jeffpsmith's blog

The Real Story on Green Building for Retail

On Mon., Feb. 14, in support of an amendment to weaken Evanston's Green Building Ordinance, the thrust from the City side was that LEED certification is inappropriate and/or too arduous for retail buildings and in particular for smaller stores. Leaving aside the serious process concerns over inclusion and transparency that the rollout of this proposed law change has raised, the erroneous premise requires correction. Green building for retail at the Silver LEED or better level is not only feasible, and economically sound, but is already happening in many communities where public and private actors are sincerely committed to the sustainability necessary for our future.

Politics as it could be, should be

On this past Tuesday night, Feb. 24, attendees of the Central Street Neighbors Association aldermanic forum were treated to a demonstration of the better side of politics. In one hour and 45 minutes, six candidates for the two open  positions in the 6th and 7th wards fielded approximately 18 questions each, after first answering another 18 questions on a CSNA questionnaire.

Soufflé and Wedding Cake Arguments Are Half-Baked

Much discussion of Evanston's downtown has invoked a "wedding cake" concept, with the center tallest, and heights lower further out. Mega-growth advocates urge that an extra-tall building on the Fountain Square block will restore a cake-shaped "typical urban form" to downtown, which now allegedly resembles a "fallen soufflé." This is loaded language, meant to shame us as lousy cooks. I'd feel bad, except for one thing: it's nonsense.

First, since 1920, as one official Illinois publication notes,

You're In the Militia Now

Gun control arouses passions. But the Evanston City Council made the smart move in voting to modify its handgun ban. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling likely rendered Evanston's ordinance unconstitutional.

Some have argued that, because the Supreme Court case only dealt with Washington, D.C.'s ordinance, and the District of Columbia is not a state, that the reach of the decision is limited, and that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states. That's a risky position to take.

A Tree Falls in Evanston

Trains, Condos, and Automobiles

My mini-tour of some of the local condo offerings led to some larger mullings. Altogether, the 4 developments I covered, representing nearly 100 new condos within a 9-iron shot of the Central Street Metra station, raise interesting questions. No doubt all will eventually sell; but at what price? One wonders if the demand for "transit-oriented" luxury condos here hasn’t been overestimated.

False Choices on Evanston's Future

A frequent rhetorical trick is to oversimplify an issue, and then present to the audience, factfinder, or decisionmaker a false choice, usually with loaded verbiage. Henry Kissinger was a master of the "we have two choices" overdistillation; Donald Rumsfeld would frequently attempt the same thing by re-phrasing a question into an unpalatable option v. what the Administration was doing.

This tack is what one alderman employed in saying Evanston's only option is to "move forward" or else we "slip backward."


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