Recap: City Council


Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is likely to being around 7:30 p.m. A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 7:31 p.m.

Mayor says he’s accepting applications until July 28 for the Citizen Police Complaint Assessment Committee. Says 13 people have already applied for the nine positions on the committee.

City manager promotes the arts festival on the lakefront next weekend.

Public Comment

Dan Joseph, 1510 Greenwood, suggests scheduled free Sunday bus service from downtown via Emerson, Dodge and Howard to the bus turnaround at Howard and McCormick. Says city hasn’t had regular Sunday service for that part of town since the Evanston Bus Company ceased operations in 1973.

Tom Ward, of Ward Manufacturing, says his company has been in Evanston for 65 years, has 50 employees. Says exceeds the minimum wage now, but says the sick leave ordinance will cost $50K … and will cause loss of production. Says administratively the ordinance will be a problem for many small businesses and will be onerous for them.

Dave Cantor, counsel for Pavement Coatings Technology Council, coal tar sealant manufacturers, says would like to explain the other side of the story about coal tar. Says the League of Women Voters is an advocacy group, not an environmental group. Says they’ve misrepresented the story of coal tar sealants. Says council is committed to passing an ordinance that’s not based on science and for which the city has not run a single test to determine whether it has a problem.

Casey Christianson, co-president of Evanston League of Women Voters, urges vote to ban coal tar sealants.

Karen Courtright urges that lessee of Harley Clarke mansion be required to do outreach for underserved populatons in the city.

Carlis Sutton, 1821 Darrow, says he’s worked for four years with the Harley Clarke backers — sees no conflict in supporting that and Fleetwood Jourdain.

Mary Rosiski says claims that the Lighthouse Beach is “a white beach” is “crazy.” Says Lakehouse group has worked hard to be inclusive

Tom Hodgman, thanks staff for putting together the RFP for Harley Clarke quickly. But says schedule for decision now would mean no opportunity to have buildig operating next summer.

Seeks clarification on several aspects of the RFP.

Irv Chokel, says minimum wage increase could be a mistake — employees hours will be cut and may be difficult for teens and young adults to get a first job.

Jerry Hurst, 325 Dodge, favors coal tar sealant ban. Says it is a science-based decision

Other speakers support the coal tar ban.

Special orders of business

SP 5 – Harley Clarke mansion lease

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, says she’s suggesting several revisions

“High quality public use consistent with lakefront plan.”

Add reference to also leasing the Jens Jensen garden.

Insurance only required of successful bidder.

Wants all the proposals to be reviewed by City Council — rather than having a staff recommendation.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he shared Revelle’s concerns.

But says he would like to get a recommendation from staff.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says staff can review for completeness, but doesn’t want to make a qualitative recommendation.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says she’d like to clarify how much “public use” of the building would be required.

Says may not want to tie the building to the garden.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says should require attendance at a pre-bid meeting and a walk-through.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, suggests perhaps making the time for response shorter.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, agrees with the idea of shortening the time to a decision … so the winner would have time to do end-of-year fundraising.

Bobkiewicz suggests making the final submission date about a month earlier.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, says wants a plan for inclusion.

Fiske says if want to have proposals form as many non-profits as possible shouldn’t compress the schedule. Wants to give the house the best chance possible chance of finding the best new operator. Says if cut the time will cut the number of good responses.

Hagerty says need to give the marketplace adequate time — city needs to gets out there and market the opportunity — agrees with Fiske that should give it an adequate amount of time.

Says this is the last bite at trying to save the mansion.

Hagerty says need to decide whether the not-for-profit would have any ownership of the property — given the amount of money they’d be putting into it.

Fiske says that could be written into the lease.

Revelle asks about “for profit uses” being prohibited — does that mean they couldn’t have a cafe? Says it’s quite likely that any non-profit would have some uses that would be generating revenue.

Fiske says… a bookstore, a souvenier shop. Says she’ thinks a cafe could be not relevant.

Revelle says the lakefront master plan mentions a cafe at the location.

Hagerty says need to make that clear.

Wynne says when city leased property with Charavalle school did 25 year lease with two 15 year renewals. 

Fiske says she’s very concerned about the idea of having restaurants on the lakefront. Says can’t support restaurant use on the lakefront — even in Harley Clarke. Says it would create a precedent for the lakefront that would be a big mistake.

About the $250,000 previously mentioned as being a city contribution, Wilson says that was for maintenance of the property — not meant as a contribution to the NFP.

Moving the deadline up to Nov. 9 carries by 8-1 vote. Fiske votes no (wanted to not speed up the process).

Wynne says she doesn’t want to have a full-service restaurant on the lakefront. Says the lakefront master plan did contemplate a “light fare” cafe. She’d be OK with that — but only at this location.

Fiske says a light fare cafe is not going to make money. If that’s not clearly stated, she says, then people will be asking for an expansion.

Revelle says has heard from one restaurateur that it wouldn’t be a huge moneymaker but could be profitable.

So the conclusion is RFP would only permit “a light fare cafe.”

SP 6 – Minimum wage and sick leave ordinances

Hagerty suggests having a workshop soon for businesses, especially about the sick-leave rule. Says there’s a lot of uncertainty about how to comply.

Says have formed a partnership with the Chamber of Commerce the city spends $13M in under $20K contracts … says about half of it is spent now in Evanston — hope work to increase that.

Braithwaite says didn’t listen to business community last Friday — looks forward to more discussion.

Linda Larkin July 27 6p at Rotary, person from county to be speaking on the minimum wage and sick leave issues.

Rainey says the sick time provision of the ordinance needs to be reworked — the administrative part is “crazy.” Says the the county should take care of that.

