During my time on Council I led an effort to transition the Evanston Public Library system to a self-directed fund model. Under this model the City continues to levy and collect the taxes that are used to fund the libraries but decisions about how that money is spent are made by an independent library board. The board is made up of career educators, former school board members, career librarians and residents with a proven record of being active in the library movement. Because of the changes that I lobbied for on Council, these knowledgeable individuals are responsible for allocating assets, setting priorities and formulating strategic plans that will bring our library system forward to the next Century.
This change has been an unqualified success and I believe that the time has come to build on that success by shifting control of our parks and recreation facilities to an equally knowledgeable and independent Parks and Recreation Board. Doing this would:
- Increase transparency in the budgeting and spending of your tax dollars;
- Eliminate ward politics from the decision making process so that the Parks and Recreation Board can focus exclusively on maintaining and improving these facilities for everyone;
- Return the control of maintenance issues to the Parks and Recreation Board — where it should be.
The Open Spaces Scorecard study, a summary of which is available here, shows that while we generally have an equitable distribution of open park space throughout the City, the quality of those facilities is uneven. For example, while six 6 out of the nine wards in Evanston have at least one park that received an “A” rating in the study, 3 wards (including the 1st, 4th, and 9th) do not. The study further showed that while a majority of the City’s parks received a “good” rating (B or higher) a number of parks did not. Areas for improvement highlighted by the study are restrooms and playing fields.
Having this information is very helpful. That is why I supported commissioning the Scorecard study in the first place. But we now need to use this information to make the improvements that will do the most good for the maximum number of people. I believe that entrusting these decisions to a dedicated board of knowledgeable and independent professionals is the best way to ensure that our parks and recreational facilities are available (and accessible) to everyone.
In addition to advocating for this macro change in how we manage our parks and recreation facilities, I will also advocate for specific changes that will make our parks and recreation facilities more accessible to seniors and differently-abled users. Specifically, I will push for changes to our City’s summer camp programs to ensure that these life -changing experiences can be shared by differently-abled children. And I will likewise push for greater access (ramps and boardwalks) that will make our beaches and parks more user-friendly for visitors in wheel chairs or on walkers.