Recap: City Council

Northwestern's athletic complex. (Google Maps)

Here's recap our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council meeting. Aldermen are scheduled to take a final vote on whether to allow a limited number of professional sports and entertainment events at Northwestern University's Welsh Ryan Arena and to continue their discussion of next year's city budget.

With the Planning and Development Committee meeting cancelled tonight, the Council meeting is scheduled to begin unusually early, at 6:45 p.m. (But the A&PW meeting ran long, and Council now is scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m.)

A packet with information on tonight's agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 7:19 p.m.

Mayor Steve Hagerty recognizes veterans in the audience on Veterans Day.

He also recognizes work of Carlo Cavallaro, external affiars manager for ComEd, says he's helped improve service to the city. Cavallaro is being promoted to another job. He's given a plaque that contains a circa-1901 power disconnect from the city's water plant.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says he's been fabulous ... very responsive.

Mayor says for Nov. 18 meeting ... will start at 6 p.m. with public diversity training session for alderman for an hour. Then will have further budget discussion, and then public comment will follow.

Mayor says he'll have a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at Temperance Brewing.

Public Comment

Thirty people signed up ... Mayor says they'll get 1:30 each.

Public comment starts at 7:34 p.m.

About 22 speakers oppose NU special events ordinance change. Two speakers favor it.

Public comment ends at 8:34 p.m.

Was supposed to last 45 minutes.

Consent agenda

Approved after removal of the following items ...

A2 -- Amazon credit card activity ... at request of Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward.

Approved 8-0-1 Suffredin abstains.

A12 -- Referendum on nonpartisan elections .... was held in committee

A13 -- Divvy Bicycle program .... at request of Fleming

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, says wants to see more bike lanes before get more bikes.

Approved 8-1 Fleming votes no

A14 -- Office lease with Rep. Gabel ... at request of Fiske.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says wants to make sure not a campaign office.

Approved 9-0.

A15, A16 and A17.. Howard Ridge TIF district expansion items ... at request of Suffredin

All approved 7-2 with Suffredin and Fleming voting no.

Rainey says Cook County, District 65 and District 202 all recommended the extension of the TIF.

A22 -- Lease of 633 Howard to "Estacion" restaurant ... Based on action in committee, approved on consent agenda, but only for introduction not approval as had been requested. Will need final approval vote next week.

A23 -- Code of Ethics amendments ... at request of Fleming

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says new ordinance is so much clearer than what currently have. Notes that there's no provision that a simple majority of the Board of Ethics is needed to determine an ethics violation.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says simple majority of the board (not a majority of the members present at a meeting) should be sufficient. (So, with a five member board, three votes would be required.)

Wynne moves that as an amendment. Fleming seconds. Approved 9-0 on voice vote.

Wilson proposes several additional amendments:

  • Make reference to relevant state laws.
  • Change decision on appeals to be made by Rules Committee rather than City Council.
  • Add provision letting Special Counsel refer possible violations to the Cook County State's Attorney.
  • Provide 7 day notice of complaint to respondent.
  • Limit food and refreshment cap to $75.

Fiske says that with just five members on the ethics board and not all always present, should having all members review the written record before taking a vote.

Wynne proposes a couple of additional technical amendments and Revelle offers one.

Vote (9-0) is to table the ordinance to the Nov. 25 meeting to incorporate the changes proposed tonight.

A26 - Chiaravalle Montessori School bonds ... off at request of Suffredin

(No liability for city if default by the school.)

Approved 7-2. Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

P1 -- NU special events zoning ... off at request of Revelle

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, proposes three amendments

Wants notice to neighbors by NU at time request for special event is submitted to city. Approved 9-0.

Wants to limit setup and breakdown time from events, barring them between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. weeknights and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekend. (Makes it same hours as in the noise ordinance.) Approved 9-0.

Wants to add "no precedent" provision. Approved 9-0.

Revelle says she's opposed to the ordinance -- says NU hasn't shown that the change is compatible with adjacent uses.

Says don't have enough evidence to show that the zoning code standards have been met.

Wilson says there's "a lot of interesting history." But says what's in front of the council is a fairly finite request. Says the existing permitted uses include musical performances -- limited to 10,000 people. So there's nothing that precludes profit-making concerts.

The proposal, he says, would reduce the number from 10K to 7K and if outside to 3K.

Says for sports events, have eliminated bar on professional events, but reducing cap on attendance from 10K to 7K and if outside to 3K.

Are adding notice in advance and approval of each event by the council, not required currently.

Says net number of event days is being reducd from 35 to 13 days.

Also adding prohibition on tailgating. And limitations on the hours.

Says ultimately its a less-intensive use scenario than what have now.

Fiske suggests limiting exit onto Lincoln Street from parking garage. And says Ravinia has a community committee -- should have something like that. Says ould be patterned after NU/City Committee that handles main campus issues.

Fleming suggests resident-only on-street parking plan. Revelle says she plans to make a referral for that.

Wynne agrees with Revelle. Says NU hasn't met its burden of prove to get the text amendment.

Revelle criticizes Plan Commission assessment of the text amendment standards.

Says NU is only using about three days of special events -- and they have much smaller attendance that what would be allowed.

Back to Fiske who wants Lincoln Street to NOT be used as arterial street between Ryan Field and Sheridan Road.

