Special City Meeting Tonight Jumpstarts Budget Convo

The Evanston City Council will hold a special meeting tonight at the Civic Center. The public portion will begin at 7 pm, when the City Manager will deliver an advance review of the budget issues facing the City, starting the discussion earlier than in past years. City Manager Bobkiewicz seems to be saying that the City will again face a shortfall and that now we have to cut services.

While the City Manager says that no particular programs have been decided on, various communication channels and local conversations have said that three popular north side Evanston facilities, namely the Ecology Center, the Chandler-Newberger rec center, and the Noyes Cultural Arts Center are supposedly on the chopping block. I purposely did not headline these in this post because at this time they are no more than rumor. However, if past process is any guide, the temptation will be, as we've seen before, to pit service against service, and neighborhood against neighborhood, in a divisive debate of false choices rather than doing the much harder work of squeezing more bang for the buck out of every line item, or demanding that the schools do their share of holding the line so that the City does not become the annual crucible of taxpayer discontent.
The City Manager gets congratulations in my corner for starting this conversation early. The task is now on citizens -- and yes, it sometimes seems like it's too hard work to be a citizen here -- to accept the challenge of self-education on how much we spend, and how, and to not only demand but help formulate fair, common-sense, and long-range big-picture solutions. The challenge is also on our elected and appointed public servants to drill down into the hard detail work that the public shouldn't be expected to do, to ask all those who receive from the City to tighten their belts before asking the taxpayers to pay more for less, and to view service delivery as the prime goal, not a collection of expendables to be thrown into a cage match with each other.
The non-public portion of the meeting will start at 6 pm, when the Council will retreat into a closed executive session to discuss personnel and/or litigation matters; speculation on this has focused on the Smithfield (former Kendall College site) development stalled by the presence of several majestic, ancient oak trees that make the proposed plat problematic. The developer reportedly has threatened a lawsuit if not allowed to build per proposal. However, by definition, the actual subject is not public.