Surprise. Evanston's new manager says development process stuck

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DAN HALEY

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

We're Evanston without the lake: Evanston has a new city manager, one Julia Carroll. She's been in office about three months and last week gave an interview to the local newspaper, the Evanston Roundtable.

What's the biggest issue she'd identified? It takes too long to make decisions on new development. There's too much angst involving citizen involvement taking place in front of too many levels of public hearings.

The solution? She's not sure yet but believes it has to do with putting development project approval on a shorter timetable while still involving citizens. And, she says, Evanston needs to have an overall assessment of what kind of development it wants.

"People in Evanston are steeped in tradition. This is a strength, but it also makes it difficult to make changes that make the whole process more efficient," said Carroll.

Sounds like they need an election.

Holy smokes: Opponents of the smoking ban proposal in Oak Park have made a credible argument that Oak Park is too government-centric already and that the marketplace should determine whether a restaurant owner decides to go smoke-free.

Well, the most storied restaurateur in Oak Park, Dennis Murphy of Poor Phil's, has made the call and will end all smoking in his Marion Street bar and grill by the close of the month. As we report on page one today, Murphy, who has brought both casual (Murphy's-Off-the-Mall) and formal dining (Philander's) to Oak Park over 30-plus years, said he's been watching customers wait in line to get in to the non-smoking portions of his indoor and even outdoor seating areas.

Murphy, who was typically eloquent in his defense of restaurant choice during the smoking ban debate last winter, made his choice. He still opposes the village government stepping in with a ban for the same reasons he did in the past.

That some sort of ban will be passed by this new village board, though, seems increasingly likely to me given comments which have already been made. Same advice applies as on development in Evanston. Set a fairly short timetable, welcome comment from all sides, and then have the village board vote.

Meanwhile, those Oak Parkers who profess to the dangers of second-hand smoke and who have been so sure that it will help, not hurt, the tabs in local restaurants that go smoke-free have a lot of eating out to do.

And thanks, again, to Dennis and Bunny Murphy for leading the way in Oak Park.

Asphalt as far as we can see: There has been consternation, even brow-furrowing, along The Avenue shopping district in past months as the prospect of having Oak Park Avenue repaved loomed. Merchants and restaurant owners who had barely survived the total rebuilding of Lake Street and the construction of the Avenue's parking garage a few seasons back dreaded lost parking spaces and revenues.

It won't be like that this time, the village kept saying. We're only repaving.Well, last Thursday, after having already replaced some worn-out curbs and gutters, the contractors arrived early and worked late. From our offices high above Oak Park Avenue, well second floor, Wednesday Journalists had a great view of the most efficient street crew we'd ever seen. The old asphalt was skimmed off, the street was washed down, the tar was applied, and the next morning the first layer of new, creamy, smooth asphalt was put down.

Traffic never stopped. No one went out of business. And Oak Park Avenue is running smooth.

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