The Evanston alders pushing to be given funds in the new city budget to hire public relations contractors are also the ones who have chosen to book themselves into the largest number of committee assignments.

The City Council is scheduled to start discussing the proposed 2023 city budget at a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), who sits on 15 committees, complained at a Rules Committee meeting earlier this month, “I really do not have the time to write a sentence of a newsletter.”

He suggested giving each alder a $15,000 annual budget to hire their own communications consultants.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th), who’s also on 15 committees, supported that idea and suggested the city should also hire more communications staffers in the city manager’s office.

New Council members elected in 2021 have pushed creation of a half dozen new committees on which alderpersons sit and added aldermanic seats to a couple of existing committees that didn’t previously have them.

In all, the city now has two dozen committees on which alders sit.

City Manager Luke Stowe’s proposed budget for 2023 does not include funding for PR contractors for alders or an increase to the PR staff in the city manager’s office.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th), who sits on 10 committees, has suggested adding to the in-house PR staff to help alders get their messages out.

Giving individual alders the option to hire their own contractors would appear to create a risk that the work those contractors might be asked to do could drift across the line into illegal campaign work for the alders.

Perhaps anticipating that issue, Mayor Daniel Biss at the Rules Committee meeting expressed reservations about giving elected officials a pot of money that would be under their own spending control.

The city will also hold two town hall meetings on the new budget, with one in Spanish at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave., and one in English at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at the Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick Blvd.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. This is a good analysis. I think this “over worked” gambit is part of Reid and Burns’ plan to try and get significant pay rises for aldermen.

    One of Reid’s first items he brought up after being elected to alderman was to increase aldermanic pay. It didn’t go anywhere at the time, but don’t be surprised to see it brought up again under the auspices of aldermen being “overworked.”

    It was interesting that Reid brought it up initially since he left a job that has a decent salary (clerk) for a lower paid gig of alderman.

    I’m actually curious how he is able financially to shift to the lower paid gig. Other aldermen have jobs or are retired. Reid never disclosed his biography when running so who knows how he swings it?

    Same thing with Burns. He worked for Reid for a while at the clerk’s office and then had a political consulting “firm” that worked on pretty small campaigns. He always seems to have some hurdle going on—before he was elected he got some small grant from google to start a news website (which never materialized) and he also has a license to start a cannabis dispensary, but as far as I can ascertain he hasn’t actually started one.

    I wish we had more transparency regarding elected officials finances. It would give the public better information to evaluate their interests and incentives

  2. Overpromoted might have been a better title. More committees provide more opportunities for alders to listen to themselves. The mayor is correct to resist giving the alders an individual slush fund. And what message is being sent to have the Spanish-speaking budget meeting on the south side and the English-speaking meeting on the north side?

  3. Reid’s been angling for a salary for a long time. Another absurd proposal by a guy with no primary job.

  4. If you weigh the value of Reid’s proposals and suggestions, he’d probably be the least useful alderperson. What happened to citizens of Evanston doing their civic duty by becoming an alder person as a second job rather than as their primary occupation? Sounds like Reid has too much time on his hands, and so he comes up with a lot of useless proposals to keep himself busy. If he wants more money, maybe he needs a full-time job in the private sector rather than working for the government.

  5. It’s worth noting how few committees Tom Suffredin sits on. Is there a reason? If not, is his ward getting their value from his service?

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