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Recap: Evanston City Council

Here's a recap of our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council meeting.

Here’s a recap of our our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 5:21 p.m.

Mayor Steve Hagerty ays he’s aware that power is out in parts of Evanston (including at Alderman Tom Suffredin’s house).

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, and Aldemran Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, aren’t present for the start of the meeting.

Mayor cautions that the city’s COVID-19 rate is increasing — positive test rate has doubled — though still lower than the increasing statewide rate.

Says need to redouble efforts — wearing masks and taking other precautions.

Notes that number of cases among young people is increasing dramatically. Parents need to have the talk with kids about behaving responsibly. Try to avoid traveling to other states, if possible.

No new restrictions at city level at this point, but says that could change.

Mentions new state rental assistance program.

Issues proclamation marking the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. More about events related to the anniversary at evanstonwomen.org.

Interim City Manager Eric Storlie says city needs to mitigate damage to the shoreline — notes the project on the agenda regarding that tonight.

Related story.

Staff presentation.

Lara Biggs, city engineer, says had damaging storm a week ago and again today. Says now have beach houses that are being flooded and would anticipate more damage if the temporary repairs aren’t made.

Intern in City Clerk Devon Reid’s office does presentation on proposal to allow online public comment at meetings, after meetings themselves return to an in-person format.

Says because of cost of babysitter, it’s difficult for parents with children to attend Council meetings. Minorities and people with disabilities also have difficulting getting to meetings.

Public Comment

Mike Vasilko says council continues to spend we don’t have.

Mary Rosinski says she’s concerned about proposal to sell city assets and close library branches.

Public comment ends at 6:04 p.m.

Consent agenda

A1, A2, A4 (that one pulled by staff and no longer up for a vote tonight), A10, ED1.

Consent agenda, with those deletions, approved. (7 to 0 with Fleming and Suffredin not present)

A1 – Payroll and Bills

Wilson moves to take payment for a contractor hired by city clerk off the bills list.
Amendment approved 7-0.

Braithwaite says aldermen don’t hire anyone to assist them. Says staff is vetted through HR department. Says no one has gone out an hired anyone on their own in the past 10 years and clerk should know that.

Rainey asks for report from HR what the procedure is for the clerk to get an intern or assistant legitimately. And wants report on what the remaining balance is of the clerk’s budget.

As amended, approved 7-0.

A2 – Amazon credit card activity

Approved 7-0. (Suffredin and Fleming absent)

A10 – Amicus brief in Fulton v. City of Philadelpthia
Philadelphia wants to be able to choose not to do business with a religious agency that refuses to consider gay couples for foster placements.
Wilson says it’s a Supreme Court case so a decision would be binding on Evanston.
City attorney says there’s no cost to the city in signing on the the amicus brief.
Approved 7-0.

ED1 – Entrepreneurship emergency assistance grants
Rue Simmons recuses herself, says one of the applicants is a commercial tenant of hers.
Approve 6-0.

Special orders of business

SP1 – $70K CDBG-CV funding for micro-enterprise assistance program
Approved 7-0.

SP-2 2020 Budget Update

Related story

Staff presentation

CFO Hitesh Desai says city’s bond sale went through today and received a very good interest rate of 1.53%. Says the refinancing of bonds that were part of the sale will result in $2.3 million in savings on interest expenses for the city.

Says says city now faces a $2.1 million deficit for the year.

Says don’t have official word about Big Ten football season possibly being canceled (unconfirmed reports today it is about to be canceled), but says budget projections aren’t counting on any football revenue.

City staff say project $4M to $6M general fund shortfall for 2021.

Hagerty says he doesn’t favor selling a city asset to close a budget deficit.

Storlie says would need to look closely at what the funding would be allocated for — whether to pay down debt or put toward another project. Don’t want t otake a long term asset to plug a short-term hole. But the city does need to consider how many buildings and how much land the city should hold over the long term. Says the city now has a tremendous amount of property holdings. If there are consolidation opportunities need to consider them.

Says need to take a cautious an prudent approach when looking at financial picture. Expenses are continuing to increase significantly. Need to decide what is right-sized, what is equitable and what makes sense for he city going forward.

Staff plans three virtual community conversations on the budget at 6 p.m. on 9/10, 9/15 and 9/21.

Braithwaite says he’s concerned about future of commercial tax base. Says if there’s a building that could be used for commercial purposes and bring in more tax revenue, that’s a conversation the city should have.

SP3- ComEd franchise agreement expiration
Kumar Jensen, sustainability officer, says city has had a franchise agreement with ComEd since the 1950s. Says in recently years Evanston has typically negotiated relatively short-term agreements. Current one is scheduled to expire on Sept. 12 this year.
Agreements have provided unbilled electricity to city facilities.

Says ComEd is currently being investigated for bribery charges that influenced energy legislation in the state. Says city staff has concluded there’s no practical harm to the city to allow the franchise agreement to lapse. Says ComEd is required to continue to provide the same level of service to customers here whether or not the city has a franchise agreement.

Says the new strategy will let the city purchase electricity for its own facilities at a lower cost than the effective cost of obtaining it now from ComEd.

A yes vote is to let the franchise expire (not enter into a new agreement)

Approved 7-0.

Call of the Wards

Aldermen mourn the death of Madelyne Ducre, a frequent speaker at council meetings. In addition…

Fiske…Ward meeting Tuesday, Sept 1.

Braithwatie … 6p Thursday ward meeting ..on defunding.

Rue Simmons … Ward meeting Wednesday 7p.

Revelle … HSC to discuss alternative emergency response systems the next three Mondays.

Rainey … says there’s now a Starbucks at St. Francis Hospital.

Council votes 7-0 to go into executive session at 7:56 p.m.

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