Youth gun violence among top Evanston stories
Evanston A teddy bear rests against tree as family members and friends of shooting victim Dajae Coleman gather at the corner where the youth was shot at Church and Florence for a memorial service Monday night. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Top Web headlines
• “14-year-old boy shot dead in Evanston”
• “14-year-old promising athlete shot to death in Evanston”
• “Owner of Cross-Rhodes restaurant in Evanston mourned by friends”
• “Officials mourn slain youth, he did everything right mayor says of victim”
• “Fighting back: Facing end stage liver cancer, Hecky Powell makes comeback of his life”
- Anti-violence walk in Evanston ends day of mourning slain teen
- Police: Shooting death a case of mistaken identity
- New health center aims to serve region
- Trader Joe’s grocery plans move to Evanston
- Developer pledges continued cooperation on Evanston Trader Joe’s plan
- Evanston breaks ground on Central Station Apartments
- Restaurant, music venue planned for downtown Evanston
- Evanston voters OK electricity, township proposals
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:05AM
EVANSTON — The year in Evanston news was marked by violence, development, the addition of a new health clinic and a stalled push to dissolve township government. Here are some of the top stories.
1.Youths gunned down in wave of violence
Dajae Coleman would seemed to have been a walking model for the sort of youth Evanston officials were trying to reach through the Mayor’s Safe Summer Initiative and other special programs aimed at offering teens expanded recreational and art opportunities.
The youth gained his job through the Summer Youth Job program.
He applied himself in school (at one of the last teen club meetings at the library, a Dajae Coleman is on record as taking out four books, a library official later divulged). He flashed potential as a basketball player and was looking forward to making the Evanston Township High School basketball team as a freshman.
To all appearances, “Dajae was doing everything right in his life,” a somber Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said in a statement issued after the youth’s shooting rocked the community Sept. 22. “His successes showed a promise we hope for all young men and women in Evanston. However, this bright promise for all Evanston youth remains endangered by senseless acts of violence and easy access to guns.”
That double formula – senseless actions of violence and easy access to guns – seemed to be all so true.
The youth charged, 20-year-old Wesley Woodson, fired at a group of people, based on information he had received from a relative who had been in an altercation after a party broke up the same evening.
Coleman, who had been at the party, was in the company of friends and walking to his father’s house when shot – an unintended victim, police said.
Woodson reportedly had the gun stashed inside his house and walked barely a block to the 1500 block of Church Street, before firing the shots which killed Coleman.
A little more than two months later, a similar formula applied in the shooting of a 19-year-old.
Justin Murray was felled by gunshots as he stood in front of his grandmother’s house on the 1800 block of Brown.
Brown had only been in town four hours and the shots fired may have been the result of long simmering feud between families, with Murray also an unintended victim, police said.
Carolyn Murray, the victim’s mother, has been in the forefront of promoting crime prevention activities and was the lead organizer in a community gun buyback program Dec. 15 designed to get handguns off the streets.
2.New health care center serves a major need
It didn’t take long for Evanston health officials to grasp the impact of a budget move in 2007, cutting out the city’s full line health services.
In a relatively short time, officials documented an increase in sexually transmitted diseases of roughly 25 percent. Another red flag was the number of people who had delayed seeking primary care or were flooding into local hospitals emergency rooms, city health director Evonda Thomas said, seeking to have their acute health needs addressed that way.
The symptoms officials detected probably aren’t nearly as startling, though, as the unified community action, which followed and shaped a solution.
Officials from Evanston, Skokie, local hospitals and Erie Family Health, a Chicago based organization which ran community health centers in the city, stepped up in a big way to bring the first federally-funded community health care center into the area.
The NorthShore University HealthSystem (of which Evanston Hospital is a part of, proved a major source, contributing about $1.2 million toward the new center, as well as $600,000 of annual operating support.
Erie Family Health Center President and CEO, Dr. Lee Francis said the new center will serve a major need.
“Data shows that only 12 percent of the population in this area is served by Chicago’s safety net across the border in Chicago,’’ Francis said. ‘’That leaves the rest of the people who are looking for health care really in need of comprehensible affordable health care.’’
3.City scores a Trader Joe’s
Evanston city officials may try to label their landing a Trader Joe’s as a successful economic development gambit but maybe it should be counted as one of the city’s “Green,” energy conservation triumphs.
Think about the hydrocarbons and the reduction in greenhouse emissions to result from Evanston residents no longer having to make the trip to Glenview to get their fill of Traders Joe’s once an Evanston store opens in February.
Evanston resident Sheri Milton lives about a block away from the new store – to open at the site of a one time vacated Blockbuster Video, 1211 Chicago Ave.
“To have it right here in our backyard is perfect,” she said at a community meeting.
Evanston officials paid a price to lure the notoriously choosy company to the Dempster Street site after several near misses at other locations.
Aldeman Melissa Wynne and officials used a code word “Eagle,’ to keep word from leaking out to the public.
The city had already announced the deal before revealing details such as the $2 million to buy land for the parking that the store would need.
Officials predict, though, that city will more than recoup its investment and from there on it will be “pure gravy,’’ said Wynne.
4. Developmental construction returns to the city
Evanston alderman Ann Rainey noted a particularly beautiful sight had returned to the city’s skyline this year – construction cranes.
The cranes and activity in general had been missing since the mid-2000s when the economic boom came to an end.
Developers, who had projects in the pipeline when the economy slowed, were also moving forward with new proposals, changing focus from condominium to luxury rentals.
Construction activity began heating up at Chicago Avenue (AMLI residential apartments), on Central (rental housing on the former Evanston Theater site) and Ridge (Focus Development).
In November, developers appeared before the city, seeking to restart residential developments at Emerson and Oak and Maple.
Meanwhile, non-residential developments were moving forward too. In Rainey’s ward, a wine bar and well-regarded theater company was looking to move into the spaces acquired and refurbished by the city. Downtown, owner Ted Mavrakis seemingly overcame his disappointment at the city’s earlier rejection of his move to bring a Twisted Kilt franchise to Evanston, getting approval for World of Beer (more alcoholic beverages but less skimpy outfits.)
And, in one of the year’s boldest economic development ventures, John Tasiopoulos, owner of the Old Neighborhood Grill on Central Street, was looking to open a rock them music concert-restaurant venue at 1012-14 Church Street, which formerly housed Carmen’s Pizzeria and Asado Grill restaurants.
5. Move to dissolve township government stalls
For the most part, Evanston’s township government operated under the radar before this year.
Township employees mostly serve the indigent through their general assistance and job programs.
But Evanston City Council members voted to place an advisory referendum on the ballot in March, seeking to dissolve the township – suddenly making the low-key office very high profile.
Some aldermen maintained township was an outdated form of government. In the past, the aldermen, who serve as township trustees, expressed dissatisfaction with township spending practices, giving that budget ($1.4 million) much less scrutiny than the city’s ($250 million) in some cases.
Evanston residents approved the referendum, responding to a city information blitz and a ballot question worded such that it would have been a shock if the ballot question were not approved.
Legislators in Springfield weren’t quite so compliant, though. They tabled a city proposal seeking to get legislators to change the law, allowing officials to abolish township government, at least in Evanston.
For now, the issue is back to square one.