Members of Evanston’s Rules Committee Monday backed a plan to require support from three alders to start any proposal on the road to City Council action.

Although no formal vote was taken Monday night, it appeared the idea has sufficient support among council members to be adopted at next week’s City Council meeting.

It would be enacted in the form of an amendment to a proposal from Mayor Daniel Biss that’s already scheduled for a vote at that session.

Under the Biss proposal, bright ideas from a single council member could have been advanced by the Referrals Committee for consideration by other standing committees, but the referrals panel could also have declined to advance a proposal unless the alder proposing it had lined up two cosponsors.

The issue was back on the committee’s agenda Monday after Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) proposed expanding the Referrals Committee from three to five members.

As drafted by city staff, the Burns proposal would also have denied the Referrals Committee any discretion over whether to advance a proposal.

But during the meeting Burns indicated that in conversations with other Rules Committee members before the meeting he had learned that his proposal to expand the size of the committee didn’t have the votes to pass.

So instead he proposed requiring cosponsors for all ideas and/or rotating the membership of the Referrals Committee every three to six months.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) spoke in favor of expanding the committee and requiring that its membership be rotated each year.

Daniel Biss.

But Biss noted that the City Council’s rules already give the Rules Committee full jurisdiction to appoint members to all committees and said he didn’t think Reid’s motion “is the way to do what we are trying to accomplish.”

Devon Reid.

Reid also claimed that the Referrals Committee “could be used to block really important things” and suggested that the Biss proposal could lead to abuses “like Mitch McConnell being able to block the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.”

In what appeared to be a veiled attack on the current members of the Referrals Committee — Biss, Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) and Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) — Reid said the city “shouldn’t mimic the worst aspects of our democracy” at the national level and alluded to an era in the 1930s when the council voted to unseat the city’s first black alderman.

It’s no coincidence that the two alders who have made the most referrals have raised the most objections to giving the Referrals Committee any discretion over the advancement of their ideas.

Until now the Referrals Committee has had no option to refuse to advance proposals from a single alder. Requiring cosponsors for all measures would continue to leave the committee without discretion.

But it presumably would require alders to spend more time horse trading with each other to pick up initial support for their proposals.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. If Reid demonstrated any discretion or even a modicum of judgement in his approach this wouldn’t be happening. The man has literally spammed the city council with trash proposals (legalizing rock throwing?) since he was elected, and now he’s upset that the mayor is building guardrails to allow the basic work of the city to continue?

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