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New aldermen try different ways to make a mark

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Evanston’s three new aldermen appear to be adopting different approaches to adjusting to working with their new colleagues three months into the job.

Two of the newbies spent considerable time Monday night complaining about what apparently looked to them like “line-jumping” by their most senior colleague, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward.

When some capital improvement funds for this year were freed up because a lakefront project was delayed by state permitting issues, city staff recommended advancing a street paving and widening project in Rainey’s ward from next year’s list so it could be done this year.

Cicely Fleming.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, asked for more answers from staff about how the decision to move a project up in the queue is made.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said Rainey’s project — for Callan Avenue — had engineering designs already approved and so was easy to advance and add to an existing contract for paving work.

Fleming then suggested there should be more consultation with aldermen about such changes in the future.

Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, said he shared those concerns. In the end, Fleming and Suffedin cast two of the three votes against the project, in a losing effort to push it back until next year.

Ann Rainey.

Rainey said it was a strange experience to hear an alderman criticized for advocating for her constituents. “Never heard that before,” she added.

By contrast, the third new alderman, Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, took a differenct approach.

Robin Rue Simmons.

After hearing several neighbors in the area say the extra parking on Callan that the project would provide was desperately needed by residents, Simmons said she “understands what its like not to have a parking spot” and voted in favor of the project, saying it “would give some relief for families in the area.”

Suffredin also went on to cast the sole vote against two other 8th Ward projects Monday night.

He voted against a city loan to Pascal Berthoumieux, owner of Cafe Coralie, to open a new bakery in the former police outpost building on Howard Street.

Suffredin said Berthoumieux should go to a bank if he wanted a loan, that the city shouldn’t be in the business of making loans. The project, Suffredin said, “is great for the neighborhood, but terrible for my constituents.”

Alderman Don Wilson, who’d been the third vote against the Callan project, challenged Suffredin’s approach.

“If we don’t want to do loans, we could change the policy,” Wilson said, “but the city has had a process and procedure that the applicant has gone through.”

And, Wilson noted, the loan would be secured by the equipment it’s designed to purchase and by a personal guarantee from the bakery owner.

Rue Simmons said Berthoumieux “has a great business downtown,” and this is not the time to change the process.

Suffredin also cast the only vote against plans to sell a city-owned parking lot at 100 Howard St. to a developer who’s planning to build a mixed income apartment complex and an organic garden center on the site.

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