What Evanston Needs Now - by Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith wrote a letter to the editor that appeared recently in the Evanston RoundTable. I thought it was worth repeating here. It's about two pages long...click 'Read more' to see the complete article.

"What Evanston Needs (And Doesn't Need)

Recently, a community leader asked me, "What do you think Evanston needs?" This huge question can't be answered in one conversation, but looking back at the last few years, here are some starters.

What Evanston needs are more leaders who regard every citizen's concerns as deserving consideration, regardless of their neighborhood. What Evanston does not need are opinion leaders - elected, community or media - who exploit differences between neighborhoods or constituencies, or seek to pit one against another....

What Evanston needs is a constant reminder that disagreement can be expressed without disrespect. What Evanston does not need are public personal putdowns, whether of residents, staff or colleagues on a governmental body.

What Evanston needs is an ordinance to protect its urban forest. What Evanston doesn't need quite so much are ordinances dictating the height of lawns.

What Evanston needs is for more citizens to step up and volunteer to dig into the hard facts and figures of budget, infrastructure and growth. Complaining is a civic right, but constructive input does more civic good.

What Evanston needs are forums that assure courtesy and adequate hearing to those willing to give time and energy on issues of public concern. What Evanston doesn't need are anonymous bloggers belittling residents and discouraging civic participation.

What no one needs is more gossip.

What Evanston needs are enough inspectors to enforce our energy code and forthcoming green building requirements. What no city needs are more laws that it won't enforce, such as our summer leaf-blower ban.

What Evanston needs is a ground-up review of its entire traffic system, for smoother and safer flow with less frustration and pollution. What Evanston does not need are more ad hoc traffic controls that are individually well-intended but cumulatively maddening.

What Evanston really does not need is more traffic.

What Evanston needs is straightforward legal advice, even when it's not what our governments want to hear. What we don't need is more lawsuits.

What Evanston needs is a focus on the root causes and perpetrators of serious crime. What Evanston does not need are more roadblocks and restrictions that harass and criminalize ordinary citizens and businesses.

What Evanston does not need are more hidden taxes. What we all need to remember, before demanding any rule or regulation, is that this country was dedicated to freedom.

What Evanston needs is for those upset about City finances to take a closer look at our schools, and vice versa.

What Evanston needs is to fix the Civic Center roof and remove that ugly scaffolding.

What Evanston needs is to discuss whether we still want a form of government in which no one answers directly to the entire citizenry except a mayor with weakened powers and a token salary.

What Evanston can let go of is nostalgia for two aldermen per ward.

What Evanston needs is to leverage, not lament, being a university town.

What Evanston needs is the discipline, in tough times, to say no.

What Evanston doesn't need are fiscal surprises with $100 million pricetags.

What Evanston needs are governments who handle our money with the same care and frugality as if it were their own. What governments at all levels need to remember is that they exist to serve the people, not vice versa.

What Evanston needs is to make living near work in Evanston more affordable. What Evanston need not do is subsidize speculation in projects that destroy cherished community character.

What Evanston needs to realize is that development is neither all good nor all bad, but depends on an honest appraisal of the costs and benefits -- and to look at those cumulatively, not in isolation.

What no community can afford is a dependency on unsustainable physical growth to cover failures in long-term planning. What Evanston needs is to rediscover spiritual and cultural richness as integral to what drew so many of us, and those who came before us, to this place.

What Evanston needs is to embrace the challenge of leading, not lagging, on the most important issues of our day. What America needs is for towns like Evanston to act now, not next decade, to implement the best recommendations to combat environmental crisis. Evanston should aspire to be no less than a national model of urban sustainability, which also means having a vision of where we want to go, with metrics for evaluating progress.

Yet Evanston needs to occasionally kick back, and not always take itself so seriously. And remember, we already do a lot of things right.

Evanston needs a sense of humor. And a couple more places to hear live music.

Finally, what Evanston needs is at least a few citizens with the vision, pluck, passion and persistence to bring multiple constituencies together to tackle these and the other challenges we share."

- Jeff Smith


Jeff Smiths letter reagarding What Evanston Needs is 100% on target. We have incredible talent and knowledge in our community and we need to find a way to make it easier for residents to come together to share these assets. I think Jeff should run for mayor and lead the way for a better tomorrow.

Mary Rosinski