Evanston aldermen this evening directed the city’s legal staff to draft revisions to rules that now limit political activities in city buildings.

“There’s money to be made from candidates” in renting out city facilities, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward said.

Rainey complained during a Rules Committee meeting that, given the interaction of the city’s ethics code and the city facilities policy, a challenger for her 8th Ward aldermanic seat could hold a fundraiser at the Levy Center in her ward, but she, as an elected official, could not.

“I had to have a fundraiser in Chicago because there was no place in my ward to hold one other than a private home,” she added.

Rainey also said provisions that require sponsors of candidate forums to be “nonpartisan” are unrealistic.

“Maybe the League of Women Voters, if you don’t scrutinize it too carefully, can qualify,” Rainey said, “But other than that I don’t know of any other non-partisan gorup that would want to hold a forum or debate at the Civic Center.”

Rainey’s comment appeared to be directed at the local NAACP chapter, which is the only group besides the league that frequently holds candidate forums at the Civic Center, and which has clashed with Rainey on occasions in the past.

She also said that a provision in the rules that requires that all candidates be invited to a forum is appropriate, but one that would let any candidate who chose not to show up block the event by declining to approve it going ahead without him, was unfair.

Several other aldermen agreed with Rainey that revisions to the policy are needed, and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said staff would return with proposed revisions in time for aldermen to discuss them in January or February.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Aldermen are getting worried, and they should

    How many decades have the rules limiting political activities in city-owned buildings been in place? Why change them now?

    It looks likes the incumbent aldermen candidates are getting worried.

    When the City Council raises taxes 11 percent in the past two years during a Great Recession and when property values consistently decline year after year then they need to be worried.

    Ann Rainey sat on the Council in 2008 when the Council voted to give itself a 20 percent raise. Rainey even made a motion recently to BAN all plastic bags in Evanston. She did that without even knowing how the local business community felt about it.

    I'd say there's a valid reason why City Council members are thinking about their re-election chances. They're sensing the jig is up.

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