Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting. Aldermen are scheduled to discuss the city’s budget and an affordable housing planned development at 1900 Sherman Ave.

The meeting is now scheduled to stat about 7:25 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 7:31 p.m.

All aldermen present.

Public Hearing: Truth in Taxation for 2020 Tax Levy

City staff today released a proposed budget update that reduces the proposed tax levy increase from 5.9% to 4.9%. The reduction is based on eliminating half of a proposed $1M contribution to increasing the general fund balance.

Budget info

Mike Vasilko claims insufficient notice of the hearing. “Typical of what’s happening,” he says. Objects to proposed property tax increase.

Sean Peck Collier suggests further reduction in police staffing because of declining crime rates.

James Robin Collier says city under-spent by nearly 3% on its 2019 budget because of the lag in filling vacant positions. Says could cut tax hike for next year by more closely accounting for that.

Betty Ester suggests eliminating positions that have been held vacant for an extended period of time.

Mayor’s announcements

Mayor Steve Hagerty notes rapid rise of COVID-19 cases. Says public health experts don’t expect cases to subside any time soon. Need to wear masks … socially distance, etc. Local positive rate now 3.5%. Suburban Cook rate is 12.2%.

Says more mitigation measures may be required.

Says Northwestern is not driving the case increase — it’s community spread, he says.

Mayor announces Native American Heritage Month, this month, and the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Club of Evanston.

City manager’s announcement

Edgar Cano from public works agency and Johanna Nyden from community development are introduced by the manager.

Cano says now property owners need to remove snow after any accumulation of snow or ice. (Used to be only if 4 inches or more.)

Says can sign up for snow alerts by calling 311.

Expecting about 42 inches of snow this winter — somewhat more than average.

Expects temperatures somewhat above normal this month and next, but then colder than normal for the rest of the winter.

City Clerk communications

Clerk Devon Reid notes updated info on election results on County Clerk’s website.

Public Comment
27 people signed up
Each speaker 1 minute 40 seconds
Starting public comment at 8:36 p.m.
Public comment ends at 9:21 p.m.

Special orders of business
Mayor notes that budget items are only for introduction tonight. Will be up for adoption on Nov. 23.

SP1 – 2021 fiscal year budget
$297.2M total.
City Manager Erika Storlie introduces Kate Lewis-Lakin, budget coordinator, and Hitesh Desai, chief financial officer, to do budget presentation.
Total budget is down by $23.5M from 2020 adopted budget. That’s largely because of reduced capital spending.
Desai says the owner of a $400K home would see a city property tax increase of about $95 under the proposed budget.

Storlie says 11 police officer positions have been eliminated in the 2021 budget. Says the revenue drop of about $8 million because of COVID means there’s no savings from the reduced positions to shift to other programs.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says she hears from constituents that they want to have 311 available on the weekend. Asks how much that would cost.

Storlie says had weekend coverage in the first few months of the pandemic, but phased it out as call volume dropped off. Could do a budget memo on what it would cost to return it.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, proposes cutting $125K from police training budget. Suggests not increasing police and fire pension funding.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, wants to know more about the police training — says may be something valuable to make sure police are operating in the way we want them to.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says wants more info about police and fire pension funding.

Rainey suggests cutting contribution to police pension fund by $1 million or exactly the state requirement on the police pension fund.

Fleming seconds that recommendation.

Fiske says she has a real bad feeling about that. Says fought so hard to increase pension payments a decade ago. Need to be really careful about this — can easily find ourselves in a worse place next year. Also objects to cutting police training budget.

Wynne agrees with Fiske. Says only funding levels were inadequate. State funding projections are a joke, would never reach the funding goal, she says.

Says a lot of the police training requests are what have been hearing from the community as needed to have police trained in latest and best techniques.

Braithwaite agrees with Wynne about the police training.

Braithwaite and Rue Simmons say they don’t want to vote on introduction tonight.

Mayor say can still make changes, even if introduce the budget tonight. Says doesn’t want to do introduction and action on the budget at the same meeting.

Storlie staff recommends introduction tonight. Could still have more meetings, like on next Monday. Could also move budget adoption until Nov. 30. Not best practice to have introduction and action at same meeting.

Rainey asks for feedback from pension consultant before next meeting. Also wants to hear what cops are willing to provide in concessions.

Introduction of budget is approved on a 6-3 vote, after a long procedural discussion.

It appears Council will hold a special meeting next Monday to further discuss the budget.

SP 2 – Tax levy abatements
Approved 9-0. (This one is final action.)

SP3 – Tax levies
For introduction.
Approved 6-3. Fleming Rue Simmons Suffredin vote no.

SP4 – General assistance tax levy
For introduction. Approved 9-0.

SP5 – Library fund levy
For introduction. Approved 9-0.

SP6 through SP9 – Special service area tax levies
All for introduction. Approved 9-0 on separate roll call votes. These are for Central Street, Main-Dempster Mile and Downtown Evanston.

SP10 – $80K of CDBG-CV funding to provide food for homeless persons at the Margarita Inn.

Braithwaite asks whether Evanston residents are being prioritized in the program.

Betty Bogg from Connections for the Homeless, says about 75% of people in the hotels were in Evanston. About 75% were also either Black or Hispanic.

Approved 9-0

SP11 – Prioritization methodology for CDBG-CV-funded rent assistance program
Approved 9-0.

Consent agenda … at 11:06 p.m.

Off Consent … A2, P4, R2, R3
(In addition P3 failed in committee)

Consent agenda (minus those items) approved 9-0.

A2 – Amazon credit card activity
Approved 8-0-1. Suffredin abstains.

P4 – 1900 Sherman rezoning and planned development
For introduction
Fiske recuses her self because a friend works for a consultant to the developer.
Approved 8-0-1. Fiske abstains.

R2 – Codifying the Reparations Committee
For action.
Approved 9-0.

R3 – Compensation for City Council members
Rainey moves to hold. Rue Simmons seconds.
So its held until Nov. 23 meeting.

Call of the wards …. at 11:18 p.m.
Fleming … 9th ward meeting Saturday at 10 a.m.
Braithwaite … 2nd 5th and 6th ward joint meeting on budget Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Council votes to go into executive session. Public meeting ends at 11:27 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Leave a comment

The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.