Recap: City Council

Here's a recap of our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council meeting at which aldermen are expected to discuss issues of police funding along with numerous other matters.

Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council meeting at which aldermen are expected to discuss issues of police funding along with numerous other matters.

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

The streaming video of the meeting is available on the city’s YouTube channel and on our home page.

The meeting was originally scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., but was delayed when committee meetings ran long.

Meeting called to order at 6:23 p.m.

All aldermen present except Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, at roll call.

Mayor Steve Hagerty notes three homicides in past four days — while typically have one to three homicides a year.

Says many residents are worried about the situation.

Says Police Department is working hard to solve these homicides.

Says deaths affect the entire community.

Days Evanston COVID data is trending in the right direction, but the larger suburban Cook County region of which the city is a part has data trending in the wrong direction — could mean more restrictions on activities in the future.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, says dozens of gunshots heard over the weekend, says “We are all traumatized.”

Wants to implement recommendations that will bring a sense of safety quickly.

Will have virtual community meeting on Zoom on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says entire city is suffering from this. Says gun violence has got to stop in this town.

Police Chief Demitrious Cook says the city is in a very difficult situation with gang violence.

Says NORTAF is being “very productive” in one of the homicides. Won’t specify which one.

Says when community sticks together can drive violence out of the community.

Says we can defeat any evil if we stick together.

Audrey Thompson, community services director, oversees the youth and young adult division on city staff, says violence is the reason the division was created in 2008. Says has made a major difference in projects that impact youth and young adults.

Says arrests have decreased dramatically as a result of outreach efforts.Says outreach really makes a difference, but also need community participation — from employers, landlords and others.

Interim City Manager Erika Storlie says given the closure of Chicago beaches there’s more demand for beach access in Evanston. Says are seeing some issues arise that may require adjustments, new announcements coming later this week… regarding daily passes, trash pickup, etc.

City Clerk Devon Reid says clerk’s office will release data on use of force records and police violence.

Mayor says there’s a legal question about whether he has the authority to make that policy.

Kelley Gandurski, city attorney, says policy seems to direct the chief of police on how to direct the operations of the department. Says questions whether the policies are properly issued by the clerk. Says he appears to be userping his duties.

Reid said because he’s keeper of the records, he can can release them.

Gandurski says FOIA guides the policy regarding disposition of records.

Mayor cuts off discussion.

Public Comment

Public coment ends at 7:46 p.m.

Special orders of business

SP1 – $445K of federal grant funding for homelessness prevention, etc.

Fleming says she is concerned about general assistance funds — being depleted quickly. Says should keep more of the money in house.

Rue Simmons says Connections has been a primary partner in finding housing solutions.

Sarah Flax, of city staff, says NFPs like Connections, don’t have to meet standard that city would of certifying that all members of household assisted are legal residents.

Approved 8-1. Fleming votes no.

SP2 – 2019 Evanston Police Department Annual Report

Presentation on Annual Report, from Deputy Chief Melissa G. Sacluti.

Report indicate Evanston police get more calls per service requests than other communities listed in the report based on community population.

Fleming says report misses context that people are looking for.

Has no info on people who police are engaging with. Would reflect what people are talking about in seeking defunding of police.

Rue Simmons says wants a bit more information. Will have more later on the data she would like to see.

Says she’d like data on recidivism rate and what do to monitor folks who are returning home from prison.

Rainey says would like to know how many Evanston residents are incarcerated. Wants more detail about what cops are doing in each ward.

Revelle wants more detail about 911 calls. Says looks like a lot of them don’t really require an armed police officer. Mentions Eugene, Oregon practice. Related story.

Rue Simmons asks for data on how many arrests don’t lead to convictions because of issues at the state’s attorney’s office.

Also wants to give preference to local residents in hiring process.

Fiske says aldermen get weekly reports on 311 calls … would like to see something similar for 911 calls.

Suggests thinking about the kind of response for incidents that aren’t the most dangerous type. Says wants to see more approachable type of service.

Rainey says when consider having social workers go out on calls, should talk to the social workers. Also need to evaluate what calls decide to send a social worker on.

Says city has funded two social workers at St. Francis Hospital for a crisis line. Says it has made a big difference.

Fleming suggests creating a task force to come up with proposals. Thinks could have a really productive discussion.

