Evanston aldermen tonight voted to shrink the size of their Planning and Development Committee.

Evanston aldermen tonight voted to shrink the size of their Planning and Development Committee.

In recent years all nine aldermen have been on the committee, and most of the five newly-elected aldermen who pushed for the change at tonight’s Rules Committee meeting ended up being excluded from the planning panel when returning aldermen opted to exercise their seniority privileges to remain on it.

But the newcomers claimed that the reduction in committee size was needed, as Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, put it, “to rebuild trust” among citizens about the committee process.

Fiske argued that with all aldermen on the committee, debate in the full City Council on development issues became just a formality.

She said that as a citizen she felt “much more engaged and connected” when meeting with smaller aldermanic committees.

In addition to Fiske, aldermen Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward; Jane Grover, 7th Ward; Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, voted to cut the committee’s size.

The aldermen then selected returning aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward; Delores Holmes, 5th Ward; Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, to sit on the committee, along with newcomer Wilson.

One potential result of the change is that developers may be unable to reach agreements with aldermen in the committee that will hold up when the proposal reaches the full City Council. The new aldermen excluded from the committee generally campaigned as critics of the city’s development efforts, while a majority of the returning council members have tended to favor development projects.

But some aldermen suggested that, with the downturn in the economy, there may be relatively little work for the Planning and Development Committee to do over the next few years anyway.

By contrast, the aldermen voted to increase the size of the Economic Development Committee, after all the new aldermen expressed an interest in being on that panel. Returning aldermen Jean-Baptiste and Wynne pushed for the expansion from five to seven members.

The Economic Development Committee now will include all the aldermen except Holmes and Wilson.

Other committee appointments include:

  • Administration and Public Works Committee: Burrus, Fiske, Holmes, Jean-Baptiste and Rainey.
  • Human Services Committee: Fiske, Grover, Holmes, Jean-Baptiste and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward.
  • Parking Committee: Burrus, Fiske and Wynne.
  • Housing and Community Development Act Committee: Holmes, Jean-Baptiste, Rainey and Wilson.
  • City-School Liaison Committee: Jean-Baptiste and Tendam.
  • Emergency Telephone System Board: Burrus and Grover.
  • Solid Waste Authority of Northern Cook County: Wynne.
  • City-Chamber Committee: Wilson and Wynne.
  • Lighthouse Landing Advisory Committee: Grover.

The aldermen also voted to expand the Rules Committee to include, in addition to all nine aldermen, newly elected Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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