Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday night’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting, originally scheduled for 6 p.m., now is scheduled to start at 7:35 p.m. because the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting ran long.

A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.

Council called to order at 7:44 p.m.

All alders present. Mayor Daniel Biss chairs the meeting.

City Manager Luke Stowe says has met with Black employees group. Says will have an update next week and report more fully at the next City Council meeting.

Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings announced promotion of Alex Ruggie to deputy city attorney.

Public Comment

15 speakers.

Ellen King of Hewn Bread says her business has always focused on improving environment. Says doesn’t have time to be able to record and submit the tax. Says should focus on other ways to work together with the business community.

Aina Gutierrez, head of the Rebuilding Warehouse, urges rejection of the demolition contract for the Emerson-Jackson site. Says the city should deconstruct the buildings instead. Suggests deconstruction would cost at least twice as much.

Katherine Gotsick, of Main Dempster Mile, says local small businesses oppose the bag tax. Adding any chilling effect on new businesses will likely lead to closing of more businesses, she suggests.

Kelsey Bednar. of Walsh Natural Health on Central Street, says anything that creates a negative perception of Evanston businesses will hurt local businesses — driving customers away. Suggests taxing Amazon deliveries instead.

Special order of business

SP1 – Fifth Ward School/Community Center Update

Lara Biggs, city engineer, discusses the several different options for the site.


Says need to have a lot more public engagement

Suggests several potential next steps

  • Separate from D65 schedule (which is moving very fast).
  • Hire a consultant to plan, design and oversee potential construction of city improvements related to FJCC.
  • Expand public engagement.
  • Amend the existing MOU with D65.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) says the idea that we don’t need to decide “soonish” what direction we’re going to — for the school district to be able to move ahead.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) asks whether there’s any possibility of the city and the school district could co-manage a single facility?

Biggs says it’s been very difficult to share facilities because both parties need to use the same spaces at the same time.

Given, that Nieuwsma says, he agrees with what Biggs is suggesting.

Biss asks what needs to be decided by what deadline?

Biggs says D65 needs information about where to locate its building and that the site will include certain things.

Biss says because of small survey response — doesn’t think public preference is clear — especially about field space

Burns says the area is already stressed for parking and says survey indicated strong preference for having field space.

City Manager Luke Stowe says the issue was on the October, November and December agendas for the Parks and Rec board.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says the potential cost is “pretty staggering” for most of the options.

Burns says conversations about building out Fleetwood have been under discussion for some time. Says $24 million is included in the Five Fifths TIF plan.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) says can’t make any decisions at the Finance and Budget Committee meeting Tuesday — because have no packet information for it. Will have to discuss at future meetings.

Consent agenda

Off: A2, A4, A6, A11 through A17, H1, H2,

With those deletions, consent agenda is approved.

Items removed from consent

A2 – Amazon credit card activity

Approved 7-0-1. Suffredin abstains

A4 – Demolition of Emerson-Jackson properties

Nieuwsma says he’s concerned about environmental impact of the demolition. Suggests re-refer it to A&PW and have staff to rebid with more robust environmental process.

Revelle suggests also reconsider bidding criteria for demolition projects more broadly.

Approved 9-0.

A6 – Contract with Teska for Howard Street special service area

Reid praises work of Paul Zalmezak and other city staff in developing the concept.

Approved 8-0. (Burns is out of the room for the vote.)

A11 – Bolder Contractor change order for 30-inch transmission main

Kelly says it’s a very large overrun — 20% of the total. Says it’s too much for a change order.

Approved 8-0. (Burns is out of the room for the vote.)

A12 – Purchase of 729-739 Howard (the laundromat)

Suffredin asks about rationale for purchase price exceeding the appraised value.

Economic Development Manager Paul Zalmezak says the appraisal was done on the land. Says the business has a value and the business owners were in the market to sell the business to another laundromat. Says there are resources to sell used laundry equipment.

Reid says the city-owned 727-729 Howard parcel wasn’t big enough for a development on its own. Says the laundromat owner could have made more selling to another buyer. Thanks the family who owns the business for being willing to sell.

Suffredin says Evanston taxpayers are now invested in a laundromat at the Aux — and now will be buying another. But notes that this purchase will be done with TIF money.

Approved 7-2. Suffredin and Kelly vote no.

A13-17 – Four liquor license items, plus an IEPA water supply loan

Motion to suspend the rules for introduce and action tonight is approved.

And final vote also carries by 8-0.

H1 – Bag tax

Reid moves. Geracaris seconds.

Nieuwsma says as an environmental advocate he’s fully in support of getting folks to use reusable shopping bags, but has a number of small businesses in his ward and can’t support the ordinance given the precarious state of many small businesses.

Says he and Revelle have discussed some potential amendments.

Revelle agrees with Nieuwsma — says would put an undue burden on smaller businesses in Evanston. Would want bag fee ordinance to apply only to businesses of 10,000 square feet or larger — the ones subject to the current bag ordinance.

Reid says environmental impact is important. Says a tax is extremely effective in reducing plastic bag usage.

Does a live demo of online tractions using Square, including the plastic bags. Claims it would take less than five minutes to do the reporting for the city.

Claims there are no studies that show the tax is detrimental to business.

Harris says she thinks the visual Reid used was oversimplified. Says small businesses are struggling coming out of COVID. Tax is a bad move right now, she says.

Geracaris says he’d just like to ban plastic bags in general. Need to also figure out something about how can exempt small businesses if they’re just using paper bags. Favors a motion to table and work on it a little more.

Revelle says California last year passed a ban on plastic “pre-checkout” bags — but allowing compostable ones.

Cara Pratt, sustainability coordinator, says the current ordinance proposal would ban all plastic bags as of April 2024.

Burns says he hasn’t heard concerns about the ban from small business owners — only about the tax.

Nieuwsma moves to amend the draft ordinance, but Biss interrupts says he’s uneasy asking people to vote on something that’s a bulleted list of policy concepts rather than the text of the ordinance.

Reid moves to send the issue back to Human Services.

Nieuwsma then suggests discussion of his suggestions.

Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings says he’d prefer referring it back to committee.

Nieuwsma asks about excluding small businesses from the tax … maybe 6 favor.

Eliminate any reference to “gift bags.” Reduce fee from 15 cents to 10 cents.

Effective date of June 1, 2023, for the bag tax. (rather than April 1.)

Set the future date for the outright ban on pre-checkout non-compostable plastic bags Jan. 1, of 2025 — to align with California laws that are coming onto the books.

He moves to refer the ordinance back to the Human Services committee. Revelle seconds.

Approved 8-1. Suffredin votes no.

H2 – Ban on cashless establishments

Reid moves, Kelly seconds.

Suffredin asked how many businesses are cashless.

There are a few, Reid says, but doesn’t know exactly how many.

Burns says NU basketball games don’t accept cash.

Suffredin asks whether there was any economic development impact considerd on this or only equity.

Suffredin says he was at Bears game at Soldiers Field yesterday and it’s cashless.

Suffredin says he can think of a lot of reasons why it would not be a bad idea for a small business to be cashless. May affect businesses that are thinking about moving here.

Doesn’t think city is in a position to be hostile toward investment.

Reid asks what about people. Says they’re unable to access basic resources.

Approved 8-1.

Call of the wards

Revelle… 7 to 8 pm. at Chandler Tuesday … reimagining Independence Park.

Harris.. Jan 24 meeting virtually.

Nieuwsma … 4th Ward NOT tomorrow…will be re-escheuled to Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in Room D at Crown.

Council votes to go into executive session at 9:46 p.m. to discuss collective bargaining, litigation and the purchase or real property.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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