Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Rules Committee ended at 5:38 p.m. City Council now scheduled to start at 5:45 p.m.

Meeting called to order at 5:57 p.m.

No proclamations from the mayor. No announcements from the city manager.

Clerk reads some public comments received by email.

Public comment

Mix of in person and online comments tonight. Two minute time limit because of number of speakers.

Public comment ends at 7:04 p.m.

Kelly moves and Reid to move the beach token issue to the top of the agenda.
Motion fails 5-4. Agenda to say as is. Votes to change the agenda were Burns, Reid, Fleming and Kelly.

SP1 – American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding Guidelines
City Manager Erika Storlie introduces discussion. Says, “Want to invest this money, not spend this money. Will require a lot of thoughtful discussion with the community.”

Emma Carter of city staff does presentation.

Evanston expects nearly $43.2 million. Will get it directly from the federal government. Got $21M last week. Will get the rest about a year from now.

Money will go into separate fund. All the money needs to be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024.

Plan to have town hall meetings and partner with non-profits to encourage community member input.
Also developing post COVID-19 Action Plan to establish community priorities.

Spending needs to be tied to the impacts of COVID-19. And responding to areas of community most heavily impacted by the pandemic.

Priority funding targets:

  • Securing financial future
  • Improving community health and wellness
  • Stimpulating economic recovery
  • Investing in infrasture
  • Use on areas that will be self-funding in the future.

CFO Hitesh Desai says there are a variety of restrictions on how the funds can be used — some still awaiting clarification. But cant use it for pension funding, legal settlements, etc.

Says have fund balance shortage of about $1.8 million for 2020 and anticipates shortfall of about $1.3M to $2.3M for this year.

Carter says could use the funds for many purposes — including lead service line replacements….100 year old water mains … and broadband service for underserved areas.

Says could create a “recovery investment fund” that might include aid for childcare, workforce devleopment, small business recovery and the hospitality industry.

Says could have a “participatory budgeting” process with some portion allocated directly by residents.

Storlie says Economic Development Committee will discuss the issue further Wednesday night. Says don’t have to settle everything this evening.

Comments from aldermen…
Fleming asks whether individuals should be able to submit proposals — for example for rental assistance. Wants to do more on community input — and make sure people have clarity on guidelines.

Reid suggests a $10 million participatory budgeting project for the community.

Burns says should be intentional about providing aid to hardest hit communities. “We live in a segregated town,” he says. Says wants to check what other pots of money are available from other units of government that could fund programs in Evanston. Suggests need for universal child care could be addressed with these funds.

Biss says $43M is only a tiny part of the money — compared to what other levels of government will be distributing.

Carter says plan to work with other governmental agencies — but very early in that at this point.

Nieuwsma wants “thoughtful and deliberate process” and “robust public engagement.”

Storlie says three town hall meetings planned in next month on this … planning child care and dinner options …one will be in Spanish, one in person, one online. Dates TBD.

Fleming suggests guaranteed income and 911 alternative response options.

Wynne suggests using a strategy that was used in the past for Community Devlepment Block Grant outreach, using members of Cradle to Career to make contacts.

Biss says the public input part of this is really important and hard to do.

Says there is urgency — but also importance in taking the time to do it right.

Says economic recovery from COVID is happening now — so need to be nimble, quick and smart in deploying a small portion of the resources. But not rush how spend the bulk of the money.

SP2 – $50K CDBG-CF funds for entrepreurship grant program
Approved unanimously.

SP3 – Free beach access

Reid says Evanston residents aren’t charged for access to any other public spac

Says beaches were free until 1931.

Parks Director Lawrence Hemingway says overall parks budget is $11.5M

Says maintenance of parks is park of the Public Works Agency — not his budget.

City Manager Storlie says the policy of the City Council has been to charge for beach access. If City Council wants to change it, the council change.

Hemingway says he’s not advocating to continue a token process — but time to account for the budget impacts.

Storlie says beach tokens and day passes are budgeted at $1M for the year. Reid claims the lost revenue would be only $600K.

