Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday night’s Evanston City Council meeting.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.
Meeting called to order at 6:15 p.m.
April is Fair Housing Month.
This is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.
20 people signed up. 2:15 each.
Public comment ends at 7:19 p.m. The proposed affordable housing development at Church and Darrow drew the most interest with speakers offering sharply differing views
Special orders of business
SP1 – Discussion of proposed new ward map
Ald. Jonahan Nieuwsma (4th) runs through a presentation on the redistricting process that’s in the council packet.
Population deviation in existing map, adopted in 2003, is 20.4%. Court guidelines suggest that the deviation should be less than 10% to comply with one-person-one-vote rules.
Nieuwsma said committee tried to make very minor changes that would reduce the population deviation.
About 4,500 people — or less than 6% of Evanstonians –would be shifted to a new ward under the proposed new map.
Anticipates council approval of the new map by June 12.
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) says he would favor an alternative map. Says objects to the limitation to “minor” tweaks. Thinks should have a ward in which renters were more heavily represented.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) suggests could solve the deviation problem by just shifting population rom the 3rd to the 5th ward. (However, that would not actually get the deviation below the 10% goal — since the range between between 5th Ward and 2nd Ward is 13.1%)
Reid says elected officials shouldn’t be choosing “who our voters are.” Mayor says he agrees — based on his experience in Springfield, but says he believes the committee has done the job well.
Off consent A4, A14, P3, P4, ED1.
With those exceptions, consent agenda is approved.
A4 – Landmark Contractors contract for Oakton corridor improvements
Kelly says she’s opposed to funding this with general obligation bonds. Wants to use cash surplus instead.
Kelly moves that. Reid seconds for purpose of discussion.
City Engineer Lara Biggs says staff proposal is to continue to fund $2.85M of the project from general obligation bonds, which was approved in the 2023 budget.
CFO Hitesh Desai says city has about a $35 million surplus from 2022 — but many increased expenses for 2023. (How to handle that is to be discussed at Tuesday’s Finance and Budget Committee meeting.)
Nieuwsma asks whether it makes more sense to discuss later in the year what Council should actually bond for, rather than deciding on a project-by-project basis now.
Biggs says it really doesn’t matter for implementation of the capital program.
Nieuwsma says makes sense to wait until later in the year and make a “wholistic and fully informed decision.”
Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) says she agrees with Nieuwsma.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) also agrees with Nieuwsma.
Kelly accuses rest of council of being irresponsible in approving project with a specification regarding bond issuance.
Desai notes that last year the Council planned to issue general obligation bonds — but ended up not issuing them.
Kelly’s motion fails on a 2-6 vote. She and Reid vote for it.
Contract is approved on 6-2 vote. (Suffredin is absent.)
A14 – Worxbee contract agreement for virtual executive assistance service for council members
Nieuwsma says cost of this remote worker service is more than double what it would cost to have somebody do the work in house.
In response to question from Revelle, City Manager Luke Stowe says could probably get somebody hired in “several weeks, rather than several months.”
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) agrees with Nieuwsma.
Contract approved on a 6-2 vote. Nieuwsma and Kelly vote no.
P3 – 1801-1805 Church – Mt. Pisgah Church
Kelly asks about city approving when funding is not assured. Community Development Director Sarah Flax says financing isn’t part of the zoning review.
Kelly says could end up with an empty lot, because perhaps the money isn’t available.
Cummings says the Council tonight is being asked to approve a special use. If the special use isn’t approved, then the land swap doesn’t happen, he says.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) says all the provisions of the West Evanston Plan are being met by the projects — an iconic building, ground-floor retail and affordable housing with the height called for in the plan.
The church currently owns land — and swapping it with HODC. Its HODC that benefits from the city land donation, he says.
Flax says the prior council agreed that the city land would be donated to a partnership of HODC and the church.
Ordinance is approved on a 7-1 vote. Kelly votes no.
P4 – HODC affordable housing development at 1811-1815 Church
Burns said there’s been an extensive community engagement process regarding the project.
Kelly says HODC has been dismissive of concerns about 319 Dempster St. Says there’s been no response. Calls it a train wreck, been horrible for the residents. So can’t support the Church Street project.
Ordinance is approved on a 7-1 vote. Kelly votes no.
ED1 – Purchase of Meridian Barricades for special events
Nieuwsma says not sure need the 60 barricades called for at a cost of $600K. Asks how much ARPA funding is left
Flax says $6.3M is left. But several proposals pending. And then there is about $500K in interest on the ARPA funds. Appears Council can cover the barricades and the other proposals that the council has expressed high interest in. (But not some other ideas that have been suggested.)
Reid says he would only support the barricades at a much lower level — sees “a whole host of things” that would make the community safer.
Says people are think the world is a much scarier space than it really is.
Wynne says she sees the value of the barricades — calls them a good solution to a very complex problem.
Says need something that’s movable and quickly deployable and isn’t one of our big snow plows or dump trucks. Suggests reducing the number to 30. And moves that.
Sgt. Scott Sophier says it takes 18 to secure Fountain Square. For larger downtown events would need more.
Revelle says “these barriers sound like a really good investment to me.”
Audrey Thompson, parks director, suggests buying two trailers and 24 barriers … because that would mean only two staffers would be needed for the project.
Wynne withdraws her first amendment and makes a new one at the numbers suggested by Thompson.
Harris seconds that.
Sophier says price then would be about $303K
Amendment approved 6-0.
Motion as amended is approved 6-0.
Call of the Wards
Nieuwsma.. .ward meeting …. 4/19 7p Crown
Reid … ward meeting …last Thursday of month at 6 p.m.
Harris … ward meeting … sked TK.
Meeting adjourned at 9:50 p.m.
Ald Reid is right. Our perception of the world is scarier than it really is. The scariest would be a whole council filled with Reids.
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