Says cars should go north to Central or south to Foster.

Decision is to hold off on action on that issue.

Ordinance passes 5-4. Revelle, Fleming, Wynne and Suffredin vote no.

Revelle makes referrals to create committee to discuss issues and to create residential parking district for special events -- basketball games and the newly approved special events.

ED1 -- Home business registration fee .. off at request of Suffredin

Suffredin urges no vote.

Fleming suggests making effective date March 1 rather than Jan. 31.

Proposes that amendment. Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, seconds.

Related story.

Mayor asks what's the problem we're trying to solve.

Johanna Leonard, community development director, says want to be able to reach out to the businesses.

Rue Simmons says doesn't support regulating or fining businesses for not registering. Says should be an option for businesses to opt in for the benefit of their business growth. Says wants to be careful that don't use as a tool to make doing home-based businesses more difficult. Says many can't afford the overhead of even a co-working space.

Says should be an optional registration.

Leonard says can be a problem with landscaping businesses. Too much equipment.

Rue Simmons says perhaps should just regulate those kinds of businesses.

Wilson says is leaning toward direction mayor is going -- not sure what problem we're solving. Charging people to capture data isn't something that he thinks we should be doing.

Fleming says agrees with Rue Simmons. But has some auto repair businesses -- want them licensed. Not concerned about woman who's doing medical transcriptions in her house.

Braithwaite moves to refer the proposal back to the Economic Development Committee

HS1 - Citizen Police Review Commission ... of at request of Fleming

Fleming says she objects to the confidentiality requirement for members of the commission. Says there are other rules that govern executive session rules. Says the additional provision goes against the idea of having an open and transparent police review process.

She moves that change. Rue Simmons seconds.

Amendment approved 8-1. Fiske votes no.

Ordinance approved 9-0.

SP1 - Proposed budget discussion

Budget presentation

Rainey says wants to eliminate fees for Sunday parking. OK with the increase in hourly rate to $2 from $1.50.

Storlie says cost of eliminating Sunday parking would be between $265K and $315K.

Says repealing the rate increase would cost $1.5M to $1.9M.

Rainey says should look at video gaming. Hitesh Desai, CFO, says Niles gets $300K from having about 20 locations.

Fiske says she agrees on going back to free parking on Sunday, not happy with $2 hourly parking rate but OK with it.

Revelle asks about exempting Central Strreet business district from the $2 parking rate. Says there's no garage option -- no demand-based pricing option there. And neighborhood is vulnerable because of free parking nearby in Wilmette.

Fiske says she doesn't see problems with businesses on Central STreet. Says need to be fair to everyone in the city. Says downtown businesses are really struggling.

Wlson says agrees with Fiske -- should keep the rates consistent.

Consensus of council is to eliminate the Sunday parking fee.

Mayor says need to figure out how to replace the revenue.

Rue Simmons says she's opposed to the planned tax on storage units -- says lots of vulnerable people are using storage units.

Braithwaite asks how much will cost to collect the storage unit tax

Storlie says doesn't anticipate having to add any staff to collect this tax, which is expected to generate about $50K a year.

Rainey says her rate for a storage unit went from about $60 to about $100. Says $5 a month tax would be oppressive.

Concensus is to remove the proposed tax.

Storlie says could amend amusement tax ordinance to include non-profit events, like Northlight Theatre and Northwestern University.

Fleming says she would support amusement tax on Northlight.

Fleming proposes cancelling the auto allowance for staff ... amounts to about $50K. Says that could replace the storage site tax.

Rainey asks whether its viable to tax NFP theater companies for their ticket sale.s

City attorney says will look into that.

Rainey suggests taxing just theater companies who exceed some threshold in revenue.

Attorney Michelle Masoncup suggests basing it on the number of seats -- rather than revenue.

Rainey agrees wtih Fleming about cancelling he auto allowance for employees.

Storlie says asking for mileage reports from staff would probably cost $50K a year. Says salaries are pensionable -- auto allowances aren't pensionable wages.

Vacant property tax proposal

Community Development Director Johanna Leonard discusses proposal.

Related story

Braithwaite says it talking foreclosed properties -- really hard to get complaince. So some penalty like this woul make sense. But if its something somebody's trying to sell, then that wouldn't be fair.

Health Director Ike Ogbo says higher fees would get owners' attention to fix the problems.

Wilson says shouldn't hammer people who are complying with the registration -- but if have lots of violations, then should hammer them with more severe penalties.

Mayor asks about what's the collection rate on these fines.

Ike Ogbo, heatlh director says about 60 to 70 percent have paid.

Mayor asks city manager to do more research on the issue.

Rue Simmons wants to designate sales tax revenue from recreational marijuana use to reparations fund.

Says don't have answers yet on how to spend the money.

Briathwaite says likes the idea -- but wants to caps or targets.

Rainey says limit it to $10 million over 10 years. Says are working on putting together a program to present to the community.

Call of the wards

Revelle ... wants referral to Rules Committee ... regarding format for public comment at standing committee meetings

Fleming ... referral to APW ... wants more info on food spending at meetings.

Rue Simmons ... ward meeting wednesday

Suffredin ... doesn't want video played at start of meeting. Doesn't like "mayor hagerty's holiday food drive."

Council votes to go into executive session.

Public meeting ends at 11:08 p.m.


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