Nieuwsma thanks Reid. Says beach tokens are racist. But is mindful of economic constraints the city is under. Something else would have to be cut. Says city has reciprocal arrangement with Skokie that could be affected. Proposes substitute motion. Says currently offer free access to Clark Street beach on Mondays in July in August. Proposes expanding that to Mondays and Sundays for all this summer and direct staff to develop free beach plan for next year.

Reid attacks Nieuwsma’s plan as a half measure.

Kelly says opposes Nieuwsma’s plan. Says the funding is there. Don’t have to raise taxes.

Burns claims there are surplus funds that could be used. Hasn’t seen any conclusive evidence that it would drop the general fund balance below 16.67%. Says if staff doesn’t have to sell more beach tokens, can use time saved to refunding tokens already purchased.

Braithwaite says he supports free beach access, but face a $1M budget hole. Asks how non-residents would be treated. Will there be police required to enforce?

Storlie says city has the option to forego the revenue. There’s no funding source in place. It will draw down the reserve. Says city’s unfunded pension liability if $250M for police and $180M for fire. Says the substitute motion from Nieuwsma will have a budget impact, probably less than Reid’s proposal. Beaches are opening Saturday so we do need a decision about what we’re going to do.

Reid claims could get more revenue by making beaches more attractive.

Vote on Nieuwsma’s substitute motion.

Substitute motion carries on a vote of 5-4. Voting against were Burnes, Reid, Fleming and Kelly.

Fleming says have to be mindful that it’s not always about cost that keeps black people and brown people from the beach. Not all black people are poor, and “I hate the beach,” she says.

After a complicated parliamentary process free access days are changed to Saturday, Sunday and Monday for all beaches.

SP4 – Hazard pay proposal for grocery workers

Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings says he found no barriers or permissions to authorize the retroactive implementation of the ordinance.

Burns says some reports say grocers have seen record profits during the pandemic. Wishes had heard from business community about the ordinance. Says city will have conversation about premium pay for city employees — so wouldn’t be out of the box to require private companies to do the same.

Wynne says received letters from Valle produce saying they had paid hazard pay. Target says they had paid hazard pay as well. Says in a number of instances employers have been paying hazard pay. Says more than 60% of downtown Target employees are Evanston residents. Says Valle took a dead shopping center and completely revived it. Says Target is now paying $19/hour. “We are applying this specifically to Evanston businesses when we are a small player in Cook County and the State of Illinois. If we impose this extra cost on Evanston businesses we put them at a disadvantage. We need to bring them into the conversation more. We worked so hard to bring Valle and Target in. We just can’t keep bashing them. We need to continue to have them here in Evanston. Can’t survive just on small mom and pop businesses.”

Cummings vast majority of these ordinances have come out of California and Oregon. Says one case in California the plaintiffs, the businesses won on the retroactivity issue.

Fleming says things the stores did helped get people into the store — shouldn’t get credit for that. Not looking to move it forward tonight — since the city hasn’t given hazard pay (yet) for its own staff.

Braithwaite says it’s another complex vote. Four years ago held a meeting regarding a minimum wage increase — then opted into the increase because other communities were doing it as well. Has had contact with Food 4 Less and Target. Says during the early months of the pandemic there was a hazard — employees truly worked for every single bit of money they earned. Says the hazard pay plan could cause inflation and would put jobs at risk for people who are Evanston residents. Are we taking care of Evanston residents or sending the money out of town. If larger stores close start to close, it erodes our commercial tax base. With recovery coming, and COVID cases down, vaccines up, I can’t support this, he says.

Suffredin says he’s willing to vote for introduction, but skeptical about final vote to approve.

Reid says he hopes to have meetings with interested parties. Says it’s for introduction tonight — can have more stakeholders before next meeting.

Cummings says passing the ordinance he believes is safe, but whether it can be made retroactive is not clear.

Nieuwsma says there are a whole host of unanswered questions at this point. Says he’s uncomfortable moving forward. (But will vote for introduction tonight.)

