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Aldermen sound off on noise

Evanston aldermen asked staff to explore a possible ban on oversize car speaker systems, increased fines and towing of cars involved in noise violations at a Human Services Committee meeting Monday night.

Evanston aldermen asked staff to explore a possible ban on oversize car speaker systems, increased fines and towing of cars involved in noise violations at a Human Services Committee meeting Monday night.

But the aldermen also agreed to seek out input from young people — seen as the primary source of noise complaints — before acting on the proposals.

Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said she asked the committee to take up the question because she's received many calls from constituents about booming music from car radios.

She said she's had problems with a frequent young visitor to a neighbor's house disturbing her young child's sleep with the sound from his car radio– and resisting all efforts to get him to turn it down.

Kristin Doll of 140 Custer St. said cars with loud speaker systems driving down Custer frequently shake the windows in her apartment.

"I work at home, so there's nowhere I can go to escape the noise of these cars.," she said, "I've literally resorted to wearing earplugs in my own home to escape this noise."

"The problem is not equal throughout town," Ms. Doll said, "Certain areas have more of it. Where it's severe, it's a very grave problem."

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he gets only about one complaint a year about noise.

"I know a number of adults in the community are concerned," Ald. Jean-Baptiste said, but he urged reaching out to young people to get their views before taking any action.

Ald. Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said, "I think noise pollution is a serious problem in our world. Something like this can be a real detractor to a neighborhood."

"If you want to get youth input on this, fine," he said, "But if people are acting badly I'm not anxious to hear them. Don't tell me you can't turn the speaker down. We're all expected to have consideration for our neighbors."

Ald. Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said he was concerned about how a new ordinance would be enforced.

The city already has a noise ordinance, but it sets minimum fines of just $25.

Interim Police Chief Dennis Nilsson said police do write tickets for noise complaints, but it can be difficult. A driver who sees a marked squad car is likely to turn the radio down, Chief Nilsson said, and when cars are bunched up at an intersection waiting for a light, it's often difficult to tell which one is the source of the noise.

"Last summer we did an enforcement action in the 5th Ward," he said, "and we wrote four or five noise tickets over the course of a couple weeks in the area."

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested adding a provision to the ordinance that would target the type of oversize car speakers that seem designed for excessive noise.

"Lets look at it terms of the real offenders," she said, "they're not just using a plain radio."

Judith Treadway of 226 Callan Ave., the head of the NAACP's education committee, said, "I too am concerned about boom box speakers in cars. They shake you, break you, wake you in the middle of the night so you want to holler."

But Ms. Treadway urged using education as the initial step — "if there's going to be any changes in the ordinance, advise our citizens about it."

She said she wasn't sure whether restricting people from purchasing oversize speaker systems would work. "We've banned guns in Evanston, but they're still here," she said.

Ald. Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, said a young man in her ward had a loud party and the judge gave him just a $25 fine.

"That's not enough to be a deterrent," she said, "It's more like a permit fee for having the party."

Ald. Bernstein said he was concerned that the proposed ordinance revisions were vague, and said he wanted to try to make sure that the rules didn't lead to profiling of minority youths.

Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, the committee chair, said she supports increasing fines, but also wants to hear from young people about the issue.

"I'm not likely to be persuaded to vote no," she said, "But I'd like to hear what they have to say and start engaging them in city government.

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