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Aldermen dismayed by colleague’s gibes

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, drew sharp rebukes from several of her colleagues Monday after she accused them of being duplicitous for seeking further modifications of the green building ordinance.

Burrus has argued that the council should accept without change the compromise version of the ordinance worked out by a special committee over the summer.

Alluding to her annoyance as a former member of the Plan Commission at having the City Council overrule the commission’s decisions on development projects and zoning issues, Burrus said other aldermen “are looking at special interests, not at what the group that developed the ordinance wanted.”

“We need to listen to the people who voted us in,” Burrus added.

Two weeks ago Burrus also attacked Evanston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jonathan Perman for what she called “reprehensible” conduct in advocating for small developers unhappy with the latest draft ordinance after he had been on the committee that drafted the compromise plan.

The comments two weeks ago drew little response from other aldermen, but Monday night the story was different.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said, “It’s nothing new for people to discuss issues up to the last minute, and there are always people who don’t follow issues closely until very late in the game.”

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “The approach that says you shouldn’t disagree, and that if you do I’m going to call you ‘duplicitous’ and claim you’ve gone through the back door — that stifles debate.”

Jean-Baptiste said anyone in the political process who doesn’t want to face the prospect of being contradicted or overruled “is in the wrong ball game.”

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said the City Council, at least in the four years she’s been on it “has not made decisions behind closed doors or based on special-interest pleading,” and that aldermen should be very careful about making such comments.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, denied that he was disregarding what people who’ve worked on the ordinance in the past have said. But Wilson said new information has caused him to have doubts about some aspects of the ordinance.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said there appeared to have been a behind the scenes decision to exclude small builders from the committee that developed the compromise ordinance, and that their concerns need to be heard now.

It’s because of the composition of the compromise committee that “we’re in the mess we are now,” Rainey added.

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