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Editorial: Council kicks the little guy

Evanston’s City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to ban licensed peddlers from the area around Northwestern’s athletic complex on game days.

The process leading up to the vote was prime example of how public issues should not be decided in Evanston.

The police chief had private meetings with university security officials to develop the plan. The city manager slipped the item onto the City Council agenda and asked the council to suspend the rules and give the ordinance immediate effect.

The rationale for the ban is that on some game days large crowds trying to get past peddlers on the sidewalk surge into the street, creating a traffic hazard.

At no time, it appears, did anyone on the city staff reach out to the small business people — the licensed peddlers — whose livelihood will be disrupted by this ordinance.

Each of these peddlers is required each year to submit his or her name and address to the city collector’s office and pay a license fee.


Evanston’s City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to ban licensed peddlers from the area around Northwestern’s athletic complex on game days.

The process leading up to the vote was prime example of how public issues should not be decided in Evanston.

The police chief had private meetings with university security officials to develop the plan. The city manager slipped the item onto the City Council agenda and asked the council to suspend the rules and give the ordinance immediate effect.

The rationale for the ban is that on some game days large crowds trying to get past peddlers on the sidewalk surge into the street, creating a traffic hazard.

At no time, it appears, did anyone on the city staff reach out to the small business people — the licensed peddlers — whose livelihood will be disrupted by this ordinance.

Each of these peddlers is required each year to submit his or her name and address to the city collector’s office and pay a license fee.

Therefore city officials can hardly claim they didn’t know how to reach the peddlers to ask for their input.

The haste to enact this ordinance is especially unseemly.

No testimony was presented that crowd control problems around the athletic complex are more severe this year than in the past. Yet the council was asked to pass the ordinance on an emergency basis in the middle of football season.

It’s not like this is a novel idea. The city has banned peddling near the high school stadium for decades. Why was there not time to seek the input of all affected parties?

Why was there no public discussion of the possibility of redesigning the space around the stadium to make room for peddlers to sell their wares without impeding pedestrian traffic?

Why was no consideration given to limiting the number of peddlers on game days rather than banning them entirely? Special game-day peddling licenses might be a source of incremental revenue for the city.

Fortunately, opposition from Aldermen Judy Fiske and Lionel Jean-Baptiste means the ordinance will not take immediate effect, and aldermen will have a chance to take another look at it in two weeks.

We know city officials are happy about the university’s recent gift of a fire truck to the city and that they hope it heralds a new era of good relations with Northwestern.

But that’s no reason to hop aboard the gift truck and drive it over the interests of people like the peddlers who are near the bottom of our economic ladder.

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