Council member’s leftover campaign funds will beautify Levy Center grounds

By Bob Seidenberg

Former Eighth Ward Council Member Ann Rainey and her campaign team found a novel – and very green – way to resolve what to do with leftover campaign funds after 34 years in office.

In an Aug. 17 ceremony on the south lawn of the Levy Senior Center, Rainey dedicated three trees to honor groups that played important roles during her time in office. 

She represented the Eighth Ward on the City Council from 1983 to 1993, and 1997 to 2021. Her team filed campaign reports on a quarterly basis during that period, she said, documenting how campaign contributions were being used.

After the 2021 election, though, in which she was defeated in the primary election for another four-year term, “it became quite obvious we wouldn’t be having any need to spend campaign funds,” she said. 

There was still the question, though, of what to do with the $4,000 to $5,000 still sitting in her campaign fund, she said.

Illinois election code dictates how the unspent campaign funds can be used, such as charitable donations and donations to other candidates. Personal use is prohibited, though.

“So, we thought and thought and thought, and we decided that we should buy these trees and make a donation,” she said to some 40 people who attended the ceremony on Thursday.

The trees, a weeping Norway spruce, a Katsura tree and a Sergeant cherry tree, were bought from Nature’s Perspective Landscaping, 2000 Greanleaf St., which has been in Evanston for over 40 years. Paul Klitzkie, the firm’s general manager, was at the ceremony.

The trees

The weeping Norway spruce was dedicated to Evergreen Real Estate and the Council for Jewish Elderly Senior Life for their commitment to providing affordable housing for those in need, Rainey said in her presentation.

The groups partnered on a 60-unit high rise apartment building at 1011 Howard St. (later named the Ann Rainey Apartments) which provides affordable housing for those with income at 60% or below of the area’s median.

Rainey thanked members of those groups,  including David Block, Evergreen’s director of development, for their role in the development.

“The apartments David built on Howard Street is just a small percentage, such a tiny percentage of the housing he’s built for seniors, very small,” Rainey said.

Block said some of the project was due to “fortuitous timing.”

“But the reason that we pursued the project and ultimately made the building was because of the work she’s [Rainey] been doing there for the last 35 years in really revitalizing that community that spans Chicago and Evanston,” he said.

“Every time we have somebody move out, we’ve had somebody move in almost immediately,” he said.

Rainey said she chose a Katsura tree to honor Evanston firefighters and police officers for their service protecting city residents.

The Sergeant cherry tree was dedicated to the Levy Senior Center Foundation for its tireless work on behalf of Evanston seniors, she said.

Rainey was one of a group of council members who argued that the city should build a new center for seniors in the late 1990s, relocating from a building downtown that had been reconverted after serving as a teen center.

For a while, it looked like the center would be placed at the top of a city garage.

“Some of us just revolted and said, ‘It’s not going to be there,” Rainey recalled.

She spoke of the support officials received from Joseph “Joe” Levy, Jr., of the major benefactors of the center.

Eventually, the city hired national award-winning architect Carol Ross Barney to design the building, which sits at the edge of James Park.

Leading off the ceremony, Hugo Rodriguez, a member of the Levy Senior Center Foundation, noted that “as an Evanston council member, Ann worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life and she truly made a difference to our city.”

With her tree gift, “our garden is beautified even more,” he said.

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