Sign of respect: East Village neighbors unite in EVA

President's Message | By Greg Nagel 

The group East Village Neighbors has merged with the East Village Association. I'm very excited to have our tiny community under one organization that represents everyone.

I'm pleased that EVA will benefit from the energy and ideas of Aaron Bilton, founder of EVN, and Tom Tomek, its most recent president. I have appointed both to the East Village Association board. In addition, EVA is incorporating some of the ideas of EVN and taking the EVN lead in getting involved in school issues. In a sense, EVN lives on through the East Village Association and has helped make EVA even better.

No good can come from rehashing the 2008 split. But we do need to make sure we unite as a neighborhood and benefit from our diverse backgrounds and perspectives. And to make this new broader organization work, we will be making sure that everyone’s voice gets heard, but in a respectful, neighborly way.

Therefore, I'm sponsoring a bylaw amendment to be voted on at the June general meeting that will give the meeting moderator the power to remove someone who refuses to be respectful. I do not think it will be necessary to use this power often, and I would never abuse it. However, I do feel it's necessary to have this in our bylaws to guarantee our long-term solidarity.

This is a step I promised to the EVN leadership in negotiation for the merger, and I am asking for your support and confidence that this is necessary and prudent. I think most everyone will agree that being respectful is the right thing to do, and that if someone is just flying off the handle and does not respond to warnings, asking them to leave the meeting is appropriate.

A lot of our neighbors have lost interest in EVA over the years due to respect issues. I recently went into Cattails to get some flowers (trying to nullify one of my blunders) and began chatting with the owner. She said she stopped coming to the meetings because there was so much "hostility."

Later that week I went to Smoke Daddy to scarf down their half-price nachos and bumped into an EVA family that I had not seen at meetings in at least a year. They are a really cute couple with a gorgeous little girl and just the nicest people. So of course I asked why they have not been coming to the meetings. They actually said they were "chased" out of the group by a couple of the members that were just so aggressive and made them feel like they did not have a say in what goes on.

So I think we have an opportunity to make a bylaw amendment but more importantly a cultural change to strengthen our organization and unify for the long term.

The specific bylaw, which would be added to the General Meetings section, would read: “All members shall conduct themselves in a respectful, considerate manner in any and all meetings of EVA. Any action deemed to be contrary to this rule by the presiding officer at that meeting (President, Vice-President or Chairman) shall be grounds for immediate expulsion from the meeting.”

This respect issue is something I’m totally committed to, and I plan to make it a hallmark of my term as president of EVA.

So reach out to your neighbors and bring them back to the group. It’s a new day in East Village and we want the energy of everyone. We have made signs to advertise our general meeting that will be strategically placed throughout the neighborhood.

Further, as an organization we do not need to rehash landmarking, the issue that created so much friction. That ship sailed in 2006, when the city created the landmark district in East Village. The landmark ordinance is being challenged, but that process is out of EVA's reach.

Not everyone will always be happy with the results of our votes. Some folks are committed preservationists and environmentalists, and others are hardcore pro-development. Some people like bars and restaurants, others don’t like the impact these establishments have on their lifestyles.

My personal goal is that our organization balances all these issues. As president, my goal is that that we have an organization that represents the entire neighborhood and the majority viewpoint.

The result is that not all of us will be happy 100% of the time. That’s the hallmark of compromise. However, we agree far more than we disagree. We are going to disagree civilly and fairly. At end of the day, united we stand and divided we fall.

Our timing for reuniting is perfect given that we have a new alderman. It's an exciting time to live in East Village. Our neighborhood looks beautiful, it has never been as safe as in recent years, and we have some wonderful new businesses.

We have a great new school in La Salle, we have a library coming, we are united organizationally, and we have an "insider" as our new alderman who wants our advice and counsel on how to lead the neighborhood.


  1. Although I agree that respect is always important, I am not in favor of a bylaw change. This could be used as a weapon to silence dissenting views. A more prudent course of action is for the president to run the meetings according standard meeting rules of order. This is the approach that has been arrived at over centuries of trial and error. This is not a new problem for meetings in general, and it has already been solved through time-tested methods- i.e. rules of order.

    I am sorry to hear that people have chosen to distance themselves from EVA due to perceived lack of respect. I personally have not observed this, although I have seen heated discussions. The fact is, these discussions are a necessary part of democracy, and arriving at agreement and solutions. Democracy is not an easy process. Maintaining our neighborhood moving it forward is especially complex, given how interrelated we all are in this urban environment.

    Part of the appeal of this neighborhood is its history, diversity, and complexity. But there is a cost to this. It can create competing priorities.

    It is so much easier to just drop out and not deal with conflict, and let the issues take care of themselves. The tranquility of the suburbs certainly has its appeal, but that environment is also quite boring. Thankfully, we live in an area that is worth getting passionate about. Let's embrace that as a strength, rather than trying to squelch it!

  2. To the EVA Board of Directors,

    My name is Chris Long . I have been an EVA member for the past several years.

    I understand Greg’s concern about maintaining a productive meeting environment. Roberts Rules or Order Revised Edition which according to the bylaws governs how we conduct general meetings already has a clause in it (See section 43) about decorum at general meetings which would achieve the objectives Greg outlined without unintended consequences.

    I’m concerned that the amendment as written is somewhat vague: it does not define what ‘respectful’ means, plus it leaves the decision on whom to eject from a meeting in the hands of a single person. It could have the unintended consequence of chilling debate or disagreement on important issues. It could be used to eject members from a meeting that disagree with the chair before an important vote. I’m sure no one on the current board would use their power in that way, but the possibility of such abuse would be written into the bylaws of the organization.

    Robert’s Rules of Order were written for the purpose of conducting orderly and respectful meetings. They have been tested and revised over hundreds of years and been successfully used in organizations and governments both large and small. I respectfully suggest that we learn and use this important tool in conducting our general meetings. If we do, it should lead to orderly meetings without chilling debate, or suppressing disagreements over important issues. It also prevents the possibility of too much power being concentrated in the hands of the chair of the meeting.


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