Alderman Misled Public on City’s Crown Meetings

Evanston Robert Crown Center

The previous version of this story incorrectly dated The Daily Northwestern interview as 2018. We regret the error.

The Daily Northwestern’s February 2019 interview with Ald. Don Wilson reported that “since January 2016, the City has held 31 public meetings, and seven of these meetings were designated for residents comments and concerns.” Ald. Wilson had referenced those 30 meetings at community meeting earlier that month. The Mayor made similar comments at his most recent Town Hall.

However, 14 of those 31 meetings listed by the City weren’t public meetings. At least two were closed to the public. Four weren’t meetings at all, including the groundbreaking ceremony, a vendor fair, and a job fair hosted by the contractor. One wasn’t even an event, just a memo issued by the City Manager’s office.

Of the seven meetings “designated for residents comments and concerns,” five were neighborhood meetings to discuss construction traffic and forecasts. One of the two community meetings was at an on-site construction trailer at 7:30 am, and attending residents reported they were told they could not ask questions regarding project cost.

In fact, the City only held one community meeting in which it invited the public to provide input, held Feb. 13, 2019. At this meeting, Ald. Wilson told residents their concerns were coming too late.

“When I’m sitting there at the dais, voting on the $53 million dollar project, you know, that’s the time,” Wilson said at the meeting. “When its in the papers, and the newspapers are saying the price has jumped to this giant amount–I think the Tribune wrote a story about it, I don’t know who else covered it–that’s the time. When your representatives are voting on it, we had a lot of meetings, that’s the time.”

What Wilson didn’t mention is that residents have voiced concerns since at least as far back as 2013, and those voices have grown alongside the project. Wilson also missed mentioning that most of media’s reporting of the project’s escalating costs and public funding options have only come after Council approvals, largely because none of the City’s media releases have addressed those issues.

In fact, of the City’s 41 media releases, e-newsletters and opt-in emails regarding the project:

  • none noticed any Community Meeting other than that on Feb. 13, 2019
  • none noticed any Council meetings or actions regarding the project
  • none noticed project costs or cost increases
  • 3 noticed the Groundbreaking Ceremony
  • 3 noticed a Vendor Fair for trade contractors interested in participating in the project
  • 2 noticed art installation RFPs (Requests for Proposal)
  • 1 noticed a Job Fair hosted by the project’s construction manager, Bulley & Andrews
  • 13 noticed for 6 neighborhood meetings
  • 1 was a promo to sign up for construction updates
  • the remaining were construction updates

The Public Meetings

The only public meetings listed by the City were those of City Council, the most recent held July 9, 2018. That meeting amended a contract with the Crown architect and executed a construction agreement in the amount of $47,741,803, stating, “Funding for this project will be provided by various sources. Detailed information can be found in the corresponding transmittal memorandum.”

The eight other meetings in which the Council took action were:

June 25, 2018 Public Bond Hearing The meeting immediately preceding that included the hearing within it. As previously reported, the City failed to provide the minimum required public notice under Illinois law for that hearing.

April 9, 2018 Granting Major Zoning Relief for a new 2-story, 134,200 square foot Community Center, Ordinance 39-O-18

Feb. 26, 2018 Award of pre-construction services in the amount of $41,510.00. “Funding for this project will be provided from Capital Improvement Program (CIP) 2018 General Obligation Bonds (Account 415.40.4118.65515 – 616017).”

July 24, 2017 Establishing Crown maintenance fund as independent City fund

Feb. 27, 2017 / June 26, 2017 Fundraising consultant extensions

Jan. 23, 2017 Award of architect services in the amount of in the amount of $497,500. “Funding for this project will be provided from Capital Improvement Program (CIP) 2016 General Obligation Bonds (Account 415.40.4116.62145 – 616017) in the amount of $600,000.

June 13, 2016 Establishing Crown maintenance fund from operating revenues of the new facility

Aug. 15, 2017 Solicitation of architect RFQs (requests for qualifications) for $2 million as “inclusive of the entire amount anticipated for the total construction costs for the RCCC.”


