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Report urges revamp of city boards

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

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