sure the small portion of your property tax bill that goes to mosquito and West Nile virus control is well spent.

My profession is quantitative stock analyst. Simply, I perform lots of number crunching to determine stocks to buy and sell. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Management from M.I.T. and a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Chicago. I also hold a CFA, Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

At this point in my family's life and in my professional career, I have decided to escalate my commitment to you and to Evanston by running for Alderman. Over the past few months, I have been preparing for the role of alderman. I've attended budget workshops and Council meetings, engaged with neighbors and neighborhood groups, and participated in a program called Leadership Evanston that teaches civic leadership skills and how municipal and school district government works in Evanston.

Our City is poised for substantial change. The City's staff has been hollowed out by an early retirement plan and a number of new faces will appear on the City Council next spring. We face substantial fiscal problems that were a long time in the making and the current economic environment presents further challenges. I intend to bring my career experience in finance and economics, as well as a keen interest in technology, to bear on the many challenges and issues that face our community. Recently, the City's Finance Director projected a shortfall in water and sewage fee revenue due to declining water usage. It really should come as no surprise that usage declined when the rates were jacked up to pay for our new storm sewer system. The alternatives proposed all included further rate hikes, followed by declines in rates as the bonds used to finance the construction were paid off. My suggestion is to refinance the bonds to better match the long life -decades- that the sewer system will last. I feel there is no reason why the future residents of Evanston shouldn't help pay for the future value of the new storm drains.

My concept of effective aldermanic representation is three-fold. First, maintain and enhance City services. Make sure the snow is plowed, the streets repaired and safe, and the parks, libraries and other facilities cared for. City functions that benefit all residents will be my greatest budget priority. The second concept is to represent you, the residents of the 7th Ward and the City as a whole. Evanston is unique in its level of civic involvement- the wonderful ability of its citizens to organize and push for some cause. I want to channel this civic energy. For example, the Save the Civic Center Committee proposed to the Council a charette, a group of retired architects, developers, and engineers who volunteered to work with City staff to produce a plan for rehabbing the Civic Center. Not much happened to this proposal and instead the current Council retained an outside consultant. As Alderman, I would embrace this type of citizen involvement.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, an effective Alderman must have vision, values and goals. I want Evanston to become a better place to live, work and play. Too much emphasis has been put on Evanston as a place to live. Not enough attention has been paid to making Evanston a place to work. Today, the proposed plan for the West Side Corridor seems to favor residential as opposed to commercial development. Businesses, both small and large, need to be courted and encouraged.

As a parent, I have traveled to other towns' fields, rinks and facilities. Evanston's recreation assets cry out for improvement. Personally, I like to garden and I am dismayed that the City outsourced yard waste disposal and eliminated the free compost for residents. Now our leaves and grass clippings are trucked to Wisconsin.

As my children grow into adulthood, I wish to bequeath them an Evanston such as the one I moved into as a young married man. I hope to leave them a city in which they can afford to live and would want to raise a family.

Thank you for your interest and support.


John - I am glad you supported the injection of the elm trees - our current 7th ward alderperson has voted against injecting the trees - on every vote!

Staff has now recieved the results back after several years - less than a 1% loss of elms now versus 4-5% prior to injection. Staff now supports the program.

Few voters know - those council members who did not support this program - cost us tax payers - more money and we lost more trees in the process. Few may recall the council intially voted to inject all the elm trees - we recieved bids for that work - at a favorable price. At the next council meeting - after the council had approved the injection program for ALL elms a group of council members reversed the vote to only inject 1/2 half. ( a very uncommon practice ) - what happen they injected about 1/2 the trees at 20% more cost since they changed pricing after the bids were in. ( real geniuses at work )

John - as you might know I ran last time - this was important issue to me - one preserving a VERY valuable resource which clearly makes our neighborhoods look good - also it was cost effective - since cutting down these trees cost $3000 a tree and injection might be around $300 every 3 years - you don't need a degree from MIT to figure out this makes good finanical sense.

By the way when I questioned the city at council what was the staff not doing when it was cutting down elms - such as triming the other 20,000 parkway trees - they were quick to cover that up- even after one council member want to question it.

John I agree with your point about the Civic Center - as you might recall I have been against the nonsense of the council trying to sell the site and move - You might recall they were projecting tearing down the building and developing almost every inch of the site - with condos - it would have been a mess -

The bottom line is they do not have enough money now in the budget to move forward - on Civic center repairs - just the roof - I was in the city clerks office a few days ago they have removed about 15 square feet of the plaster in this office exposing the brick - it is completely water damaged - due to the roof - the intire building know doubt is damaged. Clearly there are still council members who think they are going to move -

By the way John a Design Charette would be good - that is if the City had a program how they were going to operate that would be better - the consultant they paid over $130,000 - for a study produced little of value since the city manager's office gave them no direction on how the city might be downsize - it should be clear to all - the city does not need the amount of space it has in the current building - it is my opinion the city should rent out some of the space and reduce staff - ofcourse this is not a popular view. Given the council members like to protect the waste we have here - I am not certain it is going to work.

Finally John - as a community gardener like youself you need to talk to Ken B. he studied the issue of the compost - the bottom line is two alderperson shut the operation down since the residents claimed it smelled - then the staff drummed up the claim it was cheaper to truck the leaves to Glenview it saved us $80,000!

See you soon - at the budget hearing - we can not afford a 13% tax increase this year - Junad