Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 8:01 p.m.

Mayor’s announcements

Black history month events coming up next month.

City won national award for summer jobs program for youth. Details here. Says now staff wants to increase hiring from 500 last year to 1,000 for this summer. Parks Director Joe McRae says the jobs fair will be held Saturday, March 28, at ETHS starting 8 a.m. Will put application on city website early next month.

Manager’s announcements

Earth Hour …. new spin on what used to be “turn off the lights for an hour” program. Sustainability Coordinator Catherine Hurley says Evanston chosen as one of three U.S. finalists for a national award for cities — reviewing climate action plans. Forty competed in the first round. Evanston one of three finalists — along with Cleveland and Seattle. (Then there are a bunch of international winners from 14 other countries.)

There’s a related “We Love Cities” competition — for public to participate. International winner will receive award in April. Contest runs through March 27.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggests people should get text alert every day reminding them to vote.

City Clerk announcement

Early voting for school board election will start March 23.

Election day is April 7.

Last day for regular registration for the election is March 10.

Public Comment

George Reager says he’s lived near Penny Park since 1980. Neighbors initially opposed plans to build a fire station on the lot the city had acquired after the Lutheran School on the site closed. Says city was terrific in supporting the neighbors’ alternative of building a park and having it designed by Leathers. Says 2,800 people worked on the park and it built a great sense of community in the neighborhood.

Says new plans “happened backwards” compared to original design, says city should take pride in its historic architecture — including the park — should stay true to the original design.

Lauren Barski urges other options — rather than rebuilding as now proposed. Suggests Play by Design as consultant — says that’s where the project manager for the original Penny Park project now works. Claims petition with 2,300 signatures supporting preserving the park.

Tom Sheridan, 30 year resident of Penny Park neighborhood, says park is huge success. Doesn’t believe the park is unsafe or unsuitable for today’s children. Doesn’t like new design’s separation of play areas for younger and older kids.

Alex Anon, owns bike shop across the street from the park, says park is widely used year around. Says if buy into efficiency and maintenance costs lose track of bigger values. Says doesn’t see need to replace the park.

Katie Young 2607 Colfax, fifth grader at Lincolnwood Elementary, says she circulated petition at soccer practice. Says the park is a place where she grew up. Has great hide-and-seek places, she says. Urges keeping the park the way it is.

Eula Biss is mother of a five-year-old who plays in Penny Park every day. Says can recreate the early sense of community in initial building of the park. Says her biggest concern about proposed plan — way the park most used now is kids running from one end to the other of the play area — says doesn’t see that kind of play happening at any other park in Evanston … and doesn’t think the new design would provide for it.

Eric Pass, owns apartment rental agency at Custer and Main, says now getting ticketed even when move cars for the two-hour parking limit. Suggests offering parking for businesses in the public lot behind Goods on Main Street. Says now closest legal parking is three blocks away.

City manager suggests he discuss it with economic development director, Johanna Nyden.

Virginia Mann, 3004 Normandy Place, says she’s appalled by the RFP for shelter management that would expect the organization coming in to absorb all the costs. Says no responsible group would be able to do that. Says expects won’t get any responses to the RFP. Says the financial burden has always been the city’s and should continue to be. Need partner who can provide appropriate care, and city should provide the funding.

Several other speakers also spoke on various issues.

End of public comment

Special order of business — Penny Park

City manager asks for direction from council — regarding full reconstruction or partial improvements, concerns regarding restrooms or pavillions, etc.

Related story.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says the key breakdown seems to have been that the starting point became tearing the park down. Says that wasn’t his intention. Says he’s supportive of the idea of looking at it from a broader perspective.

Says is committed to having a community process. Says he likes wooden parks, but wants what we have to last. Should be something people are thrilled about.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, says thinks the discussion should have originated in the Parks and Recreation Committee and suggests sending it to them now. Says they can come up with a solution to recommend to council. He moves that.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, seconds the motion.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says her son, now a college students said — what do you mean that Penny Park is going to be demolished? Says community built the park originally, need to tap into that again now. Says need to talk to the community first. Says now want to make park ADA accessible — need to figure out how to do that. Says Penny is historic, iconic, not like any other park up and down the north shore.

Burrus praises Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, for his efforts to rebuild the park — but says good idea to send it to Parks and Rec committee now.

Braithwaite says comments this evening are consistent with what have said for past year-and-a-half. Says went back to Leathers, the original group that designed the park. Says supports sending it to Parks and Rec board. Says we’re in the pre-design phase … put people are taking it as if it was a final design. Says has been some miscommunication and some scare tactics. Says will need a host of volunteers to work on the project now.

Says his biggest concern is — if we’re not careful and don’t listen to each other — we may have another situation where we get nothing.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says Penny Park has been on the capital plan for a number of years. Says we don’t try to milk every year of useful life out of our equipment — want to get ahead of the game — and not let risks of accidents and injuries increase. Says she’s confident that a redesigned Penny Park will give the city an even better park that serves as many people as possible.

City manager asks restatement of motion — that it’s going to rec board with open options for what solution to come up with for Penny Park.

Aldermen vote to do that.

Consent agenda

We’ll note anything taken off the consent agenda.

  • A12 – Transportation Network Providers — off consent agenda.
  • P3 – Hotel-Motel tax for B&Bs — held in committee

Consent agenda, with those exceptions, approved.

Transportation Network Providers

Committee voted not to adopt the ordinance and instead have staff prepare resolution that would defer to the state on the issue.

Wilson says he’s puzzled by sense that there’s a difference between a transportation network provider and a taxicab. Says going rate for a Chicago medallion is over $200K.

Rainey says nobody will be able to explain why taxi medallion is worth $200K. Says model presented by transportation network providers is likely to displace taxis.

Grover says state regulation appears to meet our criteria for assuring safety and insurance coverage, says that we were content to see how state regulation plays out. Says shares Wilson’s concern about level playing field. Says wonders how much the medallion requirement distorts the market for providers.

Wilson says decision is to limit the number of drivers. How can sit an look a taxi driver in the eye. Frankly absurd to have one group heavily regulated with extrordinary costs.

Motion approved 9-0.

B&B/hotel tax

being held in committee for more information from staff

Call of the wards

Grover …reminds of state of the schools event with superintendents at 7 p.m. Thursday at ETHS.

Rainey … 8/9 ward meeting Feb 5 at Little Beans Cafe, Asbury & Oakton. (And Valli produce will be there.

Burrus …. mentions that Ridgeville Park District commissioners are also up for election in April.

Braithwatie … Feb 12, 7p at D65 HQ, ward meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 9:51 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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