One citizen’s demand that Evanston require people who seek to influence city decisions to register as lobbyists got a chilly reception at a City Council Rules Committee meeting Monday night.
But asked by Mayor Steve Hagerty if she could give a specific example of a situation that has occurred that she thought would require such an ordinance, Kelly said that no, she couldn’t.
“This seems like a solution in search of a problem,” Hagerty said. But Kelly insisted that it would serve to restore trust in goverment.
In 2013 Kelly, then known as Clare Kelly Delgado, was one of two residents who sought to ban anyone seeking a zoning change from giving money to the campaigns of mayoral and aldermanic candidates, citing a contribution by Col. James N. Pritzker to the Mark Tendam aldermanic campaign.
The city’s Board of Ethics rejected their argument that such campaign contributions violated the city’s ethics code.
Lobbyist registration laws are common at the state level and in major cities like New York and Chicago.
Such ordinances typically require lobbyists to report all contacts with city officials, and Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, suggested it would mean that anyone who worked for a non-profit in town who he ran into at a coffee shop would end up having to report that contact.
“Where would you draw the line?” Wilson asked. “If you live in a tall building, are you going to have to disclose that your view would be obstructed” by a new building?
A Chicago-style lobbyist registration ordinance, Wilson added “would be overkill for a community our size.”
“We’re not full time,” he said of the city’s aldermen. “We don’t have staff meeting with people on our behalf. I don’t get lobbyists banging down my door.”
“You don’t understand the problem you’re trying to solve,” Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, told Kelly.
“Under lobbyist registration, none of us would be required to register.” Suffredin said. “Your regulation would limit the First Amendment rights of people out there, not us.”
Suffredin, an attorney, is registered as a lobbyist in Chicago and with the State of Illinois.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she understood why Chicago and larger cities have lobbyist registration rules, but she didn’t see a need for them in Evanston.
The lobbyist registration issue was presented to the committee as a discussion item and no action was taken on it.