Mayor Daniel Biss will ask the City Council’s Rules Committee Monday to give the Referrals Committee power to block any alder’s bright idea that doesn’t have support from at least two other council members.

Under the Council’s current rules the committee serves only as a traffic cop — deciding which committee to send a proposal to. It has no power to consider whether the proposal is worth consideration.

In a memo, the mayor’s rationale for the change to require two co-sponsors to assure an idea advances is expressed as trying to “ensure that the referred items have some meaningful support before they consume a lot of staff and committee time.”

Since the Referrals Committee was created following the April 2021 City Council election, the referrals process has been dominated by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), who has made nearly 43% of all referrals to the committee.

Two other alders newly elected in 2021, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), are a distant second and third in the referrals count — Burns with 18% and Kelly with 8%.

With nine alders, the mayor and the city manager eligible to make referrals, an average share would be 9%.

Many of Reid’s proposals — including keeping parks open overnight and permitting toplessness in public places — have proven controversial, and his flood of proposals has tended to dominate committee and City Council agendas.

It’s not entirely clear how effective the new measure, if adopted, will be in limiting consideration of proposals that don’t ultimately win Council approval.

During committee debate on many proposals from Reid, some other alders — frequently Burns or Kelly and sometimes Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th), have shown a willingness to give Reid’s ideas a full hearing. That may indicate they would be willing to sign on as co-sponsors of many of his proposals.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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