Wynne suggests datamining the 911 calls in the way has been done with 311 calls. Says people also need more clarification about when to call 911.

Suffredin says should get to something actionable by budget time. Says work needs to start immediately.

Rue Simmons suggests assigning it to the Human Services Committee.

Fleming says she was thinking of a short-term committee.

Storlie suggests using Human Services Committee. It could meet as often as aldermen want. Start with meeting next Monday, Aug. 3.

Braithwaite suggests using Alternatives to Arrest Committee, which has aldermen, staff and residents on it.

Revelle says she’d like to see it in HSC.

Motion to refer to Human Services Committee is approved 9-0.

SP3 – Evanston Police Department Update — Police Budget 2020

Police budget presentation.

Lou Gergits, police manager of finance and budget, says continuing growing of police pension expenditures is crowding out operational spending.

Storlie says the vacant positions in the police department aren’t really creating any excess funds that could be used for something else — because of shortfall in revenues due to the pandemic.

Hitesh Desai, city’s CFO, says pension funding comes from property taxes, investment return and contributions from active employees.

Budget report accepted and placed on file. 9-0 vote.

SP4 – Police Department Update

(Alternatives to Arrest, etc.)

Deputy Chief Jody Wright says department has been progressive in coming up with various solutions.

SP5 – School Resource Officers

Wilson suggests looking at options for cost sharing.

Storlie says cost amounts to about $500,000 a year. Says Skokie has 70% of cost paid by schools and 30% by the muncipality.

Fiske says should have that discussion.

Rainey suggests referring the budget issue to the City-School Liaison Committee.

Consent Agenda

Items removed from consent agenda: A22, A1 A14, A21, A9, A11, A12

Consent agenda approved 9-0.

A1 – Bills list

Wilson moves to remove from bills list bills for outside services for the clerk’s office.

Says appears to be work outside the scope of the clerk’s office.

Says it appears to be work done personally for the clerk.

Clerk defends his actions.

Rue Simmons says clerk has his own budget. Should pay the intern who’s worked for the city.

Wilson says he supports paying the person.

Fiske says is concerned about policy — have HR department that protects the city. Wants referral to Rules Committee

Approved 8-1. Suffredin votes no, because of concerns over insurance fund issues.

A9 – Water shutoff moratorium

Approved. 9-0, as amended in committee

A11 – Crown center $400K change order

Lara Biggs, city engineer, says Friends have committed to raising $15M, not quite to that total yet.

Have transferred $6M prior to this year. This year transferring the money to cover debt service and the change order.

Approved 8-1. Rue Simmons votes no.

A14 – Extension of declared state of emergency to Aug. 10.

Fleming asks for clarification of what the state of emergency authorizes.

Mayor says it gives the city flexibility to make any additions to what the governor is mandating — could be mandating masks or 

Suffredin asks if could order NU to not allow students on campus.

Gandurski says would have to research that issue.

Says that the emergency declaration gave authority to permit “to-go” mixed drinks.

Approved 7-2. Fleming and Suffredin vote no.

A21 – 2020 general obligation bond issues

Approved 8-1. Suffredin votes no.

A22 – Liquor license for American Legion

Move to hold made by Fiske, 2nded by Wynne. Cites concern by Southeast Evanston Association.

Rainey moves to override. Says the ordinance would not hurt anybody on the lakefront.

Says Legion and Canal Shores are both really struggling. Should give them a break. It’s the least we can do.

Fiske says its a large area that can serve a lot of people. Basically allowing a bar in a city park.

Revelle says delay would be a problem because it’s summer time and need to use the outdoor patio.

Revelle says already have a beer garden in St. Paul Park on Chicago Avenue. Encourages support of the Legion’s request.

Wynne says she’s torn by this proposal. Says could be a way to distinguish this license from others so it would not be a precedent.

Vote on overriding the hold. Override approved 7-0. Fiske and Wynne vote no.

(It needed at least 6 votes to pass.)

Vote on the ordinance itself carries 7-2.

Call of the Wards

Fleming … Wants to refer issue of police records to the rules or human services committee.

Rue Simmons … virtual meeting 7 p.m. tomorrow regarding the recent homicides.

Meeting adjourned at 10:57 p.m.

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