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

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

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

Meeting called to order at 6:21 p.m.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) is absent. Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) is not on the podium at the start of the meeting.

Mayor Daniel Biss reads proclamation for Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month and discusses proclamation regarding Jewish American Heritage Month.

City Manager Luke Stowe introduces representatives for the 4th of July Association. Tracy Alden from the association, notes that its the 100th anniversary for the annual celebration in Evanston. Games in the morning, parade in the afternoon, fireworks at night. More info at

Fire Chief Paul Polep updates plans for lakefront operation this summer. Fire department is focusing on training lifeguards, he says. Beaches open this weekend.

Public Comment

1:10 per commenter … starts at 6:44 p.m.

Most comments about Margarita Inn … on that issue 21 people spoke in favor and 6 against.

Special orders of business

SP1 – 14-O-23 – Special use for Margarita Inn rooming house

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) speaks in favor.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) says are not ensuring that residents have safe environments. Says need stronger operating agreement, including non-retaliation provisions, staffing levels, recordkeeping, emergency closing, response to safety incidents, Narcan training and much more.

Asks corporation counsel regarding recusals of some alders.

Nick Cummings says all three members of council have been given advice. Says “we only give advice.” Says Evanston’s city code talks about conflicts being present if it benefits the member of the council. Says he’s not aware of any benefit bestowed on Revelle regarding this issue. Without that, it’s not a conflict of interest, he says.

Reid says he plans on voting on this issue. Says 17 complaints have been filed against him. Says he received general assistance that was available to any member of the public, didn’t ask for or receive any special benefit.

(Mayor notes that Suffredin has arrived.)

Suffredin and Kelly vote no. Approved 6-2. (Burns is not present.)

SP2 – 37-R-23 – Operating agreement with Connections

Nieuwsma says it will provide city oversight of Connections to provide assurance that Margarita residents will be protected and will have minimum impact on community.

Moves amendment to the operating agreement — makes nine changes.

Says onboarding process should include screening for physical and mental health issues… various other changes … including prohibition on loitering on adjacent properties.

Also requires Connections to provide annual report on outcomes for residents.

Wynne seconds the amendments.

Cummings says amendment to paragraph B9 is not supported by law department staff. Says it’s in police department’s purview, and says it’s very difficult for a property owner to try to enforce a loitering provision on other properties.

Reid says he shares Cummings’ concerns regarding the loitering provision on adjacent properties and he moves to remove that provision. Revelle seconds.

Reid’s amendment carries 7-1. Nieuwsma votes no.

Vote on Nieuwsma’s amendment as amended carries 7-1. Kelly votes no.

Kelly asks about smoking. Cummings says city ordinance permits smoking in individual rooms if Connections allows it. Kelly wants it to be completely smoke free.

At request of Kelly, Daniel Lauber, an attorney, says operating agreement is too “loosey-goosey.” Says there’s no clarity about what’s required in many provisions.

Kelly says most cities are moving away from shelters with large numbers of residents — but if going to have that here, much more detail is needed in the operating agreement.

Reid says some of the requirements are too onerous. Says, regarding Narcan, shouldn’t expect every resident to be a hero. Says reasonable for staff to be mandated, but not for residents.

Suggests if Kelly wants changes she should make motions for that.

Cummings says the vast majority of Lauber’s suggestions were included.

Says are getting to a fine line between having an operating agreement or having the city operating the facility. Says retaliation provision is supported by the city’s human right’s ordinance. City’s here to enforce but not run the facility, he says.

Nieuwsma notes that Connections’ rules for the shelter bar smoking in the building.

Says city should regard Connections as a trusted partner.

Kelly moves to table to June 12 meeting. Motion fails for lack of a second.

Amended operating agreement is approved 6-2. Kelly and Suffredin vote no.

(Audience applauds the vote.)

SP3 – Harley Clarke Mansion discussion

Revelle thanks staff for the “extensive memo” in the packet. Says a realistic financial strategy is needed. Says “public project” model isn’t what Council has in mind. “Private project” is what tried most recently. Fundraising isn’t a sustainable business model, she says. Wants to talk about “public-private partnership” model.

Cade Sterling, city planner who administers the historic preservation program, says a Request for an Expression of Interest would say the city is open to a myriad of different alternatives and is asking for expressions of interest.

Reid says should do the “expression of interest” pathway. Says its clear that the grounds would be accessible, but that that another group will have the right to maintain the grounds and that the coach house will be utilized by the garden group.

Nieuwsma asks about getting the property on the National Register of Historic Properties.

Sterling says likely would have to be a private owner of the building to qualify for the tax benefits that could provide.

Nieuwsma says he wants to see this completed. Says preserving an old house on the lakefront is nowhere on the Council’s Top 10 list of goals.

Kelly suggests reaching out to the prior applicants for the property, rather than doing a whole new RFP.

Suffredin says Civic Center is still falling apart, Service Center is falling apart, Police/Fire HQ is falling apart. How can prioritize worrying about Harley Clarke, given staff resource limits?

Can be a big distraction for

Sterling says that’s a significant question. One of the models is disposition or sale of the property. Could have public assess agreements, etc. Says that’s the most expedient and common approach.

Suffredin says we have larger issues that need to be resolved that are core infrastructure needs. Can’t do another two years of this (worrying about Harley Clarke).

