Evanston’s City Council next week is scheduled to consider adopting a “civility pledge” developed by the Illinois Municipal League.
The gesture, proposed by City Manager Luke Stowe and supported by Mayor Daniel Biss and Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) follows a tantrum thrown by Ald. Devon Reid (8th) toward the end of this month’s Human Services Committee meeting.
Reid, angered that the committee had just rejected his proposal to decriminalize possession of magic mushrooms, said another issue under discussion — an expansion of allowable hours for operation of electric leaf blowers — “has every chance of passing because wealthy mostly white folks who live on the north side of our town support this.” (Watch video.)
Before stalking out of the meeting he claimed his colleagues were “a status quo council that can only take up issues that impact our wealthy northern residents” and has “deaf ears” to the concerns of others.
The Civility Pledge was announced at the IML’s board of directors meeting in April.
In promoting the need for the pledge, the IML cited a 2022 poll from the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service that reported 63% of voters believe that “the decreasing amount of respect and civility in our political systems is an extremely or very serious threat to democracy.”
This month’s incident is not the first for Reid. He also stalked out of a meeting after shouting “Shame on this Council” during his term as City Clerk during a dispute over the designation of Freedom of Information Act officials.
Other city officials have also been accused of uncivil behavior in the past, notably Ald. Ann Rainey, who preceded Reid in representing the 8th Ward.
The Board of Ethics in 2018 concluded Rainey had used “disparaging language” in referring to a resident who disagreed with her views about the Harley Clarke mansion.
Shortly before he resigned from the Council last year, Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) proposed that the city’s code of ethics be amended so that the city’s health workplace and anti-harassment policies would apply to elected officials, but it appears no action was ever taken on that request.
The civility pledge is scheduled for discussion at the Rules Committee meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 5.
Update 5/30/23: In an email message Tuesday morning, City Manager Stowe says he anticipates all city council members “will fully support the pledge.”
He says the proposal is in response to the IML’s action and “not in reaction to any one incident, or any one council member.”