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New plan to trim count of city boards

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Evanston aldermen Monday will consider a new scheme for cutting the number of boards, committees and commissions that advise the City Council — one that could trim their number by roughly 40 percent.

As shown in the chart above, Evanston now has more than twice as many advisory panels as many other towns in the area. It also has many more than the average for similar college towns.

The new model was devised by two city staffers — Sustainability Manager Catherine Hurley and Cultural Arts Coordinator Jennifer Lasik. It tries to align committee roles with the STAR Communities rating system — a program that’s given Evanston high ratings the past two years.

Under the proposal to be presented to the City Councl’s Rules Commitee:

  • A new Equity and Empowerment Committee would take on the responsibilities of the ADA Advisory Committee, the Housing and Homelessness Commission, the Human Relations Commission, the Mental Health Board, the Housing and Community Development Act Committee and the transportation portion of the duties of the Transportation and Parking Committee.
  • A new Community Services Committee would take on the work of the Animal Welfare Board, the Commission on Aging, the Committee on Public Place names and the recreation portion of the duties of the Parks and Recreation Board.
  • The existing Design and Project Review Committee would pick up the work of the Sign Review and Appeals Board.
  • A new Climate, Energy and Natural Resources Committee would take on the work of the Environment Board, the Ladd Arboretum Committee, the Lighthouse Landing Complex Committee, the Utilities Commission and the parks duties of the Parks and Recreation Board.
  • The existing Economic Development Committee would add the duties of the M/W/EBE Committee, the Taxicab Advisory Commission and the parking portion of the duties of the Transportation and Parking Committee.
  • The Plan Commission would be combined with the Zoning Board of Appeals.
  • Three inactive committees — the Civic Center Committee, the Lakefront Committee and the Wind Farm Committee — would be eliminated.

Twenty-one other committees would remain unchanged under the plan.

The current high number of committees is seen to create difficulties finding enough people to serve on the panels and to leave some of them with too little work to do to keep the participants engaged. It’s also created difficulties for aldermen and the public to stay informed about what all the committees are up to.

But so far, despite a decade of studies and efforts to trim the committee count, only two committees have been eliminated from the roster in recent years.

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