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.
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.
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)