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Recap: City Council

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Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting at which the Council will have public hearings on a bond issue for Chiaravalle Montessori Schools, on an expansion of the Howard Ridge TIF district and on the proposed 2019 property tax levy.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 8:57 p.m.

Public Hearing — TEFRA Hearing on Chiaravalle Montessori School Bonds

Ray Friedman opposes bond issuance.

Mike Vasilko says doesn’t undersand why loaning money to a private school.

Hitesh Desai, the city’s CFO, says the city has does similar financing for Chiaravalle in 2010 and 2014 and has done similar bond issue for Roycemore School.

Says the city has no liability to pay for the bonds should Chiaravalle default on the payments.

Says it doesn’t amount to a debt for the city.

In response to a question from Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, says city could charge a conduit fee for the bonds, but has not done so in the past.

Says the spread between taxable and tax exempt bonds has declined recently, making the potential fee smaller than it might have been in the past.

Interim City Manager Erika Storlie says the fee idea hasn’t been raised before today. Says might, based on examples in other states, might be around $10,000.

Representative for Chiaravalle, Janet Gales Coffman, says primar purpose of the bond issue to refinance existing debt on the building.

Says the bonds are privately held by 5th/3rd Bank. Says refinancing only be availalbe for a limited period of time. Would have to close in November.

School hopes to secure refinancing at current low rates.

Mayor asks what’s the difference in rates. Coffman says doesn’t have an answer to that, but taxable rates are typically higher and are shorter loan terms.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, asks what other opportunities there might be to use this — a 5th Ward school, or the Family Focus property.

Coffman says city could issue on its own behalf or to any non-profit that could may the repayments.

Chiaravalle head of school says its over 50 years old and has a $6 million annual budget.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says needs a memo from staff in plain language that explains the process, and Council needs to have a discussion about how the concept might be used for other not-for-profits in the city.

Chiaravalle treasurer says their deadline is Nov. 14.

Storlie says could come back with revised proposal at Nov. 11 Council meeting.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says shouldn’t disadvantage Chiaravalle. Says they’re an economic engine to the Main-Dempster Mile. Says the school has done a magnificent job of maintaining what had previously been a public school.

Mayor stresses that the city is not loaning the money. It’s a bank that is providing the money.

Storlie says staff will prepare a report on the conduit financing mechanism.

End of the Chiaravalle hearing at 9:37 p.m.

Howard-Ridge TIF expansion hearing

Expands it from Ridge to Ashland along Howard Street. Existing district is east of Ridge to the city limits.

Bob Rychlicki from Kane McKenna describes public notice process for the change.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says Cook County and the two school districts and the city were represented at the joint review board meeting.

Says school district reps praised the city’s TIF programs — said the TIF increments have helped the schools avoid laying off teachers.

Says the expanded area will included the proposed 60-unit affordable housing development at the existing Council for Jewish Elderly site.

Public comment

Mike Vasilko calls TIFs “a slush fund.”

David Block, director of development for Evergreen Real Estate Group, says Evergreen is still actively pursuing the CJE project on Howard Street. Hope to go to DAPR next week or the following week. Says will be making a $25 million investment on Howard Street.

TIF hearing ends at 9:57 p.m.

Truth in Taxation Hearing for 2019 Tax Levy

Yvi Russell complains that proposal to spend $875K on McCollough Park in her neighborhood is excessive.

Ray Friedman says he doesn’t understand the tax levy and how it will affect his taxes.

Mike Vasilko says there’s no need for any kind of tax levy.

Hitesh Desai, city CFO, says proposed city levy (including library) increase is 10.9%. Says because of current steep increase in commercial property assessments it’s likely that most residential tax bills will actually go down or stay level. But won’t be known for sure until next June or July.

Truth in taxation hearing adjourned at 10:14 pm.

Question raised about whether to hold next City Council meeting on Nov. 11 … it’s Veterans Day …. decision is to keep the meeting that day.

Public Comment

Mayor says 37 people have signed up … but it appears a lot of people have left.

So going to allocate 2 minutes.

Lotsa folk say they don’t like the NU events proposal.

One speaker opposes self-storage tax.

Misty Witenberg hijacks public comment … instead of speaking for the two minute limit observed by other speakers, she runs on for roughly nine minutes, despite efforts by the mayor to have her wrap up her remarks.

