Recap: City Council


Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting at which aldermen are scheduled to give final approval to bond sales to fund the new Robert Crown Center

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

Meeting called to order at 8:29 p.m.

Mayor Steve Hagerty announced that today is Earth Day.

Public Comment

21 people signed up. Two minutes per speaker.

Mike Vasilko says council doesn’t have the information it needs on the bond sale.

Misty Witenberg objects to Crown funding.

Jack Crane, 40 year resident, says he supports plans for turf fields for soccer at the new Robert Crown Center.

John Berkeley, from AYSO and Evanston soccer organizations, supports yes vote on Crown Center bonds.

Several more people speak for and against the Crown project.

Ben Schapiro, head of library board, speaks in favor of Crown project — eager to expand services to part of the community that the library hasn’t been able to reach in the past.

Public comment end at 9:18 p.m.

Consent agenda

Items taken off consent agenda: A19, A20, A22, A23.

P1 didn’t pass out of committee.

P4 off consent.

Consent agenda approved.

A 19 – Special assessment procedures for alley improvements

Approved for introduction.

A 20 – Erosion and sediment controls for construction sites


A 22 – Raising GO debt limit to $160 million

Finance Director Hitesh Desai says this doesn’t actually increase the debt that the city plans to issue.

Says can cut it back to $152 million in December, when city makes next debt payment.

Approved 8-1. Rue Simmons votes no.

A 23 – General obligation bonds .. up to $18M for Crown … up to $18M or other capital needs.

Fleming says she’s concerned about how you pay for things, but has seen opposition to selling property to raise funds. Says city doesn’t have a lot of ways to generate funds.

Says need a new Crown Center and a lot of other improvements. Says need to have more balanced conversation about development and other ways of generating new revenue.

Says Crown will provide a great service to the community.

Rue Simmons says this can be the end of the world for some families. Says there’s somewhere between a deteriorating building and $55 million new building.

Urges delay on vote.

Doesn’t get a second.

Wilson moves to call the question.

Calling the question passes 5-4.

Motion to issue the bonds is approved 6-3. Rue Simmons, Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

P 2 – Car wash on Oakton

Rainey says says new business is immediately across the street from another car wash.

Says people get trapped in traffic there now. Says it will be an unbelievable mess.

Fleming says developers are working with a difficult lot. Will have right in and out only.

Says we have lots of businesses across from each other. Doesn’t think city should take that into consideration.

Looks forward to having a new business in the ward.

Rue Simmons says doesn’t think city should be in the business of non-competes — protecting existing businesses from new competition.

Approved 8-1. Rainey votes no.

Back to bond issue item

After clerk raises objection to parliamentary procedure used in approving A 23, Council returns to that issue.

Rue Simmons moves to hold for a week and Fleming seconds.

Rainey moves to overrule the hold. (That will require a 2/3rds vote)

Wilson says city has been under-serving a large portion of the community for a long time. This will address that.

If stop will end up with a half-built building and likely will have to give back much of the money raised in donations.

Mayor says vote on bonds has to be done at a regular City Council meeting — next one is May 13.

Bobkiewicz says bond issue could not go forward as scheduled with the delay.

Wynne says Crown has been an issue the entire time she’s been on the Council. Says new center will provide health and wellness for everyone in the community.

Tonight is the night we decide to build something that will benefit our community for the rest of our lifetimes, she says.

Bobkiewicz, in response to question from Braithwaite, says can’t move forward with sale of bonds on May 16 if have to wait until May 13 to approve the bonds.

Says city won’t have ability to pay for the project during that time when bonds haven’t been issued. Delay will likely will cause concern in the bond market that will likely raise cost of the bonds.

Says would probably need to stop work because wouldn’t have ability to pay for it.

Donors would have to question whether this is the best way to invest their money in the community.

Says the cost of issuance will certainly go up.

Says currently are on track to have occupancy of the building in early December.

Braithwaite says it would be irresponsible to vote to hold with all those factors at risk.

Rue Simmons says the financial decision was made without including the folks who are struggling most to stay here. Says we need the building. But now are faced with having two disastrous options — challenging affordability but don’t have any option that works for the residents.

Hitesh Desai, finance director, says need the time from tonight to the scheduled bond issue to do the preparatory work.

Bobkiewicz says would have to stop the process..

Desai says will take another three weeks after sale to close the deal, now scheduled for June 10.

Robert Crown project page on city website.

Desai says might run out of money for the project by June.

Lara Biggs, city engineer, says starting next month will have burn rate go up rapidly to $2.5M and $5M per month by mid-summer. Says will have spent the original bonds by June or July.

Wilson says this chaos is perpetuated by social media and a small number of people who want to stop the project and create adversity for the City Council.

If we’re truly interested in protecting the taxpayers you don’t stop the project in midstream, Wilson says.

Fiske says she agrees with Wilson. Stopping now makes it look like the council isn’t committed to the project — and that’s unbelievable.

Suffredin says nobody wants to stop the project — its a once in a lifetime project. Criticizes Wilson for having called the question before.

Rue Simmons says she’s never wanted to stop the project — but says decisions are being made by the most privileged in the community.

Vote on overruling motion to hold, passes 6-3. Rue Simmons, Suffredin and Fleming vote no.

Vote on the ordinance authorizing the bonds passes 7-2, Rue Simmons and Suffreding vote no.

Call of the Wards

Fiske .. calls for creating definition of “heritage trees” Refers to P&D committee.

Braithwaite asks for meeting to discuss Crown project. Says it’s clear there are agitators out there that want to advocate for their position but there are also people who are just misinformed. Bobkiewicz says have had meetings before — same small group who disagree with the answers.

Wynne .. .ward meeting Thursday.

Wilson … ethics subcommittee may not make June rules committee meeting for its report to give time to get feedback from Board of Ethics.

Rue Simmons … ward meeting 2nd Wednesday of the month.

Revelle … ward meeting Thursday, 7 p.m. at Ecology Center.

Rainey … ward meeting Thursday, 7p.m. at Levy Center … re reassessments.

Fleming … requests info re Long Beach, Calif., tenant relocation fund for next affordable housing meeting.

Council votes to go into executive session at 11:03 p.m.

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