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.

Related story

Over-committed to committees? (1/4/16)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Reducing committees is a great idea

    For all the reasons cited in your article and a few others, a reduction in the number of committees is sorely needed. I definitely support this effort!

    1. Over half of the committees
      Over half of the committees mentioned are not even needed. This is not a good plan. Don’t combine committees, eliminate committees, and that will put us in line with the other communities in the area and will probably saving Evanston a lot of money.

  2. Transportation committee

    I am not sure of the wisdom of moving the transportation committee discussions to "Equity and Empowerment" for the following reasons.

    1.  Under the STAR rating system, "transportation" is an objective listed under the Built Environment goal, not Equity and Empowerment.
    2.  Evanston adopted a Complete Streets ordinance recently, but so far as I can tell transportation and parking decisions are still not being made under the Complete Streets model, which requires that ALL transportation modes be considered and accommodated during every decision-making process.  

    For example, recently, when a plan for the Green Bay/Ridge/Emerson intersection was presented to the Transportation and Parking Committee, it is my understanding that when questions about bicycle accommodation were brought up, the Committee was told "later".    By definition of Complete Streets, "later" cannot be an acceptable answer during a project being designed under the Complete Streets model.

  3. trimming committees

    When they cut the number of committees wil they just combine all the members into one. Thus creating a bunch of sub committees.

    It seems that currently most committees have to may members. I had to do a presentation a few years ago with a committee with 11 members. Seems 5 could have  made thumbs up or down decision.

    1. Let’s form a new committee!

      Let's see if they form a committee to discuss this issue!….lol

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