Members of the Evanston City Council’s Rules Committee voted 9-1 Monday night to require that alders have two co-sponsors to guarantee a proposal will be assigned to a council committee for consideration.
The only vote against the proposal advanced by Mayor Daniel Biss came from the Council’s most prolific submitter of referrals — Ald. Devon Reid (8th).
Reid said the proposal “was setting ourselves up for conflict” and said only the representatives of “the wealthiest, most exclusionary wards” are on the Referrals Committee.
The committee, when initially created after the April 2021 election, was composed of Mayor Daniel Biss, Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) and Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th).
After Fleming resigned from the Council early this year, Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) was named to replace her.
Reid also alluded to the era of the city’s first Black alderman, Edwin Jourdain, in the 1930s, and suggested that if the proposed co-sponsorship rule had been in effect then, he would have never been able to get any proposals in front of the Council.
Two amendments Reid proposed to the plans advanced by Biss failed for lack of a second.
However, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) both expressed some reservations about the plan, before ultimately voting for it.
Kelly suggested perhaps only one co-sponsor should be needed.
Burns suggested enlarging the Referrals Committee to have four members, “including someone who actually makes referrals and is generating proposals for policy changes on a regular basis.”
Biss noted that as long as the Referrals Committee agreed that a measure was worth consideration a council member would not need co-sponsors to get it addressed.
He said that in reviewing how other communities handle the referrals issue he had found that some require co-sponsorship by a majority of the village board of city council to have a measure advance.
In Evanston, that would mean requiring four co-sponsors. But he said he concluded that requiring two co-sponsors seemed to be sufficient to demonstrate some significant support for taking up an issue.
The change in the council’s rules will still require approval at a full City Council meeting to take effect.