Recap: City Council

Here's a recap of our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. A packet with information on tonight's agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 7:07 p.m.

All aldermen present except Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward. (Wynne arrived a bit later.)

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz praises Parks and Recreation Director Joe McRae, who's leaving the city for a similar job in Ohio. Related story. McRae gets standing ovation from aldermen. McRae says he's loved every day of working for the city. "Thanks for the opportunity," he says.

Streets Alive returns to Main Street on Sunday, Sept. 16. Will be combined with the Green Living Festival and a kickoff for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Public comment

Bennett Johnson on homicide today. Says "guilt is on all of our hands. Person who fired the shot was just an actor, we are the producers." Praises efforts across city, but says not enough. Calls for more coordination.

Rev. Patricia Efiom of Ebenezer Baptist Church voices concern about departure of two African-American department heads. Says has dealt with diversity for years and knows Evanston's a wonderful place to live but hopes city will pay attention to diversity in staffing patterns. 

Madelyne Ducre says wants to send condolences to the family of the homicide victim.

Special orders of business

SP 1 – City reorganization plans

Emergency Management

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber says reorganizing emergency management to "break down silos" that may have existed in the past. Will be working more closely with Cook County Emergency Management and with NU police.

Police Chief Richard Eddington says there's more need to respond to armed offenders in active shooter situations then had been in the past. Have developed "rescue task force" model to coordinate fire and police services in that context.

Klaiber says command staffs in both departments have been meeting for the past several months to develop new plans.

Eddington says Boston police put out social media messages on average every six minutes during the Boston Marathon bombing situation — and would need to be able to meet that kind of response rate if something similar happened here.

Public Works / Utilities reorganization

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons recaps the process leading up to the consolidation of the two departments. Related story.

Says learned that after 2009-11 budget reductions cutbacks in spending on training had hurt sense competence for staff.

Related presentation.

Will move fleet services and building maintenance to the administrative services department.

Moving permit functions now in public works to community development department.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says process was very impressive. Thought presentation was excellent. Praises depth of staff involvement. People want to be involved — that was impressive.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says new structure sounds a lot more intuitive.

Lyons says the reorganization wasn't meant to be a budget-cutting exercise. But may have to make cuts if state substantially reduces aid to municipalities.

Community Development Director Mark Muenzer … on "livability" initiatives.

Sustainability Coordinator Catherine Hurley … says one development is to create an internal process for reviewing capital improvement projects and policy issues for livability impacts.

Muenzer says will create a consolidated permit center within community development … and a mobility services function.

Health and Human Services Director Evonda Thomas-Smith says looking for more collaboration on housing and related issues.

FY 2016 Budget Update

Presentation here.

Still not state budget. Makes city budget planning uncertain. Staff preparing budget options based on assumptions of either $500K or $1.5M in cuts.

In some respects, local revenue prospects look good.

Sales tax revenues projected to increase about 5 percent — or roughly $800K (in part because of opening of two new grocery stores)

Liquor tax also expected to grow, again largely because of the new grocery stores, which have larger liquor sections than the stores they replaced. Expect $550K more.

But telecommunications tax revenue expected to decline … because of drop in land-line usage.

Building permit revenue expeted to be up next year … to $7.5M from what's expected to be a total of $5.5M this year.

Lyons says economic development is critical — the new grocery stores and new auto dealership have had a big impact on increasing city revenue without increasing tax rates on residents — these businesses are bringing in new cusomers from out of town.

Budget meeting calendar approved

Reorganization and budget update reports received and filed.

SP 4 – Parks and Rec facility "report card" study

… and financing plan for capital improvements.

Cost of two studies expected to be $40K.

Approved unanimously.

SP 5 – Emerson/Ridge/Green Bay project update

Presentation here.

Discussion of what to do with the face of the viaduct — looking at several options for banners to cover the metal viaduct — or repainting it.

Repainting likely to cost $115K (assuming do sides, underside and bridge support columns). The banners would be $20K to $30K.

City manager says though the banner manufacturers claim a 10 year life span, he suspects they're more likely to only last half that long.

Consent agenda

Almost everything taken off consent agenda except VII — Walsh Construction water plant clearwells contract and committee appointments. Those approved unanimously.

VIII – Dempster/Dodge TIF budget increase.

Approved 8-1. Wilson votes no.

IX – Chicago/Main TIF budget increase.

Approved 8-1. Wilson votes no. (Objects to city forcing inclusion of office space in the Chicago/Main project and paying the cost of it.)

X – Increase in ambulance transport fees.

Approved 9-0. (With more discussion expected of details before final adoption at next City Council meeting.

XI – Parking violation penalty increases

Aldermen Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, object to proposed increase from $10 to $25 for expired meters.

Introduced as amended to remove that increase. Introduction approved 9-0.

Call of the wards

Grover … 7th Ward meeting on Sept. 17.

Miller… 9th Ward meeting Thursday 7p at Levy Center

Fiske … 1st Ward meeting tomorrow night at Library

Braithwaite .. .2nd Ward mtg Sept. 10 at D65 admin building.

Meeting adjourned at 9:44 p.m.

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