Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday night’s — and early Tuesday morning’s — Evanston City Council meeting.
The meeting, originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m., is now scheduled to start at 8:25 p.m. because committee meetings preceding it ran long.
A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.
Meeting called to order at 8:30 p.m.
Mayor Daniel Biss reads announcements and proclamations.
City Manager Luke Stowe says city has received a report from a group of Black employees — which senior staff is taking very seriously. Says will have a roadmap before the end of the month addressing recommendations.
29 people signed up tonight, so 1:40 per speaker, says the mayor.
Most speakers speak in favor of report from some Black employees claiming discrimination in city hiring and employee-relations practices. Many also support fully funding public safety pensions.
Public comment lasts about 1 hour and 7 minutes.
Special orders of business
SP1 – Discussion of Capital Improvement Program
Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) wants Fitzsimmons Park included in funding for next year. Says it’s desperately in need of some improvements and provides an alternative for families that don’t want to use Grey Park because it gets heavy use from Albany Care residents.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says she’s disappointed that Independence Park work will be delayed, but looks forward to seeing it done in 2024.
SP2 – 2023 Budget
Gas tax increase
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) proposes increasing motor fuel tax from 3-cents per gallon to 5-cents. Skokie is at 3-cents, Chicago at 8-cents.
Corporation Counsel Nick Cummings says can amend that if want.
Reid also proposes $5 increase in the wheel tax. Says both could support CARP goals and green transportation with city. Says would make it more like Chicago’s.
Cummings says would also have to later make ordinance changes to impose the tax increases.
Biss says he’s uneasy with two things — the abruptness at the end of the whole year. Also says fines and fees are regressive and inequitable. Interested in supporting CARP goals, but concerned about the other issues as well.
Reid says a 2-cent increase isn’t regressive (– although it is a 66% increase in the rate).
Geracaris says he’s concerned it will affect working class citizens who have to commute and have to drive places. Also unsure how it will affect gas stations — if people leave Evanston to buy their gas.
Harris concerned about taxing on top of taxing. Think will economically impact people. Suggests a 1-cent increase instead.
Revelle says she favor’s Harris’ idea of a 1-cent increase.
Reid says he’s not concerned about the profits of BP or Exxon. And will be below Chicago’s rate and gain significant money for CARP goals.
Cara Pratt, sustainability and resilience coordinator, says low income people most likely to have more gas guzzling vehicles and so tax would be regressive.
Harris says she’ll go to Skokie to buy her gas if it’s cheaper there.
Reid says he’ll make a substitute amendment for just a 1-cent increase.
Harris seconds that.
Approved 7-2. Suffredin and Geracaris vote no.
Wheel tax increase
Reid moves $5 across-the-board increase in the wheel tax.
Nieuwsma seconds “for the environment.”
Revelle says did $5 increase this year and “that’s quite a bit for families to absorb.” Not opposed to another increase eventually, but next year is too soon, she says.
Fails 3-6. Nieuwsma, Burns and Reid voted for it.
Kelly moves to add $4.5 million to public safety pension funding (on top of $21 million already in budget). [Doesn’t have breakdown for how much to each fund.]
Appears that all council members support that — but no formal vote taken because of lack of specific numbers for each fund.
PPRT (personal property replacement tax)
Kelly proposes increasing the anticipated revenue in this account from $1.75M to $2.75M.
CFO Hitesh Desai says this revenue is subject to state’s arbitrary changes. Says over past five to seven years have never been close to the number the city got this year. Says he might be comfortable with up to $2M.
Says Illinois Municipal League anticipates a reduction in the revenue for next year.
Desai says a portion of the money goes to the public safety pension funds.
Kelly wants to put the extra anticipated revenue to help fund the public safety pension increase.
Nieuwsma says he’s intrigued by the idea but wants to know more about it.
At this point Reid has run out of time.
Mayor asks whether Council wants to extend time limit.
No indication that they do.
Kelly withdraws motion.
Harris thanks her for doing that.
Burns says he supported Reid’s wheel tax increase. Says Council needs to talk seriously about revenue — especially to fund road repairs, etc.
