Evanston aldermen this week started considering a plan to consolidate eight of the city’s 36 advisory boards — but didn’t get very far.
Evanston has roughly twice as many such appointed panels as some nearby communities and, with the current budget crunch, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has suggested the city could reduce costs involved in having city workers staff the boards if they were consolidated.
At the Rules Committee meeting Monday, the aldermen seemed to agree with Bobkiewicz’s that the Arts Council and the Public Art Committee should be combined.
"I’ve never been able to quite distinguish them myself," said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.
The Public Art Committee was supposed to have been a subcommittee of the Arts Council," Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, "but it just went off on its own."
The aldermen seemed split about combining the Housing Commission and the Housing and Community Development Act Committee, though it appeared a majority favored that.
Alderman Coleen Burrus said she thought the expertise of some of the members of the community development group would "add a lot of value" to what the Housing Commission is doing.
And Holmes called the consolidation idea "interesting." But Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he "was not comfortable with the merger." He said he struggles with what the Housing Commission does and noted that the community development group’s scope is broader than just housing.
The aldermen seemed reluctant to embrace the manager’s plan to fold the Taxicab Advisory Board into the Parking/Transportation Committee.
Wynne, who chairs the transportation committee said she "doesn’t see how this fits together," and suggested the city might not need the taxi panel. "For a long time it was kind of non-functional," she said.
But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she’s "very unimpressed with the cab situation in Evanston right now."
And Bobkiewicz suggested putting the issue aside — that he’d come back with a separate discussion about taxis after the review of other boards was completed.
At that point the committee ran out of time and postponed its consideration of other consolidation ideas until its April 5 meeting.
Whatever the aldermen decide in the Rules Committee will have to be adopted at a full City Council meeting to take effect.
Bobkiewicz is also proposing consolidating:
- The Playground and Recreation Board, the Ladd Arboretum Committee and the Lighthouse Landing Committee.
- The Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee and the Sign Review and Appeals Board.
And he is also proposing:
- Reviewing and restructuring the Human Relations Commission.
- Eliminating the Board of Examiners of Stationary Engineers.
- Replacing the Energy Commission with a more broadly defined Utility Commission.
The proposed changes are in part an outgrowth of a three-year study completed last year conducted largely by the Evanston League of Women Voters. It reviewed operation of the city’s mostly citizen-volunteer-staffed panels and proposed a somewhat different and more limited set of modifications.