Revelle says she’ll vote for introduction. But leaning to be a no vote regarding adoption. Says lot of the California communities ordinances are being litigated — that’s a concern.

Reid says the city was good neighbors to Valle and other shopping centers — giving them money for development.

Approved for introduction on 6-3 vote. No votes from Wynne, Fleming and Braithwaite.

Consent agenda

Off consent A2 A3, A12, P1, P3, R2.

With those exceptions, consent agenda is approved.

Council takes a brief recess at 9:55 p.m. to switch to a new tape for recording the meeting.

A2 – Amazon credit card activity
Approved 7-2, Suffredin and Kelly abstain.

A3 – Altura Solutions ADA transition plan update agreement
Fleming asks whether have to do it?
Lara Biggs says the city is legally required to create a plan and have to periodically update it.
Also need it to apply for grants.
Approved 9-0.

A12 – Changes to public safety civil service commission rules
Fleming says there should be an aldermanic liaison to the commission.
Fleming asks for discussion of police recruitment
Storlie says Aurora is offering a $20K signing bonus for lateral transfers.
Chief Cook says police department is down to 147 staff from 162 last year. Says seven resignations and 13 retirements in the last 12 months.
Approved 9-0.

P1 – Special use for Richard Shapiro law office
Wynne says its a very complex issue that needs to be discussed at Planning and Development Committee. Moves to refer the item to the committee. Revelle seconds.
(There wasn’t a P&D meeting tonight.)
Sent to P&D on a 9-0 vote.

P3 – Welch-Ryan arena permitted uses extension
Dave Davis makes presentation.
November 2019 approved this. Was limited to two year pilot period. But because of pandemic haven’t been able to host any events. Says now a chance the pilot would expire before can hold any events.
Says the added events would increase tax revenue

Says the zoning amendment would be limited to 7K people and 3K people outdoor. Total of six single-day events and one multi-day event lasting seen days or less.
Complementary parking for all attendees … other restrictions.

Says in two year trial anticipate more than $200K in additional tax revenue for the city. Attendee spending in city anticipated to total $1.2M.

Revelle opposes the proposal — doesn’t want to expand the events beyond collegiate sports to include professional events.

Reid says the issue should be held for further discussion. Says city has limited space. HAs stadium that can seat 40K+ … by not getting proper utilization out of this space we are leaving quite a bit of money on the table. Says generally supportive of better land utilization. Looks for ways to make the arrangement a better deal for the city.

Braithwaite says he doesn’t see any downside to the NU proposal. Says sees no reason to hold.

Burns says he’s open to the proposal, but new members of the council haven’t had time to meet with residents and the university officials.

Reid moves to hold Burns seconds. No motion to overrule the hold. So the issue is held.

R2 – Code of Ethics amendments

Reid moves to refer to the Rules Committee. Kelly seconds.

Approved 6-3. Wynne, Revelle and Braithwaite voted no.

AP1 – Appointments

To the Reimagining Public Safety Committee (and a reappointment to the Arts Council.

Approved 9-0.

Call of the Ward

Nieuwsma … 4th Ward meeting … Tuesday, June 1, 7p

Burns … 2020 Maple … abandoned building has been torn down … a big win.

Revelle … referral… Chicago has adopted a bird friendly ordinance — we should do the same.

Reid … virtual community meeting ahead of June 14 City Council meeting … be on Saturday this time … more info on the 8th Ward web page. Wants to up the time for individual council members to speak from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. Various other referrals. Wants to block distribution of the daily crime bulletin, and keep record of outcomes of cases. Also wants a public access cutoff fee for lakefront properties. Also wants to permit food trucks along the lakefront. Propose a graduated income-based fine structure for parking tickets and other fees.

Fleming … concerned about access to garden plots. Wants discussion of “In the Squadroom” report doesn’t think some of the information in that should be shared. Wants more services for returning sex offenders.

Kelly … wants resolution that would require a city council vote for filling vacancies.

City Council adjourns at 10:52 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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