Geracaris says he likes the idea of charging for non-resident parking at facilities. Asks how much that would generate at Crown and James Park.
City manager says there are a lot of moving pieces to that idea — staff needs some time to analyze it further.
RETT – Real Estate Transfer Tax
Kelly suggests assuming a $500K increase in projected real estate transfer tax revenue. But says she’ll make that proposal later.
Nieuwsma says shouldn’t expect too much from that revenue source– especially given high interest rates. In the end its just a projection — to be financially prudent would rather under-project and find self with a surplus at the end of the year.
Kelly says revenue has always been way over. (That’s only true if you don’t look back all that far.)
Kelly moves to table the budget ordinance to the Nov. 21 special meeting.
Motion to table passes unanimously.
SP3 – SP 10 – Tax levy ordinances
Reid moves to table (until Nov. 21). Harris seconds.
Motion to table passes unanimously.
Off consent: A2, A11, A16, P2, H2, H4, R1, R2.
Consent agenda, with those exceptions is approved 8-1. Harris voted no.
A2 – Amazon credit card activity
Approved 8-1. Suffredin abstains.
A11 – City payment for private sewer line repair costs
Amendment in committee cuts amount that people with household incomes less than $100K would only have to cover $5K of the cost. Other residents would have to pick up $15K of the cost.
Nieuwsma says he opposes the plan. Reluctant to put the city on the hook for potentially millions of dollars into the future.
Reid says estimated liability is likely less than $50K a year, based on staff projections.
Approved 5-4. Wynne, Nieuwsma, Suffredin and Revelle vote no.
A16 – Florence and Washington three-way stop
For intro and action tonight. Approved 9-0.
P2 – Signage for Underwriters Laboratories at 1603 Orrington
For intro and action tonight. Approved 8-1. Kelly votes no.
H2 – LEAP agreement for Reimaging Public Safety Committee
Kelly moves to table until Nov. 28. Fails for lack of a second.
Reid says its important to have progressively-minded former law enforcement officers — like LEAP — work on the project to get buy-in from Evanston police officers.
H4 – Food Sanitation Code amendments
For intro and action. Approved 9-0.
R1 – $5M in ARPA funds for reparations economic development initiatives
Reid asks what would be left in ARPA if this funding would be approved.
Sarah Flax, interim community development director, says what has been approved tonight is $1.245M.
Started with balance of $9M+
Says some things are pending $2.1M in budget balancing, $1.5M for equipment and $600K for parking fund.
Rebuildng warehouse, small landlord program, Mather workforce development. If all move forward, she says, would have remaining $193K … after funding the reparations.
Providence, Rhode Island, included people harmed by the city, indiginous, residents facing poverty (low income census tracts) — have an 11-point plan with lots of different components, Flax says.
Providence has about 190K people she says. Demogrpahics are somewhat different. 29% live below the poverty line. Have a lot more qualified census tracts than Evanston.
Reid says Evanston has a race-based reparations program for African Americans — suggests making a $3M to $5M investment from reserves — instead of using ARPA funds (so could keep reparations race-based).
Suffredin asks how the $5M number arrived at.
Cummings says the debate at the reparations committee meeting looked at two different ARPA funding sources (negative impacts and something else) that totaled $18M, and concluded a reasonable request would be $5M.
Reid says he believed there was only about $9M left in ARPA funds at the time recommendation was made in October.
Suffredin asks is this in in addition to the $10M originally funded or in addition?
Cummings says it’s two separate items all together. ARPA to economic development. the RETT funds would supplement the cannabis tax.
Nieuwsma says proud to live in community where are at the forefront of reparations. Understands that lack of cannabis revenue is hurting the program. But balking at $5M ask that almost fully depletes ARPA funds without taking time to think about it.
Revelle says agrees with Nieuwsma. Appreciates adding economic development as a focus area for reparations work. Wants more detail on what the ARPA funds would be used for. All the other ARPA proposals have had much more detail. And $5M is a really big ask. Shares Reid’s concern about if ARPA has to be census-tract focused rather than focused on Black residents.
