Evanston aldermen will be asked again tonight to consider reducing the number of boards that help run city government as a way to improve transparency and reduce expenses.

The last time aldermen tackled the issue, in 2016, only modest changes were made, and as of today the city has 45 boards, commissions and committeees, down just one from two years ago.

As they did the last time around, city staff tonight will be proposing the STAR Communities framework as a organizing model for the restructuring.

The latest plan would create the following new panels and give them some expanded responsibilities:

  • A Built Environment Commission combining the Transportation and Parking Committee and portions of the duties of the Housing and Homelessness Commission, the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Board and the Lighthouse Landing complex Committee.  This panel  address public spaces, air quality, light and noise pollution and comprehensive planning.
  • A Health and Safety Commission combining the Mental Health Board, the Animal Welfare Board and the 911 Emergency Telephone System committee. This panel would address public health programs, access to healthy food, violence prevention and resiliency.
  • An Arts and Recreation Board combining the Arts Council and the Commission on Aging and the remaining part othe Parks and Recreation Board. It would support social and cultural diversity, promote a cohesive and connected community and cradle to career efforts.
  • An Economic Vitality and Workforce Commission combining the Economic Devleopment Committee and the Minorities, Women and Evanston-based Businesses Committee. This panel would work on workforce development, green economy and green jobs issues.
  • A Climate and Energy Commission combining the Utilities Commission and part of the role of the Environment Board. This panel would be charged with improving energy and water efficiency, reducing material waste and greehouse gas emissions and encouraging a green energy suppply.
  • A Natural Systems Commission combining portions of the roles of the Enviornment Board and the Lighthouse Landing Complex Committee. It would focus on management of invasive species, protection and restoration of natural ecosystems and working lands.
  • An Equity and Empowerment Commission would combine the existing Equity and Empowerment Commission, the Age Friendly Evanston Task Force and part of the role of the Housing and Homelessness Commission. It would wok on human services programs, community engagement and poverty prevention and alleviation.
  • A Zoning and Development Board owuld combine the existing Plan Commisson and Zoning Board of Appeals.

In a memo to aldermen City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz and Community Development Director Johanna Nyden suggest that the reorganization could help the city in moving up from its current 4-star rating to the top level 5-star rating in the STAR Communities program.

They also suggest it would enhance transparency efforts by making it easier for the public to monitor government activities and discussions.

With City Council meeting most Monday nights, that leaves only three non-weekend evenings each week for city board meetings. Even assuming one meeting starting at 6 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m., that leaves time for only 24 consistently-scheduled recurring monthly board meetings each month without creating scheduling conflicts.

The staff memo suggests the reorganization also would streamline the coordination of ideas and discussions regarding city issues theough “a shared ‘lens’ of livability” and reduce existing governmental “silos.”

And it notes that “significant staf time is regularly invested in preparation for meetings.”

The proposal is to be discussed at the City Council Rules Committee meeting at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers at the Civic Center.

The memo suggests it could take six to 18 months to implement a realignment of the groups to avoid interrupting existing activities.

Related stories

New plan to trim count of city boards (3/20/16)

Aldermen open to trimming committees (1/5/16)

Over-committee to committees? (1/4/16)

Aldermen find it hard to fire volunteers (4/7/10)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Committee to study committees

    Evanston needs another new committee to study how many committees, commissions and boards the city needs. If this new committee takes longer than 18 months to present its findings, Evanston will need another new committee to study why the first new comittee is not producing any results after 18 months .

  2. Bloatedness of Evanston

    I was part of the Committee of 10 that cut the city council to 9, from 18 aldermen, two per ward, many years ago.  We did lots of research about Evanston and the surrounding suburbs, and Evanston was by far the suburb with the grossly most and most costly of anything and everything within its government.  The most employees, the most taxes, the biggest benefits, the most boards and committees, the most EVERYTHING.  And it is still today. See some examples:


    Over 100 Wilmette residents serve on 13 boards and commissions without compensation . 

    Appearance Review Commission

    Building Code Board of Appeals

    Electrical Commission

    Environmental and Energy Commission

    Board of Fire and Police Commissioners

    Historic Preservation Commission

    Housing Commission

    Human Relations Commission

    Plan Commission

    Police and Firefighters’ Pension Board of Trustees

    Transportation Commission

    Zoaning Board of Appeals

    Village Board Committees



    In total, there are nine boards and commissions serving below the Village Council. 50 residents serve on eight lower boards and commissions without compensation. 

    Board of Fire and Police Commissioners

    Design Review Board

    Environmental &Forestry Commission

    Firefighters Pension Board

    Foreign Fire Insurance Board

    Landmark Preservation Commission

    Plan Commission

    Police Pension Board

    Zoning Board of Appeals



    Over 250 volunteers serve in 17 boards and commissions.

    Appearance Commissioin 

    Beautification and Improvement Commission  

    Board of Fire and Police Commissioners

    Board of Health

    Board of Local Improvement

    Commission on Family Services

    Consumer Affairs Commission

    Economic Development Commission

    Electoral Board  

    Fine Arts commission

    Human Relations Commission

    Plan Commission  

    Performing Arts Center Board

    Public Arts Advisory Commission



    There are 29 active boards, commissions, and committees.

    911 – Emergency Telephone System

    Age Friendly Evanston Task Force

    Arts Council

    Animal Welfare Board

    Board of Ethics

    Board of Local Improvements

    Citizens’ Police Advisory Committee

    Commission on Agin

    Design & Project Review Committee

    Economic Development Committee

    Equity and Empowerment Cimmission

    Environment Board

    Firefighter’s Pension Board

    Housing & Community Development Act Committee

    Housing & Homelessness Commission

    Library Board

    Lighthouse Landing Complex Committee

    Liquor Control Review Board

    M/W/EBE Development Committee

    Mental Health Board

    Parks, Recreation & Community Services Board

    Plan Commission

    Zoning Committee of the Plan Commission

    Comprehensive Plan Subcommittee of the Plan Commission

    Police Pension Board

    Preservation Commission

    Public Safety Ciil Service Commission

    Taxicab Advisory Board

    Transportation/Parking Committee

    Utilities Commission

    Zoning Board of Appeals

    Short-Term Committees/Task Forces:

    Chicago Main TIF Advisory Committee

    Compensation Committee

    Downtown Performing Arts Center Task Force

    Inclussionary HOusing Ordinance Subcommittee

    Neighborhood Integrity Ordinance




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