An Evanston alderman picked up some support this week among her colleagues for a fresh approach to solving the perennial problem of City Council meetings running late into the night.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, suggested during Monday’s Rules Committee meeting that the Council might try eliminating the meeting of the Administration and Public Works Committee that now leads off the meeting triple-header on the second and fourth Mondays of most months.

With the recent change to a consent calendar format for the A&PW session, Fleming said, there are a lot of agenda items that don’t get discussed. So perhaps, she suggested, the A&PW session could be merged into the main City Council meeting, where the consent agenda is now read again anyway.

“That’s not a bad idea,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward.

“It might actually be a good idea,” added Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, noting that anything at all controversial now tends to get discussed twice — at A&PW and the full City Council meeting.

Under that approach the Planning and Development Committee meeting, which now typically starts around 7:30 p.m., could begin at A&PW’s current 6 p.m. starting time — meaning City Council meetings could typically start 90 minutes earlier than they do now.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested holding both committee meetings in the afternoon, but Braithwaite said that wouldn’t work for people who have to work outside of Evanston.

A city staff proposal had suggested setting an end time for council meetings of 11 p.m., but Wilson said that as appealing as the idea of a fixed end time is, “the work would still need to get done.”

“That would mean people who showed up for a particular topic would likely have to come back for yet another meeting,” Wilson added.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that in some communities meeting agendas list suggested discussion times for each topic on the agenda, which, she suggested, might help keep meetings on track.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he’d return to the Rules Committee meeting in December with a proposal based on the ideas the aldermen discussed.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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