Geracaris agrees with Suffredin and Nieuwsma that doesn’t want to spend a lot of time.

Sterling says he would recommend that interested parties resubmit — with fewer restrictions than had the last time around.

Revelle says had resounding expression of support from wider community that said 80% of the community wanted the city to save the mansion. Says there have been renewed expressions of interest from the groups that responded to the RFP before.

Revelle moves that have staff prepare a request for expressions of interest with a four month timeline and that could include the whole Harley Clarke property.

Sarah Flax, community development director, suggests having Landmarks Illinois work on it and have multiple organizations apply.

Geracaris says he wants to keep it as open-ended as possible to get as many ideas as possible.

Reid moves to take the grounds and coach house from the RFEI and somebody seconds.

Motion fails 2-7. Reid, and I think Kelly, voted yes.

Reid moves to limit the period to three months. That fails for the lack of a second.

Burns says he’s concerned that this proposal would block moving forward with a lease with the Jens Jensen gardens group.

On motion by Revelle, vote is 5-3 to give staff direction. No votes from Reid, Kelly and Harris. (It’s now 9:17 p.m.)

Consent agenda

Off consent: A6 (defeated in committee), A7, A8, P2, HS1, HS2.

Consent agenda approved 8-0.

A7 – Motorola contract

As amended in committee, correct amount is $33K, not $267K

Approved 7-0. Burns and Reid not present.

A8 – Outreach worker new hire

Parks and Rec Director Audrey Thompson says requests for assistance have increased dramatically. Says need, originally 18-24-year-olds now has expanded to also need to provide help to middle school age youths. Says she’s amazed that workers have been able to do as much as they do.

Have five positions now, with one vacancy. This would increase authorized staffing to six.

Approved 9-0.

P2 – 48-O-23 – 5th Ward school

In response to questions, District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton says its likely that the Bessie Rhodes program that has been proposed to be moved to the new school is likely to transition to be a two-way-immersion (English/Spanish) program.

He also indicates that the school, designed to hold 900 students, is most likely to open with about 700 students.

Approved 8-0. Suffredin is absent for the vote.

HS1 – 1-O-23 Bag tax and plastic bag ban

Revelle moves to amend ordinance to change compostable bags to whatever the recycling facility accepts.

Amendment approved 8-0.

Ordinance as amended approved 8-0.

HS2 – Evanston Fair Workweek Ordinance

Harris says she’s being bombarded by businesses and residents in the 2nd ward who are not in favor of the ordinance.

Nieuwsma says he has similar concerns to Harris. Would want landscaping companies removed and the number of employees raised to 100+. Says doesn’t believe the ordinance addresses a need from stakeholders, concerned about administrative burden on businesses and city and potential unintended consequeences

Revelle says has received a very compelling letter from landscaping businesses to exclude them from the ordinance. Moves to exempt them. Wynne seconds.

Amendment approved 7-0.

Revelle moves to change the threshold for businesses covered substituting 100 for 15 employees. Wynne seconds.

Revelle says she shares Nieuwsma’s concern about unintended consequences.

Amendment approved 8-0.

Burns he can’t see a “fact pattern” for why the industries that have been excluded were excluded.

Biss says the initial ordinance was really ambitious — went way beyond what’s been done elsewhere. And now the amendments put the city back in line with what other communities have done and rules that have been in place for three or four years.

Burns says Evanston does a lot of things that other cities wouldn’t do at all.

Harris says we’re coming out of a pandemic and imposing a bunch of new taxes and regulations on businesses. Need to do more research before passing an ordinance.

Nieuwsma says need more robust recovery from COVID for him to get to “yes” on this ordinance. Says the city is spending a lot of money and time on “Evanston Thrives.” Doesn’t think this is the right time to impose this burden on local businesses.

Staff says, in response to question from Kelly, that with amendments tonight ordinance is generally in line with Chicago. But Chicago does include event spaces (concessions and ticket agents) and Evanston does not.

Ordinance as amended is approved 6-2. Harris and Nieuwsma vote no.

Call of the Wards

Geracaris… ward meeting June 15 in person

Council votes to go into executive session to discuss workers comp, real estate and personnel (and something else). Public meeting ends at 10:42 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. A Major goal the Council did agree to in 2023 was Economic Dev but a recent decision on Harley Clarke was to refuse a business offer to purchase the deteriorating property which would have increased City revenues via sale plus ongoing recurring taxes. It is time to now stand by Council Econ Dev goal. Stop the unsuccessful money-losing lakefront property ownership by City with fractioned leasing that included ‘promises’ for donations to repair. This time when you are presented with a profitable offer on this lakefront property please sell it –“whole”. WE will then have a whole pizza (sale monies) and go on eating it too (taxes). Ceal H. 4th Warder

    1. Not sure what meeting you watched, but there was no offer by anyone to purchase the property. Last nights decision was to move forward with all options on the table including potential sale of the property as an option to explore. It seems previous options were limited to long-term lease agreements that required the City to maintain ownership. Last night was a big step in the right direction toward actually realizing the properties economic potential, realizing its restoration, and getting the City out of the business of playing developer and land lord.

  2. Way too many issues to allow Harley Clark to get attention. I’d love to see a functional recall statute but doubt that will happen.

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