Public Comment ends about 11:18 p.m

Council takes five minute recess … until 11:25 p.m.

Meeting resumes at 11:28 p.m.

Special orders of business

1040 Hinman Avenue solar panels.

Revelle says should accept appeal. Says has concerns about consistency in preservation commission standards for preservation. Also how to harmonize the preservation ordinance with climate action and resilence plan goals.

Wynne says she agrees with Revelle. Needs to rethink solar panels given climate goals.

Fiske says opposes accepting the appeal.

Approved to accept the appeal 7-2. Suffredin and Fiske vote no.

Appeal will be heard at the second meeting of November — on Monday, Nov. 25

FY 2020-21 proposed budget discussion

At suggestion of mayor, this is postponed until Nov. 11.

Consent agenda

Off consent …

  • GovHR USA contract was rejected in committee
  • Chiaravalle bonds … at request of Suffredin
  • Code of Ethics … at request of Revelle.
  • Three Parking Zones items … at request of Suffredin
  • NU arena events … at request of Revelle.
  • Cannabis zoning … at request of Fiske
  • Citizen Police REview commission … at request of Fleming
  • Rules on tabling an item … at request of Revelle.

.Rest of consent agenda aproved.

Chiavalle Bonds

Suffredin suggests should have a fee.

Wynne says a fee for future deals would be OK … but thinks it’s not appropriate to add this late for this one.

Wilson agrees with Wynne. Says does get costs reimbursed, but not getting compensation for staff time.

Rainey says when originate a bond should have one level of fee, for refinancing should have another fee. But should move forward with this one.

Rue Simmons says she wants a fee on this deal.

Vote on introducing the ordinance (without the fee) is 6-3. Suffredin, Fleming and Rue Simmons vote no.

Code of Ethics

Revelle asks about exception for elected officials to representing a private party before a board.

Wilson says didn’t want elected officials to not be able to advocate a position for or against an issue.

City Attorney Michelle Masoncup says 30 day deadline for training new employees may be too tight. Suggests 90 day rule.

Fleming says members of all boards should have to specify why they’re abstaining from a vote — and if they’re going to abstain, they can’t participate in the discussion of the issue.

Wilson moves the training deadline and abstaining amendments. Approved 9-0.

Ordinance approved for introduction 9-0.

Parking – Greenwood Street

Approved 6-3.

Parking – South Boulevard

Approved  6-3 Suffredin, Fleming and Rue Simmons vote no.

Parking – Sherman Avenue

Approved  6-3 Suffredin, Fleming and Rue Simmons vote no.

Zoning change for NU events at Welsh-Ryan Arena

Approved 6-3 for introduction. Suffredin, Revelle and Wynne vote no.

Cannabis dispensaries in certain zoning districts

Fiske wants to remove B1 from the list of potential cannabis dispensary sites.

Wilson says B1s are mostly eliminated because of proximity to schools anyway. So he doesn’t object to the change.

Rue Simmons says she’s concerned about social equity licenses expected to be approved mid-year next year.

Says doesn’t want to limit the community that’s been most harmed by drug laws.

Storlie says the people affected could open anywhere that cannabis businesses were allowed.

Community Development Director Johanna Leonard says all B1 districts except for Noyes Street near the CTA station are ruled out because of proximity to schools.

Amendment approved unanimously.

Ordinance given final approval on a unanimous vote.

Citizen Police Review Commission ordinance

Fleming says she doesn’t support the latest version of the ordinance — says it is now too restrictive on the citizen members of the commission or confidentiality.

Approved 7-2. Fleming and Rue Simmons vote no.

Motion to table an item

Revelle says have tabled some proposals to occurrence of a particular event. Thinks should amend to include that option.

Wilson says he’s not inclined to support the proposal — could be tabled to an event that may never occur. He says he wanted to make tabling finite.

City Clerk Devon Reid says an item once tabled can be brought up at any subsequent meeting.

Revelle’s amendment fails.

Resolution approved on 9-0 voice vote.

Call of the Wards

Braithwaite proposes that Fiske should chair the Animal Welfare Board

Wilson … 1st and 4th ward meeting at library tomorrow night to discuss the budget.

Meeting adjourned at 12:25 a.m.

 

 

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