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Recap: City Council

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

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

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:15 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 6:22 p.m.

Eight members present. Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) is absent. Mayor Daniel Biss chairs the meeting.

Public Hearing on Five Fifths TIF

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Five-Fifths TIF presentation.

Robert Rychlicki, of the city’s TIF consultants, Kane McKenna, introduces the presentation.

Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development manager, says last summer’s civil rights movement and the pandemic highlighted the needs of the Black community. Says the TIF can bring a new focus to economic development in that area.

Says can be used to fund affordable housing initiatives.

Says the TIF is really about renovation, not redevelopment.

Says staff is never going to recommend Ingraham Park (the park adjacent to the Civic Center) for redevelopment.

Consultants estimate the the equalized assessed valuation of property in the area could increase from about $35M now to $85M to $100M over the term of the TIF.

Zalmezak says the TIF is a financial tool, its not a redevelopment or zoning tool. Any expenditure of funds over $25K will require City Council approval. Says there’s no eminent domain.

Says the TIF designation ordinances can be introduced two weeks to 90 days after tonight’s public hearing. Hopes to have a decision this fall, so the TIF can go into effect for the next tax year.

Questions from council members

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) asks whether could partition the Civic Center parcel to assure that Ingraham Park won’t be redeveloped.

Zalmezak says that could be done. Would likely cost several thousand dollars to accomplish.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) says TIFs have not been used to benefit people in the community.

Says is much more concerned about helping people who already live in the community than any new development coming in.

Says she “wants to love it but it reads a little upside down to me.”

Zalmezak says there’s opportunity to revise the proposed TIF budget in response to Fleming’s concerns.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) asks what’s the measure of success for a TIF. Rychlicki says increase in equalized assessed valuation is the most common measure — but a lot of others are possible.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says glad to see Ingraham Park won’t be part of any redevelopment area. Says would like to see the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan goals as part of the TIF proposal.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) says added an advisory board to the Chicago Main TIF — says committee met for two or three years and prioritized issues that were most important. Says that worked well and would be good to have some form of that for this new TIF.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) suggests developing a target area to focus on within the larger TIF area.

Zalmezak says the TIF won’t generate funds immediately, so there will be time to have community input about setting priorities.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) claims the TIF will have an adverse impact on property owners all over town.

Zalmezak says if the Civic Center were to be converted to residential use the school districts have indicated they would want additional tax revenue.

Adds that the city doesn’t have to bond to fund projects in the TIF, unless the Council chooses to do so.

Public Comment (on the TIF hearing)

Diane Goldring says the proposed TIF district has more of a risk of gentrifying than decaying.

At about 8 p.m., the Council gets into a lengthy discussion about whether to try to answer questions raised by people at public comment tonight, or answer them later.

Nieuwsma proposes two minute time limit with staff to respond in writing to any questions raised within two weeks.

Motion passes 6-2 with Kelly and Burns voting no at 8:12 p.m.

It’s 8:30 p.m. and so far all of the commenters have been opposed to the TIF.

At 8:58 p.m. finally hear from one person mostly in favor of the TIF …

Sue Loellbach of Connnections for the Homeless says money, community acceptance and lack of intentional planning are the main barriers to affordable housing. She applauds the city for looking for ways to solve the money problem. But says need more planning to use the funding effectively.

End of public comment at 9:00 p.m.

Burns says he hopes to hold another public meeting on the TIF early in August.

Public hearing concludes at 9:08 p.m.

Biss says there’s lingering distrust about how comment is handled. Says need to have more mechanisms to have a dialogue.

Public Comment (for the regular council session)

Public Comment ends at 9:51 p.m.

Consent agenda

Items taken off consent agenda: A1, A7, A9, E1, H2.

Rest of consent agenda approved 8-0.

A1 – Payroll and bills
With amendment to add $3K plus for Ald. Devon Reid’s unapproved consultant from his time as city clerk.
Reid moves. Kelly seconds.

Fleming asks where the funds would come from.

Clerk Stephanie Mendoza says has $13K+ estimate for digitizing city records.
Wynne asks if the invoice is appropriate, because the prior council denied payment of the invoice.
Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings says its an issue for 2020 and the city is in 2021. But Council could pay it.

Burns says the contractor did the work and should be paid.

Biss says the city’s HR department told Reid and the contractor that the clerk was not authorized to bring on the contractor.
Biss notes that the hire exceeded the clerk’s budget and that there was a hiring freeze in effect.

Council votes 4-4. Mayor breaks the tie and votes no. So the motion fails.

Reid votes to hold the bills list.

Wynne moves to override the hold. Requires 6 votes and gets 6 votes with Reid and Kelly on the losing side.

Nieuwsma moves to approve the bills list without Reid’s addition.

That’s approved 6-2.

Reid moves approval of the $3,185. Council ties 4-4 on that motion and mayor breaks the tie by voting no. Reid, Fleming, Kelly and Burns were on the losing side.

At 10:25 p.m. the Council takes a break to restart the YouTube feed.

A7- 2021 GO bond issues

Kelly moves to hold. Reid seconds. No motion to override is made.

A9 – Lakefront parking fee pilot program

Suffredin moves to change the start date to July 19 and end date to Oct. 31.

(Had been July 1 to Sept. 6.)

Council ties. Biss breaks tie by voting yes. (Revelle, Reid, Kelly and Wynne voted no)

Wynne moves to hold. Kelly seconds. No motion to override the hold.

E1 – CNSCVB funding

Approved 5-3. Suffredin, Reid and Fleming vote no.

H2 – Food trucks on the lakefront

Reid moves an amendment to allow push carts, but not food trucks.
(And takes back his request for introduction and action tonight.)

Burns says push carts are a good first step as city evaluates other options.

Health Director Ike Ogbo says there’s one licensed push cart in Evanston (plus two licensed food trucks).

Revelle says she’s opposed to commercialization of the lakefront and would create a litter problem.

Nieuwsma says he’d like to work toward food trucks — needs more discussion on that — but fine now with push carts.

Suffredin says already have trash at the lakefront — so need to fix that problem — whether have food trucks or not.

City Manager Erika Storlie says staffing is a problem. Biggest issue is that people don’t put the trash in the can. Says for next year’s budget could have trash monitors working all day, rather than just trucks coming by periodically. May be other approaches. But would be a cost.

Suffredin says food trucks could generate revenue to address the trash problems. Says Wilmette has a catering business that operates at Gillson Park on the Wilmette lakefront.

Wynne says it would be a step toward commercializing the lakefront and need a thoughtful process about whether want to move forward on this.

Approved 6-2. Revelle and Wynne vote no.

Call of the wards

Suffredin … parkway plantings meeting on Wednesday online at 7 p.m.

Kelly … 1st ward meeting 7 p.m. at Noyes Arts Center

Nieuwsma … ward meeting … Tuesday Aug. 2 , 7 p.m. at Crown Center.

Burns — ward meeting 7/22, 7 p.m. hybrid meeting at Gibbs Morrison.

Biss says Referrals Committee will have its first meetin at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Meeting adjourned at 10:54 p.m.

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