Meetings and Informational Events

DateType of MeetingDiscussion/Action
3/18/19City Council Meeting To discuss progress, update on funding – Presentation
3/1/19Community MeetingTo discuss progress, forecast of upcoming work, construction traffic
2/13/19Community MeetingTo discuss progress, upcoming work, construction – Presentation
1/25/19Neighborhood MeetingTo discuss progress, a forecast of upcoming work, construction traffic – Presentation
1/15/19Art’s CouncilDiscussion of RFP for Public Art Installation
7/26/18 at 4:00 p.m.Job Fair Hosted by construction manager, Bulley & Andrews
7/24/18City Manager’s ReportMemo detailing evolution of Robert Crown Project Costs
7/13/18 at 4:00 p.m.Groundbreaking CeremonyTo solicit participation from union trade Evanston residents interested in working on this project as part of the City’s Local Employment Program. 
7/11/18Neighborhood MeetingDiscuss final design review, construction phasing, project schedule and neighborhood updates – Presentation 
7/9/18City CouncilConsulting contract amendment with Woodhouse Tinucci
Construction Manager Services to Bulley & Andrews
Approval of 2018A Bond Issue for Crown Center Construction
Agenda– Packet– Minutes
6/25/18City Council  Introduction of 2018A Bond Issue for Crown Center Construction – Presentation– Packet
5/21/18City CouncilProject Update – Presentation
5/1/18 at 3:00 p.m.Vendor Fairhosted by City of Evanston and Bulley & AndrewsEvanston vendors and trade contractors interested in participating in this project.  
4/9/18City CouncilZoning Relief for new Center (For Action)
3/12/18City CouncilZoning Relief for new Center (For Introduction)
2/26/18City CouncilAward Construction Manager Services – City Council Meeting Packet
2/19/18City CouncilUpdate on Funding to Council – Presentation
9/25/17City CouncilProject Update – Presentation
8/14/17City CouncilProject Update – Presentation
8/3/17Neighborhood MeetingDiscuss the refined schematic design and next steps – Presentation 
7/24/17City CouncilCreation of Robert Crown Maintenance Fund
6/26/17City CouncilRobert Crown Fundraising Consultant Extension
6/1/17Neighborhood MeetingPreliminary design ideas and next steps – Presentation 
5/18/17Stakeholders MeetingArchitects Presentation at 5/18/17 Stakeholder meeting
3/21/17Neighborhood MeetingStaff and consultants from Woodhouse Tinucci Architects – gather initial input for the planned replacement of the Center – Presentation – Meeting Notes
3/2/17Stakeholders MeetingA schedule of the meeting was: Indoor Athletics from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.; Outdoor Athletics from 10 a.m. – noon; Education from noon – 2 p.m.; Library from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.; and Community Interests from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.-  Architects Presentation; Architect Stakeholder Workshop Notes
2/27/17City CouncilRobert Crown Fundraising Consultant Extension
1/23/17City CouncilArchitect Services Award
12/12/16City CouncilUpdate to Council;   Architect RFQ
8/15/16City CouncilRFQ for Architectural Services
6/13/16City CouncilInfrastructure Funding
1/19/16City CouncilFundraising Consulting Services Award


3 thoughts on “Alderman Misled Public on City’s Crown Meetings

  1. hans

    There were community meetings on 8/31/18, 9/28/18, 10/26/18, 11/30/18, and 12/21/18 that I don’t see listed here. They were about construction progress and held at 7:30 AM in the trailer. The next one is on 3/29 (at 7:30 AM in the trailer, as usual).

  2. Evanston Leads

    Thanks hans. The list of meetings was provided by the City – you can find it at https://www.cityofevanston.org/government/departments/parks-recreation-community-services/robert-crown-center/robert-crown-community-center-project.

    It’s possible they’re including only City-held meeting

  3. MHughes

    Ok so if I understand it the City has broken an Illinois law regarding the minimum required notice for the $85M bond sale? Is anything to be done about this, or did I miss an article where this is discussed further?

    THANK YOU for this information. It is very much appreciated. And I thought Wilmette was bad. OMG!

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