Recap: City Council

Leasing the Harley Clarke mansion to a non-profit group is on tonight's Council agenda.

Here's a recap of our live coverage of tonight's Evanston City Council meeting at which aldermen are scheduled to vote on leasing the Harley Clarke mansion and approving changes to the city's coach house regulations.

The meeting is likely to begin about 7:55 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 8:02 p.m.

Mayor announces National Fiar Housing Month and National Library Week.

Paul D'Agostino, environmental services coordinator for the city, announces earth day events on April 21. More online.

City Clerk Devon Reid says there now are 50K registered voters and 40 percent turnout for last month's election. Says clerk's office is working to encourage registration and voting. Says early voting turnout was highest in the county at the Evanston Civic Center.

Only 6 percent of primary election voters in Evanston cast Republican ballots.

Public Comment

23 speakers signed up ... so comments limited to 2 minutes each.

Various issues raised in comments.

Speakers regarding Harley Clarke lease split 13 in favor of the lease and 7 opposed.

SP1 - Harley Clarke mansion lease

Ericka Storlie, assistant city manager, notes addition of $5 million/ 10 year fundraising goal

Tom Hodgman of Evanston Lake House & Gardens says have capable team to execute the plan.

Says have $18K in new checks and other signs of fundraising progress.

Sara Schastok, former head of Evanston Community Foundation, says giving in Evanston isn't a zero sum game -- that ELHG won't detract from othr fundraising efforts.

Mark Igleski, architect, says its a very feasible project, a very appropriate reuse of the building.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, says city adopted a lakefront plan in 2008, after 18 months of planning -- it called for expansion of environmental program at the lighthouse area. Says the ELHG proposal matches will with the lakefront plan.

Says she was initially skeptical of the ELHG concept, but she chaired a committee that ultimately enthusiastically endorsed the concept.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he's deeply committed to unrestricted public access to this property.

Wilson says the least has a couple of very serious problems. The risk of loss provisions, he says, are not acceptable. Says the city would have to pay for repair of casualty loss. Says when the city's getting only $1 a year -- that's not acceptable. Says taxpayers wouldn't be pleased if there was a catastrophic fire and it wold cost $10 million to repair and have to be done in six months.

He says he was initially excited about the proposal. The proposal, he says, predicted that $4.8 million would be raised int he first two years and $6 million in the first three years.

The proposed lease calls for far less fundraising over a much longer period of time.

Says this is not the thing the Council approved in November.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says the fundraising targets can't be met successfully. And failure to disclose the donor list is unacceptable. Says she's heard from many large donors who aren't willing to contribute because of the fundraising uncertainty.

Says if fundraising isn't sufficient, the logical answer would be to do more commercial event hosting -- a risk she's not willing to take.

Says she'll be voting no tonight.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, says wanted the group to take on insurance for the building. Says her own home remodeling project has gone way over budget -- fears that may happen with the mansion.

Concerned about environmental issue escape clause in the lease proposal.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, says this is a sign of more tough decisions the council will have to make on the budget. Thanks Revelle for her advocacy, Wilson for his leadership.

Says it's very difficult to support this given the budget priorities the city faces.

Says he sees new faces getting engaged in this project -- says if you're concerned about equity and preservation and teaching, think that can still take place outside of the physical structure of the building.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says shares concerns of Wilson. Ten years is too long to raise $5 million, she says. Would need it to be shortened to support the proposal.

Says this issues about insurance coverage and potential risk to the city, liability problems -- those all have to be addressed .-- council has to protect the city from such risks.

Says want to see the project succeed, but can't support the lease as currently proposed.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, says the lease leaves the city and taxpayers exposed, financially responsible. Says she's concerned about donor fatigue. Says she has real concerns about Family Focus -- a building that has programming for our vulnerable families. Say she's disappointed that when had community invitation to come out and support Family Focus, had only five people show up.

Says sometimes appears to be using equity and inclusion to push our project, and not working on it for families that need it most.

Revelle says have heard two points very important -- the fundraising schedule and a major overhaul of the casualty and insurance provisions. Would hope that if can hold for two weeks.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says can't hold over a special order of business.

Wynne says appropriate motion would be to table to a date certain.

City Attorney says motion to table is not debatable

Wynne moves to table lease until April 23 meeting Revelle seconds.

Motion to table fails 4-5. Wynne, Wilson, Suffredin and Revelle vote in favor of tabling.

Vote on lease fails 2-7. Suffredin and Revelle vote in favor of the lease.

Consent agenda

Off consent ...

3.10 - Ambulance purchase

A 5 - Taxicab program changes

P 2 - Frio Gelato

P 3 -Coach House

P 4 - Front porches ... held in committee

O 1 - Grant to Mudlark Theater for equity in the arts hiring program

Consent agenda approved

3.10 - Ambulance purchase

Price change ... was $291,730 in agenda .. actually $300,055.

Approved.

A 5 - Taxicab program

Approved 7-2. Rue Simmons and Suffredin vote no

P 2 - Frio Gelato special use

Approved.

P 3 -Coach House definition amendment

Wilson moves to return the issue to committee. Rainey seconds.

It's done

O 1 - Grant to Mudlark Theater for equity in the arts hiring program

Alderman Fleming says doesn't think it's city's role to give money for diversity hiring. Equity shouldn't be just throwing money at something.

Alderman Rue Simmons suggests could have given money to a minority theater company.

Alderman Wilson says city established the grant program, Mudlark made the application, city should follow through with the grant. If want to change the rules for the future, could do that.

Alderman Braithwaite says it was a very competitive process. Says Mudlark has created an amazing show with a group of kids. Really excited to see what they'll do with a dedicated person devoted to it.

Approved 7-2.. Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

Call of the Wards.

Braithwaite ... 2nd ward meeting Thursday at 1500 McDaniel

Rue Simmons ... 5th Ward meetin 4/17 at Civic Center Room G300.

Suffredin ... check out the new LED lights on Thayer

Revelle ... meetin 4/17 at Chandler ... on Sheridan Road improvmeent project

Rainey ... grand opening of Jamaica Good to Go ... on Friday April 13 .... at 711 Howard... 5 p.m. on

Fleming ... 9th Ward meeting about lights coming up later this month.

Council votes to go into executive session. Public meeting ends at 10:21 p.m.

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