Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday night’s Evanston City Council meeting.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:40 p.m.
A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.
Meeting called to order at 5:48 p.m.
Council votes to go into executive session. Mayor says it’s a “surprise issue that’s arisen very recently” and can be addressed briefly. Subject matter was listed as “vacancies in public office and dismissals of public employees.”
Executive session starts at 5:50 p.m.
Update 6:30 p.m.: Still in executive session.
City Council members return to the council chambers from executive session at 6:43 p.m.
Meeting resumes at 6:45 p.m.
Mayor Daniel Biss reads proclamation declaring this week Violence Prevention Week and June 3 Gun Violence Prevention Day.
Interim City Manager Kelley Gandurski announces city’s fleet management group has won an award as among the “100 Best” in the Americas.
Mayor praises city staff’s outreach team and “Angel Mom’s” for their violence prevention efforts.
Wendy Pollock, co-chair of the city’s Environment Board, praises the selection of John Fournier as city manager.
Jerri Garl also praises selection of Fournier.
Mary Rosinski says she’s disappointed in the process for selecting a new city manager.
Special orders of business
SP1 – Appointment of John Fournier as city manager
Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) moves. Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) seconds.
Nieuwsma says he enthusiastically supports Fournier as manager. Evanston is on the extreme end of the scale for public engagement, he says, so that weeded out a lot of candidates. By contrast Fournier said he wouldn’t want to work in a community where there wasn’t substantial public engagement.
Says everybody should give him the benefit of the doubt, “because his success will be our success.”
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says was looking for somebody with demonstrated ability to manage a complex organization like Evanston. Says Fournier has hands on experience in that regard — from his work in Ann Arbor. Also praises his budget-related work in Pittsburgh.
Says he also has experience in the climate action field.
Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) praises Fornier’s enthusiasm for cities and says he matches his views on a lot of policy ideas.
Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) says as he asked very difficult questions of Fournier it became clear he was the most experienced in managing a complex organization. Praises his budget experience and understanding of how municipal budgets are supposed to be run. Also experienced with town-gown issues — a vital element.
Says both Evanston department directors and manager-level employees favored Fournier.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) says Fournier has a solid understanding of communities –but she had concerns about equity — and her ward and other wards in the survey favored the other candidate. Can’t support the contract, she says.
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) says Fournier comes from a city manager form of government — what Evanston has had for the past 70 years. He has experience in finance and budget. He presented the council with data-driven solutions to a wide array of problems — particularly climate action problems. Praises innovations he achieved in Ann Arbor. Says Evanston needs to continue innovating. Town-gown experience really important, “We need to partner more with Northwestern and bash heads with them less.”
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) says thinks Fornier is an extremely impressive candidate for city manager. Likes what he had to say about “all kinds of nerdy stuff.” But says he has some concerns — about HR questionnaire he used. “Leads me to question your judgment when it comes to racial equity issues,” he says. Says it’s important that the contract will provide for racial equity training for the new manager. But Reid says he thinks Fournier “will do a fine job here.”
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) references contract provision “for diversity, equity and inclusion training” for the new manager. Says that’s language “that John happily accepted.” Notes that Fournier was cleared by an investigation of the HR incident where a complaint was filed against him. Burns says he appreciated Fournier’s responses to questions around equity. Says 5th Ward residents want results, not more talk.
Approve 9-1. Kelly votes no.
Mayor says the interim manager, Kelley Gandurski, was put in a ridiculous position and handled it with grace. Council members give her a brief round of applaus.
Biss says there was a lot of public input that was very helpful and played a key role in the council’s decisionmaking.
Says had two really impressive finalists and that the search firm did a great job of generating strong finalists. Says the strengths of the two finalists were really different.
Says Fourier was knowledgeable, precise and organized. Says council has clarity about where it wants to go but hasn’t been so good on how to get from point A to point B.
Says the message from the election last year is that change must happen. Thinks Fourier is the candidate to make it happen.
