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EVANSTON, IL POP-UP NEWSLETTER — Guaranteed Income, social collapse, city manager search

Hopefully this will be my last newsletter about the city manager search. What a bunch of SNAFUs and embarrassments. We can take comfort in the good baby steps happening in Evanston — participatory budgeting (covered in my last newsletter), guaranteed income pilot program, alternative voting forms, etc. This being the first day of school in Evanston, it feels like we’ve all turned a new page.

A. Time-sensitive
1. Applications open for Evanston’s GUARANTEED INCOME
2. Aug. 16 webinar: Ranked Choice Voting and related forms
B. Musings on our epic social collapse: What’s really going on?
3. The Great Composting
4. “Refuse to abandon each other”
5. Blog: Tales of a grassroots activist
C. Reprise
6. City Manager Search: Some final thoughts
7. West Nile Virus

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— Evanston voters, media, political groups, businesses, activists, institutions
— Residents in my neighborhood (Nichols Neighbors)
— Some non-Evanston voters with Evanston connections & interests


1. Applications open for Evanston’s GUARANTEED INCOME Pilot program
Open through August 29, 2022.
See eligibility requirements, etc. Webpage.

For anyone who wants to look beyond a pilot program, to UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME, see my short Twitter thread with a link to my blog on FUNDED SOVEREIGNTY.

2. Aug. 16 webinar: RANKED CHOICE VOTING and other forms of voting
Community Alliance for Better Government (CABG) is hosting a webinar with Fair Vote Illinois to discuss Ranked Choice Voting in Evanston and other alternate forms of voting.
August 16, 2022
7:00 PM 

CABG Board Member Sebastian Nalls will moderate the event alongside panelists Larry Garfield and Nick Korzenowski. Participants can submit questions prior to the event by emailing or live during the Q&A portion.

In my last newsletter, I discussed a combination form of voting: RCV + open primaries. It is being promoted by Chicago-based Institute for Political Innovation as Final Five Voting. I don’t know if the CABG event will discuss this form or not, but people can bring it up.

What’s really going on?

3. The Great Composting
a. Terminology. I find these terms useful to convey awareness of the historical inevitability and seriousness of our current existential crises — climate chaos, growing inequality (economic, political, social), loss of biodiversity, chronic personal and community trauma.
—The Great Composting: My term for the collapse of our current confused institutions (misogyny, violence, over-production & over-work)
—Spiritual Dismemberment: Term used by shamans, e.g., Sandra Ingerman
—The Majesty of Decay (Martin Prechtel): the sacredness of decay and decomposition (as part of renewing life)
—The Time of the Vulture (Kay Cordell Whitaker): cleaning up the carrion, garbage, etc.

b. Artistic Apocalypse. For an entertaining take on our current dissolution, see the 3-min. trailer for Apocalypse Animated, an animation of all 22 chapters of the Book of Revelation. By Illinois artist Nina Paley (internationally known, based in Urbana, IL, where her late father was both a math professor and the mayor of the town). 

4. “Refuse to abandon each other”
The good news is that even as we’re living through an epic social collapse, there are many people and groups creating new frameworks for real community, real democracy, real liberation. I just learned that Chicago-based Kelly M. Hayes is partnering with former Chicagoan Mariame Kaba (founder, Project NIA) on a book that takes mutual aid to the next step: to the refusal to abandon each other. Two recent Tweets by Kelly Hayes:

Aug. 10 Tweet: “The idea that we might refuse to abandon each other is actually quite scary to the powerful. The survival of the capitalist system is dependent upon our willingness to allow others to be ground under for the status quo, no matter how ugly that gets.”
Aug. 11 Tweet: “It’s a central idea in the book Mariame Kaba and I are working on. A collective refusal to abandon is part of the revolution of reciprocal care that we will need to survive these times.”

5. Blog: Tales of a grassroots activist
Food & farm sovereignty is, of course, a primary safety net against social collapse. Unfortunately, this is still unrecognized by most urban and suburban leaders, institutions, etc. As I Tweeted the other day (in response to a John Nichols’s article on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s work on alleviating child hunger), “It is astounding how few politicians have food on their platforms”. 

Likewise, the artificially diminishing money supply is a giant blind spot to officials, institutions, etc. Foundations are especially invested in that blind spot because their status derives from other people being chronically needy. Here are some representative stories describing my experiences with “stakeholder capitalism”.

Tales of a grassroots activist, 2005-2022  
— Evanston Community Foundation, Grand Victoria, & organic farm (2005-06)
— Dream re ECF & mine tailings in the North Shore (c.2009)
— Evanston150 (2010-13)
— Wieboldt Foundation (2015)
— My legacy list: making an honest living (July 2022)


6. City Manager Search: Some final thoughts
a. When is a finalist not a finalist?
I don’t know if any other Evanstonians were as shocked as I was at the unprofessional turn that the final search took at the final moment.

When the City has announced finalists to the public, I have assumed that the City Council has done their complete due diligence regarding internal interviews, etc., including polling City staff. How then did it come to be that the latest finalist (Ms. Mitten) met with City staff AFTER her town hall meeting and, more to the point, how did it come to be that staff statements at that last-minute meeting were the deciding factor NOT to hire Ms. Mitten?

If the City had not done its due diligence as to Ms. Mitten being finalist-worthy, why was the public jerked around? Why waste our time with a premature town hall meeting?

b. BLOG: Mission drift in city manager search
After the town hall with Ms. Mitten, I let my alderman know (4th ward) that I thought she’d make a good City Manager for Evanston. In addition to her handling herself well (in face of some people who came to hate rather than to listen), I highlighted the following:

“Mitten has a lot of good qualities. I was really impressed with her economical, pithy, and often quotable answers. 
“I was extra-impressed with her messaging on financial discipline, including budgeting and contract negotiations. I think her varied background — suburban Cleveland (rust belt, Midwest), commercial property, zoning in DC (including dealing with DC’s many universities), Arlington County, and Urbana — will serve Evanston well. At the same time, she seems very honest about her limitations, a great quality in a team builder.”

After reflecting on the town hall, I wrote this short blog, organized as follows: Mission Drift in City Manager Search (Evanston, IL): 3 searches & counting
— A recent personal experience with mission drift(re crafting a policy against antisemitism)
— Mission drift in Evanston: 3 searches and counting

7. West Nile Virus
For anyone who missed the RoundTable’s article on West Nile virus by Wendi Kromash, I highly recommend it. It is a model for writing about a public health issue —without fear-mongering unnecessarily—by providing the history and science—by providing local context (e.g., Chicago’s extensive sewer lines promote year-round propagation)

I would add one important ecological fact about the spread of West Nile in the Chicago area (beginning in 2001), a fact that I witnessed as a professional gardener. The virus decimated the crow population, which gave rise to a population increase of rabbits. Gardeners in 2022 are still having to deal with an uncontrolled rabbit population, even in winter when rabbits eat the twigs and bark on shrubs, sometimes killing the shrubs outright.

I wonder if any bird folks are making predictions about a crow comeback. I hear one or two crows occasionally in my neighborhood, but nothing like the big noisy flocks that were around 20+ years ago.

Again, thanks to Myra Janus for bringing this issue to our collective attention again, a consequence of the death of her husband, Linc, in Oct. 2021 due to West Nile virus.