Fleming says should also address whether the ordinances are going to lead to layoffs or reduced hours for workers

SP 4 – Water service shut-off for non-payment process

Darrell King, water production bureau chief, says people get three notices before a shutoff. 

Says of the 14,000 water accounts in Evanston about 400 shutoff notices mailed. About 200 are now on shutoff list … rest have paid off. Total actual shutoffs for the latest two-month billing cycle is 107 … and most of those have had service restored — with less than a dozen are currently shut off … most of those are vacant properties.

Braithwaite asks if someone has a medical condition could water service be allowed to continue?

King says that can be done case by case.

Fleming asks why there isn’t mention of a payment plan on the overdue bill.

King says he doesn’t know — just been past practice.

Fleming says should let people know about that.

Fleming says since the collector’s office is only open rom 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. — so people who work 9 to 5 may have difficulty getting there. Also, she says, there’s nobody there who speaks Spanish.

Wynne asks whether there could be a “budget billing” process for the water bill.

Bobkiewicz says will look into budget billing further. But he’s also concerned that if the city becomes too flexible, some businesses in town will use it as a financing mechanism.

Bobkiewicz says the city is also working with ComEd to try to reduce shutoffs from that utility as well

Rainey says she doubts there’s a big enough spread in water bills to make budget billing make sense.

She also asks to get the total number of shutoffs.

Another update expected in a month or two

SP 1 – Capital improvement program planning

Bobkiewicz says the city doesn’t have sufficient revenue to address the city’s capital needs.

Lara Biggs, capital planning bureau chief, says budgetd at $58.3 million this year. So far $29.8 million has been approved.

Sheridan Road project was shut down by IDOT because of state budget issues, but now has approval to resume work. Because of the budget delay won’t get that finished by the original Sept. 15 deadline.

Says there have been some delays on the north of Davis section of Fountain Square — utility issues and material delivery issues. That work won’t be finished by the end of the construction season this fall.

Fiske suggests perhaps for some projects — like the animal shelter and the ecology center — could be fundraising opportunities.

Bobkiewicz says for now want to focus on fundraising for Robert Crown — but can start thinking about other projects early next year.

Rainey says it’s the best capital plan presentation she’s ever heard.

Bobkiewicz says city has limited ability to increase bonding, council doesn’t want to raise properyt taxes….. says have greater needs going forward that will have to be paid for in some manner. Hopes to have further discussions about that early next year.

Says Civic Center’s innards are aging. Won’t be able to ignore them much longer.

Also short on funding for parks and recreation centers.

Fiske says wish had had the discussion earlier tonight — so people with other concerns (read Harley Clarke) would get a better understanding of the financial considerations the city faces.

SP 2 – Second Quarter Financial Report and SP 3 – Mid-year budget report

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says the budget is not where he wants it to be.

Says economic development related revenues are below budget.

Says sales tax and income tax revenue are falling short.

Building permit revenue is way under budget.

Related story

Rainey asks about permit fees for new developments

Johanna Leonard, community development director, says Northwestern University projects have been coming through later than expected and two private developments — 1815 Ridge and 831 Emerson — are not expected to start construction and pay permit fees until early next year.

Says expects $6.6 million in building permit fees for the full year — compared to the $9.2 million that had been budgeted.

City manager says staff will come back on July 24 with a plan to balance the budget.

Says plan to get “barnacles” that cover the windshield of cars — instead of booting the wheels … as part of the solution to balancing the budget.

Says doesn’t think council is inclined to raise other taxes.

Says will propose changing parking ticket fines and the alternate booting device.

Consent agenda

We’ll note items taken off the consent agenda

(In the midst of reading the consent agenda the staff discovers that they’ve reached a limit on recording time for the video of the meeting, so a brief recess is called at 10:46 p.m. to get that started up again.)

Meeting resumed at 10:54 p.m.

Consent agenda approved.

Items taken off consent agenda …

A 14 – Drone ordinance

Wynne proposes amendment and requests that the ordinance be held to July 24

Says amendment would permit drone use in city parks and at school yards when school is not in session.

Wilson seconds motion to hold.

Fleming suggests reducing the fine.

Amendment approved on voice vote. Action on the ordinance is held until July 24 meeting.

O 2 – Storefront modernization program for 2113 Greenleaf

Fiske says she wants to know how much money the developer of this building has received from the city.

Says in this case are paying for the developers own personal architiectural vision that’s not in keeping with what the grant was intended to do.

Says wants to end up with buildings that are “clean and functional” but not necessarily “for a personal vision.”

(Fiske wasn’t happy with an earlier Spatz project at 604 Davis St.)

Fleming he’s taking buildings that are underutilized, good thing, but is concerned that may be giving too much to one.

Wilson says the application is compliant with the program. Says you may not like the after picture but the before is begging to have something done.

And the developer has a successful track record of adaptive reuse of buildings. Complies with goals of sustainability and successful development

Says if want to make a change to the policy can consider that.

Wynne says “We’re not the taste police.” Not up to us to decide that. Says his track record is that he’s taken very underutilized buildings and made them successful.

Braithwaite says it’s in his ward meets the economic threshholds and the developer is successful at what he does.

Fiske says she’s trying not to be the taste police.

Braithwaite laughs and says she is.

Fiske says if he was replacing the windows, that would be OK.

Wynne says have done awnings and unusual lighting in the past — not up to us to decide that we don’t like the looks.

Approved 7-2. Suffredin and Fiske vote no.

Call of the wards

Rainey… July 18 …Brummel Park food truck fest.

Fleming … ward meeting to be rescheduled.

Wynne … 3rd Ward meeting Thursday, July 27, 7p at Chairavalle.

Meeting adjourned at 11:22 p.m.

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