A city staff report to be presented at Monday’s Rules Committee meeting suggests Asians and Hispanics are dramatically underrepresented on Evanston boards and committees — while blacks and whites are somewhat overrepresented.

However, city officials say the data reporting the racial and ethnic identity of people who applied for appointment to the panels since July 2017 is incomplete — with nearly a third of applicants and more than 40% of those appointed not indicating their racial or ethnic identity on their applications.

The data also does not include persons who applied for or were appointed to short-term committees and task forces. Six of the 35 boards and committees listed on the city website are designated as short-term.

On other demographic indicators, for those who provided the relevant data:

  • Women represented 58% of those who applied for appointment, but only 51% of those actually appointed.
  • Persons between 25 and 54 years of age are somewhat more likely to apply for appointment and to be selected than suggested by their share of the city’s population. Persons 65 and over were somewhat less likely to apply, but more likely to be chosen.
  • Homeowners are dramatically over-represented both among those who apply and those appointed. Fifty-eight percent of Evanston dwelling units are owner-occupied, but 78% of the applicants and 91% of the people appointed to boards are homeowners.
  • While 67 percent of Evanston residents 25 years and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, 97% of those who applied to be on boards and committees and 96 percent of those who chosen have that level of educational attainment.

The city’s nine wards, which have relatively equal populations, vary rather substantially in the number of residents who apply to be on boards — with the 1st Ward notably low on participation — likely due in part to its high percentage of college students, who traditionally have a low level of interest in most city government issues.

In most wards the share of people who apply for appointment and actually are named to boards ranges between 42 to 51 percent — but the appointment rate is dramatically lower for the 8th and 9th wards where only 25% and 15%, respectively, of those who volunteered were actually chosen.

In the staff memo Deputy City Manager Kimberly Richardson says staff is implementing a new applications system for boards that will require applicants to provide demographic data and that future annual reports for board will include demographic information.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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