Fournier says he comes to Evanston with a lot of hope an ambition — to work with a tremendously talented staff and with the community.
Off consent: A6, A9, A10, A12, HC1, F1, F2.
A6 – Crossing guards intergovernmental agreement
A9 – Eliminating water shutoffs for non-payment
Reid moves. Fails for lack of a second.
A10 – Eliminating cannabinoids from pre-employment drug screening
Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings says the new rule would eliminate cannabinoids from pre-employment screening.
Geracaris says marijuana is legal in Illinois and we shouldn’t be denying employment to people who partake.
Braithwaite — asks how CDL drivers and police and fire.
Cummings says commercial drivers license holders are required by federal law to not use cannabinoids.
Says state law requires that police have to bargain as part of union contract. Do have testing procedure in place. Are required to have a drug-free workplace policy because of federal law. Can send them for testing immediately on the spot.
Says current pre-employment testing checks the presence — not the level of drugs.
Gandurski says the City of Chicago has a very similar policy to Evanston’s. Says city has completely revamped its handbook — will see some changes that reflect more modern times and best practices.
Burns says the change wouldn’t eliminate the city’s ability to test employees when there’s reasonable suspicion. Just doesn’t want to deny people employment for doing something that is legal during non-work hours.
Says marijuana is as commonly used as alcohol. Says the current policy is disrupting the city’s ability to provide job opportunities to communities that the city wants to serve.
A12 – Wheel tax $5 increase for CARP
Approved 5-4. Suffredin, Kelly, Braithwaite and Wynne vote no.
A9 – Eliminating water shutoffs for non-payment
Kelly moves to revive this issue that failed for lack of a second previously.
Stoneback, in response to question from Reid says only Chicago is not doing water shutoffs. Several other communities that had stopped shutoffs during the pandemic including Detroit, have resumed shutoffs, Stoneback says.
Reid says its barbaric to shut off water to people.
Braithwaite says he gets exhausted by the theatrics sometimes.
Says the city has an excellent service called general assistance that helps residents pay their water bill. And city staff does excellent job of giving people help when they need it.
Says this is exhausted by the theatrics and this is wasting our time.
Fails 4-5. Voting in favor were Reid, Geracaris, Kelly and Burns.
HC1 – HOME funding for TBRA rental assistance
Kelly asks whether Tina Paden’s situation, referenced during public comment earlier in the meeting, has been resolved.
Sarah Flax, housing and grants administrator, says she doesn’t believe this program — the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program — is involved in that issue.
Kelly says its the same grantee. Flax don’t want to cut off the children who would be aided by this program to address the other issue.
Revelle agrees with Flax.
F1 – Bookkeeping change to increase last year’s budget
Went over budget by $11.5 million in some funds — but overall budget was under budget.
Approved 8-0 (Suffredin has left the room.)
F2 – Q1 financials update (discussion item)
CFO Hitesh Desai says, “We are doing pretty good.”
Revenue looks particularly good he says, because first installment property tax revenue has arrived.
Says will have better projections by the half-year report.
Says because of rising fuel costs may go over budget in that category this year.
Says city has enough revenue to deal with a possible delay in issuance of second installment property tax bills.
Call of the wards
Reid … 8th Ward meeting Thursday 6 p.m. via Zoom … will have a discussion of ranked choice voting
Geracaris … 1st Thursday.. 9th Ward meeting.
Kelly … condolences to Braithwaite on the loss of his mother.
Braithwaite … thanks for friends expression of condolences. Funeral arrangements TBD.
Wynne … seconds the condolences. 3rd Ward meeting Thursday 7 p.m. at Lincoln School
Nieuwsma … ditto the condolences… Ward meeting Tuesday, June 7, @ Crown.
Burns … also condolences to Braithwaite … Ward meeting Thursday 7 p.m.
Biss .. also condolences to Braithwaite.
Council votes to go into executive session regarding purchase or sale of real property and the public meeting ends at 9:12 p.m.