City Council members voted 8-0 Monday night to spend $3 million to attract and promote businesses in Evanston but also voted to adopt more restrictions on business operations.

They adopted the “Evanston Thrives” report, prepared over several months by a team of consulting firms.

The report calls for reimagining neighborhood business districts, celebrating their unique identities, and building “a toolkit to ensure more equitable investment and support for local businesses.”

And it says the city should:

  • Invest in events and programming to attract customers.
  • Fund placemaking initiatives to strengthen business district identities.
  • Have a proactive economic development strategy to attract new businesses.
  • Forge a symbiotic relationship with Northwestern University to benefit residents, students and businesses.

The initial $3 million for the project will come from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.

But Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said that amount “won’t get us very far” and called for imposing a head tax on large businesses for employees that don’t live in Evanston as one way to generate additional funds.

In response to a question from Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) consultant Sarah Kellerman agreed that $3 million wouldn’t go far, but said it would be “a show of confidence” in businesses from the city.

She said the plan has a 10-year timeline for implementation and that Evanston needs to own the idea of being, in the report’s phrase, “The big city on the North Shore.”

Later in Monday night’s meeting the alders voted to introduce two measures that create new restrictions on businesses in the city.

One amends the bag ordinance to ban most use of plastic bags in all retail establishments and require that paper bags have at least 40% post-consumer recycled content starting Aug. 1.

The same ordinance, substantially revised since it was first proposed by Reid, also imposes a 10-cent-per-bag tax on single-use point-of-sale bags in non-restaurant chain stores over 10,000 square feet in size.

The other ordinance creates an elaborate scheme of “Fair Workweek” regulations for scheduling employees that business would have to follow or face fines.

That measure — sponsored by Reid and Mayor Daniel Biss — has also undergone substantial revision, with certain influential industries — healthcare, nursing homes and childcare –winning exemption from it.

Landscaping services won a last-minute modification Monday to exempt shift changes caused by weather issues from the penalty provisions of the ordinance.

But building services, food service, hospitality, manufacturing, retail and warehouse services would still be covered by the ordinance, in most cases if a business has more than 15 full-time workers.

Both of those measures will be up for final approval at the Council’s May 22 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. “But Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said that amount “won’t get us very far” and called for imposing a head tax on large businesses for employees that don’t live in Evanston as one way to generate additional funds.”

    Someone clearly doesn’t understand economics.

  2. Amazing! Our council considers and likes a plan to improve Evanston primarily through business friendly measures and then in the same breath considers two measures that are distinctly business unfriendly. A demonstration of intelligent thought?

  3. Seems to me that the Fair Work Week employee scheduling rules should be left to union contract negotiations, since each business is in a way unique and their situations are not “cookie cutter” copies of one another. If the employees opt not to form a union but to bargain individually, well, that is their choice.

  4. $3 million CAN go a long way if used efficiently and if qualified and diligent professionals are engaged.

    And if other measures do not work against it…..A head tax as part of the formula to attract business? Huh?
    How about security/safety, attracting and keeping anchor businesses, a focus on creating an overall good experience for consumers, etc.?

    Thank for your efforts.

  5. Drive around Park Ridge, Wilmette, Glenview and in each see a thriving business climate. They don’t have parking meters

  6. These officers want to impose higher taxes on residents outside of Evanston so that people who seek jobs will be encouraged to work in Chicago and elsewhere. In the meantime, all these approaches will increase the cost of the business owners yet this is a plan to revitalizing Evanston. Are they aware restaurants that stood for years have been closing down? Solicitors are everywhere while the Northwesrern students and residents do not get along? These decision makers live on Mars.

  7. Sorry, but did Evanston council people really have to pay consultants to come up w/ basic ways to “attract & grow” Evanston businesses? Why not ask business owners directly what would motivate them to open businesses in Evanston? I’m sure they’d have plenty of suggestions. Also, did it really take a team of consultant companies months to come up with these extremely basic Marketing 101 strategies? Why not ask some of Northwestern’s MBA grad students, or even business/economic undergrads, to propose such ideas & solutions? Maybe even have a competition for the students.
    This whole situation from start to finish is scary.

  8. It would make more economic sense to save the paltry $3 million and revoke all the ordinances that drive business elsewhere.

  9. A report by a “team of consultants” to give you recommendations that any college student could come up with? A $3M initial investment that everyone agrees will go nowhere in terms of solving the actual problems, but according to one of the genious consultants, it will show businesses that the city has confidence in them? And then in the same breath, the oh-so business-supportive City Council slams businesses with more regulations? Well, at least we now see the Council & Mayoral priorities clearly — and they certainly do NOT include having a vibrant small business community seen as the primary economic engine of Evanston. Why would any future business consider coming here or existing business stay — unless they’re keen on being lectured to by our Mayor and Alders about their moral values and required to self-flaggelate and sacrifice to The Collective?

  10. Evanston is such a poorly led city.

    The city manager and two aldermen have been handpicked by Daniel Biss, our far-left, socialist, and uber-woke mayor.

    Three other aldermen are borderline anti-capitalist socialists (you know who you are) and one other I’m sure is some type of neo-Marxist (we all know who that is). Two aldermen are without a doubt limousine liberals who will vote “yes” on anything so long as it doesn’t affect their wards.

    The ninth alderman is the only sane and smart one of the bunch. I don’t always agree with Clare Kelly but she knows her stuff and is always prepared.

    If Evanston survives for two more years – and folks that is very much in doubt – I’m voting for Clare Kelly as Evanston’s next mayor.

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