Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl delivered her second annual State of the City Address Friday afternoon in a crowded ballroom in downtown Evanston’s Hilton Orrington hotel.
While Tisdahl’s speech was brief, lasting just over 20 minutes, it touched broadly on the City’s core aims: relieving economic pressures, addressing concerns over violent crime, and improving communication through the implementation of new programs and initiatives.
The audience comprised a who’s who list of Evanston’s public figures and prominent citizens.
In attendance were State Reps. Robyn Gabel (18th District) and Daniel Bliss (17th District), Evanston’s entire city council, school administrators, police and fire department representatives, school board members, two former Evanston mayors, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, nonprofit workers, community organizers and purposeful residents.
The mayor began her address by assuring the audience that, contrary to a recent New York Times article that suggested bankruptcy was a serious option for mayors of many small cities, Evanstonians could “forget about it” here.
A balanced budget with tough cuts and continued economic development were the keys to staying afloat, she said.
Tisdahl pointed to two businesses, Ward Manufacturing and Converged Communication Systems, as examples of employers that had been convinced by the City’s Economic Development Team not only to remain in Evanston, but to expand their business and hiring within the city.
“We have many assets that will help us through tough times,” Tisdahl said,”[including] a talented city staff, … a host of volunteers, proximity to Lake Michigan, a great university, a savvy business community, 2 excellent hospitals, wonderful citizens, extraordinary county, state and federal representatives and their staffs. We need to make good use of all our assets and we will.”
The mayor called for pension reform, while ensuring city employees that this would require statewide legislation, and in no way would include an attack on collective bargaining, similar to the ones taking place in Indiana, Wisconsin and several other states.
With the city facing financial challenges, Tisdahl said the City would rely partially on volunteers picking up the slack.
“So what do you do when you don’t have enough money to pay for all the services people want to have? Tisdahl asked. “First, cuts, second, economic development and third, as the Beatle’s song says, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’”
Evanston recently hired Shanee Jackson to fill its newly created Volunteer Coordinator position. At an MLK Day event, of Volunteer Evanston" a “community-based, volunteer software platform” aiming to aggregate and organize community-service opportunities in the city by connecting local nonprofit organizations with potential volunteers.
During Friday’s speech, Tisdahl applauded a 13 percent overall drop in citywide crime, but denounced Evanston’s six murders, calling them “six more than our goal.”
She also announced a communitywide effort against gun violence, tentatively scheduled to kickoff April 9.
The mayor expressed sadness over the news that the , commended the City’s reduction of its carbon footprint and praised the police department for its reduction of crime on the 1900 block of Jackson.
Tisdahl ended the afternoon’s address relating a story about the optimism she felt after meeting a group of dedicated teenagers who had peacefully driven away .
“I drove home thinking, what is the state of the city, where teenagers act like that?” Tisdahl said. “The future of Evanston looks pretty darn good to me.”
After Tisdahl’s speech, former mayor Loraine Morton presented Jonathan Perman with the City of Evanston Extraordinary Service Award for his 19 years as executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. Perman resigned from his post in January.
Howard I. Kain accepted the Evanston Arts Council’s Arts & Business Committee 2010 Leadership Award on behalf of First Bank & Trust. The annual award honors an Evanston-based business “that has shown extraordinary support for the arts in Evanston.”
Bill Campbell and The Evanston’s Children’s Choir were recipients of the 201 Mayor’s Award for the Arts.
Mayor Tisdahl’s State of the City Address can be read in full, here.