Evanston City Council members appeared inclined this week to actually find a solution to the long-standing problem of not being able to start council meetings on time.

After an extended discussion Monday night, the Rules Committee agreed to have Ald. Devon Reid (8th) work with city staff to come up with a solution to present to the committee at its next meeting.

Exactly what that solution will be wasn’t entirely clear, but it appears that council members are inclined to move meetings of the Administration and Public Works Committee and the Planning and Development Committee — which now precede the full City Council meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of the month — to some other day.

One possible solution discussed was to move the committee meetings to the first and third Mondays of the month

Mayor Daniel Biss said the current practice, in which many issues are discussed at length in the committee meetings, and then again discussed at length at City Council just an hour or so later is “suboptimal.”

If the committee meetings were held a week earlier, it would give community members substantial time to react to the committee discussion before the full council had to vote on an issue.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said that — given the generally shorter agenda for Planning and Development — it might be possible to hold that committee meeting just once a month.

She also voiced the hope that moving the A&PD and P&D meetings to first and third Mondays wouldn’t mean the Human Services Committee and Rules Committee, which now meet on the first Monday, would have to shift to another day.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) suggested an alternative might be to set a “hard stop” on the length of the committee meetings and put off discussion of some items to the next meeting if they couldn’t be addressed in the time available.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said setting a fixed length for discussion of each agenda item could also help bring meetings to a conclusion by the scheduled hour.

But Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said he wasn’t in favor of setting a “hard stop” for committee meetings, suggesting that items needed to get a full discussion and that he favored shifting the committee meetings to a different night.

Mayor Biss noted that the Administration and Public Works Committee approves the city’s payroll each time it meets and the council wouldn’t want to end up in a situation where it “couldn’t make payroll next week” because the scheduled time for the meeting had run out before the payroll item was approved.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) also said that moving the committee meetings to another day “would make sense.”

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) noted that many years ago the Council had scheduled the two committee meetings to run at the same time and each alderperson was only on one of the two committees.

But Nieuwsma said that solution would create difficulties for residents who might be interested in issues on both committees’ agendas as well as for live-streaming the sessions.

And, with five alders now on A&PW and seven on P&D, it would require bumping some members who want to be on both committees off of one or the other to make Wynne’s suggestion work.

Asked what the impact of a shift to different nights would be on city staff, City Manager Luke Stowe said it would mean more evenings to be on duty for some staff — but it would also mean their on-call evenings might end by 8 or 9 p.m. rather than running on until midnight as they often do now.

So, Stowe said, he saw advantages to the change for both staff and community members.

Related story: Alder wants Council to start on time

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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