Cummings says could come up with specific proposals later.
Burns asks if it could be used to fund the restorative housing program. Flax says couldn’t do that if chosen through existing process.
Flax says couldn’t do it because city program is all race-based. Cummings says — race was a qualifier.
Harris says she’s 5 million percent behind the proposal. Important to live up to the commitment. $5 million is actually a slap in the face, she says.
Kelly says she’s 100% supportive of reparations. Wants to see the program more defined. Maybe put it to the alternative mental health response program instead or in addition.
Reid again suggests using reserve funds instead of ARPA funds so the city can keep the program strictly race-based.
Former Ald. Robin Rue Simmons says economic development was one of three the original targets for the reparations program — housing and educational initiatives were the other two.
Nieuwsma says the city already has an Economic Development Committee that’s distributing ARPA funds.
Rue Simmons says its hard to hear that $5M is so much. Says the initial $10 million was just a start to what the Reparations Committee thinks is needed.
Flax says could put the $5M ARPA funds as “replacement revenue.”
Cummings says now’s the time to allocate a revenue stream to reparations, if the council wants to do that.
Burns says he wants to use up to $2 million in reserve funds to fund housing aid to seniors already on the restorative housing program list.
Revelle says need to table the ARPA discussion until have more detail about what else is on the wish list. (But doesn’t actually make that motion yet.)
Nieuwsma says he would second a motion to table if such a motion were made.
Harris says Council didn’t make comparisons for other ARPA projects before making those decisions.
Burns says he supports $2M from ARPA, $2M from reserves and $1M from RETT.
Wynne says she needs more time and information, but not intending to spend the $5M on anything else. Says agrees with Burns that need to fund the aid for seniors sooner rather than later.
Reid says the reparations committee wants the council to trust the black community with the funds.
Burns says there’s no way you’re going to get a fleshed out proposal about economic development by Nov. 28. Suggests reducing the ARPA ask to $2 million. And provide $2M from reserves to fund the housing aid for seniors.
Garacaris says he’s ready to vote to give the money tonight.
Revelle moves to table to Dec. 12 meeting. Nieuwsma seconds.
Approved 5-4. Harris, Burns, Reid and Geracaris vote no.
R2 – RETT tax transfer to Reparations Fund
This is the tax collected on properties that sell for over $1.5M.
Cummings says it would be the increment of the tax on the sale price over $1.5M.
Suffredin says the money is allocated to the general fund now — asks whether this proposal would create a transfer out of the general fund?
Desai says the numbers he provided the reparations committee were for the entire tax on sales over $1.5M (not the way Cummings described it).
Desai says, in response to Suffredin’s questions, that, yes, this would create a shortfall in general fund revenue.
And, Suffredin says, “We don’t have a proposed replacement for that at 12:30 at night.”
Biss says it could end up with a fight between pensions and reparations for the same $1M.
Suffredin says he’s concerned that council would be creating a $1M hole without any idea about how to fill it.
Reid suggests dipping into surplus.
Revelle says she thinks given that dispensary has not proved lucrative this appears to be the only way to keep the promise to the ancestors.
Suffredin moves to hold. Kelly seconds.
Reid moves to overturn the hold. Harris seconds.
Suffredin says need to figure out the budget in total and a million is not an inconsequential amount of money.
Nieuwsma says he’s ultimately in favor of this, but taking a week to sort it out and fit it into the budget makes sense.
Reid says commit the money tonight and then fill the hole later
Vote on overturning the hold carries 6-3
Motion allocating the funds approved 7-2.
Call of the Wards
Burns .. Dec 6 6p… 5th Ward School and Fleetwood meeting.
Revelle … Thursday 7 p.m. meeting on Ryan Field.
Reid … Special order of business for 11/28 to transfer 2M from general funds reserves to reparations funds. (Approved 7-1. Kelly votes no.)
Council votes to go into executives session to discuss collective bargaining and litigation. Public meeting ends at 12:50 a.m. Tuesday.