Evanston alderman Monday approved an amended contract with EvMark to run the city’s downtown marketing and beautification efforts. It incorporates revisions sought by Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, to give the city more oversight of the non-profit group’s activities.

The revisions establish a set of goals for EvMark‘s performance, provide for semi-annual reports and set a one-year term for the agreement.

Ald. Bernstein incorporated the performance goals into the contract from a list of EvMark activities included in a presentation EvMark Executive Director Diane Williams made to the council Monday night.

“I have no problem with EvMark’s performance,” Ald. Bernstein said, “and I expect them to get even better now that we’re fully funding them.”

Last month Travis Marlatte, chair of the Downtown Evanston Merchants Association, said the original draft agreement would have given EvMark “the ability to do whatever it wants without public comment and without oversight.”

The agreement is the second step in an overhaul of the city’s downtown marketing efforts that began with adoption of a 12-year renewal of the downtown special service district tax levy used to fund the program.

The renewal included an expansion of the area covered by the district, a decision to exclude owner-occupied residential properties from the tax and a decision to provide additional city funds to boost the marketing budget.

The new funding will roughly double the group’s annual budget to about $500,000 and allow it to hire full time staff members.

The next step in the overhaul is for EvMark to revise its bylaws to add representatives of downtown residents to its board, a step EvMark leaders have pledged to consider at the group’s September board meeting.

Ald. Bernstein said, “We’re calling on the good will of the board to add the appropriate number of residents. If we haven’t seen that done, the issue will come back here a year from now” when the group’s contract is up for renewal.

Les Shindelman, treasurer of the Downtown Residents Association, told aldermen that in addition to adding residents to its board, EvMark needs to be much more transparent in its activities, posting board minutes, financial statements and other documents on its web site.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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