What the brothel brouhaha says about Evanston

    The city has left us with questions, questions, questions. Photo by Tim Reilly / North by Northwestern

    We learned tonight that Morty’s miraculous intercession will prevent mass enforcement of the so-called “brothel law,” and the unsustainable housing situation will remain confusing, but at least not impossible. Upperclassmen will still have to move off campus, but at least they won’t have to move further out into Evanston. This is all fine and good.

    What is not fine and good is how Evanston retracted its message of enforcement.

    Evanston’s sole representative at Tuesday’s town hall meeting, Jeff Murphy, grumbled once or twice about “being misquoted” but never, at that meeting, clarified what he meant.

    This strange condescension toward student media continued on Wednesday, and it grew increasingly disgraceful. Evanston officials attempted to change their version of the events, claiming they never had any intention to alter how the ordinance was enforced. This occurred even though Murphy made statements at that very meeting, in front of 500 students, that sure made it seem like Evanston was going to change how they enforced the ordinance.

    The end result was paragraphs like this, from Wednesday night’s Daily article:

    Evanston spokesman Eric Palmer declined to explain why Murphy publicly discussed the early summer enforcement date. He declined further comment. Murphy, who talked regularly with media through Tuesday night, said he is no longer authorized to comment on the issue.

    Or this:

    Following the meeting, Tisdahl released a separate statement saying “no changes are planned” to enforcement. She also referred to a “great deal of misinformation in the media.” She did not specify what information she meant.

    What!? It’s one thing to say something dumb. But it’s actually harmful to claim later that you never said the dumb thing: especially when, in making this claim, you attack one of the nation’s finest student newspapers.

    I remain hopeful that some news will emerge from the Evanston city government, some anecdote that explains how The Daily and NBN could have misunderstood the situation so totally. None will likely come — and that is fine. This isn’t a cosmic hate crime; it’s a local government giving a more favorable story, if a reality-averse one, to a local publication, which happens almost daily across the country.

    What we should take away from this is that, even as this one dispute is worked out, Evanston city officials continue to condescend and disrespect Northwestern’s studentry, in weird, weird ways. Brothelgate has thankfully ended. But this current era of tension and anger between Northwestern students and Evanstonians?

    It’s only beginning.


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