Evanston would have fewer city advisory boards and tighter rules for how the remaining ones operate if the City Council adopts recommendations from a new League of Women Voters study.

Evanston would have fewer city advisory boards and tighter rules for how the remaining ones operate if the City Council adopts recommendations from a new League of Women Voters study.

The report, prepared in cooperation with city staff, was presented Tuesday to the council’s Rules Committee. Based on three years of research, it calls for eliminating five of the 36 boards, committees and commissions that are now part of city government.

Evanston is known for having a large number of such boards compared to other communities. For example, the Skokie village website lists just 17 such groups.

Jessica Feldman, who presented the report for the league, said the study included surveys sent to all current members of advisory boards and the city staff members assigned to work with them.

The league also looked at seven other communities to identify “best practices” for running advisory boards.

The groups proposed for elimination are:

  • The Board of Examiners of Stationary Engineers, Boiler- or Water-Tenders. The report says this board, which consists of just two city staff members, could be eliminated and the staffers could do the work as part of their regular job descriptions.
  • The Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Public Place Names. Already composed of members of other advisory boards, the report suggests this group could meet on an ad-hoc basis as needed.
  • The City-Chamber of Commerce Committee. The report says this group has met infrequently in recent years and could be turned into an ad-hoc group.
  • The Electrical Commission. The report says this group hasn’t met in years and its role could be taken over by a reformulated Construction Appeals Board.
  • The Taxicab Advisory Board. The report says this board has met infreqently and suggests replacing it with a task force to be formed as issues arise.

While the study was underway, the Flood and Pollution Control Board was eliminated, after the City Council decided it had finished its work, and a new board, the Youth Council, was created.

The report also calls for having each board conduct an annual self-assessment and do a better job of scheduling meetings and publishing agendas and minutes than some of the groups do now.

It also urges more proactive efforts to recruit new members to the boards.

The report also suggests possible reorganization of the Arts Council and its Public Art Committee, which combined have total of 30 members, and the City-School Liaison Committee, which has met infrequently.

It also notes possible overlaps in roles among:

  • The Economic Development Committee and the Minority, Women, Evanston Business Development Committee.
  • The Environmental Board and the Energy Commission.
  • The Ladd Arboretum Committee, the Lighthouse Landing Committee and possibly the Playground and Recreation Board.
  • The Plan Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Sign Review and Appeals Board and the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee.

Feldman says printed and electronic copies of the report are available from the City Clerk’s office.

The city currently has nearly 300 positions on its advisory boards, including about 40 vacant slots

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Taxicab Advisory Board
    If the Taxicab Advisory Board should be dissolved, a task force should consider:

    1. Why there is no information on the Evanston city government website about how to start a taxi company in Evanston.
    2. Why there is no information on whether increased competition is allowed. Most cities make it very difficult for new taxi companies to compete; they have to get the approval of existing companies. Imagine if you couldn’t open a restaurant unless McDonald’s agreed there was a need for one!

    I was appointed as the sole public member on the Taxicab Advisory Board in May and we have yet to meet, and I have yet to receive any information. That’s probably because the existing taxi companies who serve on the board only meet when they want to consider whether a rival company should be allowed to come into Evanston territory-NOT!

    This is a shame. Recently, a taxi driver was arrested for kidnapping and sexually abusing a passenger. More competition would mean higher standards.

    Denver ended its taxi oligopoly in 1994. For 47 years before that, the Public Utilities Commission had turned down every applicant who tried to compete with Denver’s three taxi firms. Then Governor Roy Romer signed a law that allowed anyone who passed vehicle and driver-safety tests to get a license and allowed jitneys and van pools to run along fixed routes. The disabled immediately began to benefit as wheelchair-accessible vans began operating.

    I hope a task force can find out what the situation is in Evanston.

  2. Correction
    I see now that I am not the sole public member of the commission. There are 3 members from the public, and one user of senior coupons. From the taxi industry, there is one owner of a taxicab company, one independent taxicab owner, and one taxicab driver.

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