Tom Suffredin.

Two Evanston City Council members Monday sought to strip city funding from the Chicago’s North Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau because the group’s executive director has spoken in favor of the redevelopment of Ryan Field.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) quizzed Gina Speckman about her remarks and played a recording of comments she’d made in a university video promoting the project.

And Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said comments Speckman had made “were very disparaging to her residents.”

But Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said Speckman’s remarks “seem pretty mild to me” and that the Council shouldn’t be punishing business groups for advocating for their own positions.

Gina Speckman.

Speckman defended her remarks as representing the views of the businesses that are members of the bureau and that Northwestern University is among the group’s members.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said the city’s allocation of less than $70,000 toward the bureau’s operation is money well spent.

It makes Evanston businesses eligible to benefit from the bureau’s services recruiting conventions and other events nationwide and, Nieuwsma said, amounts to only a small portion of the bureau’s annual budget of over $3 million, much of which comes from state funds.

David DeCarlo

Earlier in the meeting, during public comment, David DeCarlo, organizer of the Most Livable City Association that has opposed the university’s plans to hold concerts at the new stadium, urged that the convention bureau’s funding be cut off because of Speckman’s remarks.

The Council voted 6-2 to approve the CNSCVB’s 2024 funding request, with Revelle and Suffredin voting no.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Only in Evanston!

    Evanston made a massive $60mm mistake a decade ago when the city council rejected Jennifer Pritzker’s proposal to convert Harley Clarke into a timeless inland sea – inn, restaurant, garden and event space, a respite for all, while generating ongoing jobs and tax income.

    Today a quintessential “Evanston amalgamated cabal” is about to make an even more ill advised blunder if they reject the building of the New Ryan field.

    The constituents of this Big Ten stadium extend well beyond Evanston and Illinois and span the nation.

    I invite all to research and understand the role of football from pee-wee to the NFL and even the XFL in the culture of a nation.,entertainment%20because%20of%20their%20talents.

      1. Ann, your passion for your ward and all of Evanston and your leadership is appreciated – and missed today – in particular on those Monday nights!

  2. Who does this DeCarlo guy think he is? God? If someone doesn’t agree with what he says he wants them punished? Get real, pal. You’re no different than Trump. You can’t eliminate your enemies until they’re all gone.

    That’s kind of ridiculous.

    Unless I’m missing something that she said. If I am then someone fill me in…

  3. I have no problem with a new stadium. The problem is with concerts and NU’s refusal to pay their fair share. I still see Evanston as a conglomeration of neighborhoods so the argument of a nationwide constituency just doesn’t mean much to me.

  4. This doesn’t seem like punishment regardless of what the author says. Alderperson Revelle didn’t like the disparagement of her constituents and said so. Should Evanston be giving city funds to a group promoting NU, who don’t pay taxes, and are trying for a controversial zoning change? Why should taxpayers pay to advertise for NU?

    1. I do not believe any disparaging comments were discussed. The issue is the organization’s endorsement of the stadium project on behalf of the businesses it represents. Hotels, restaurants, museums, events, etc. are promoted by them for the most part and that effort should not be overshadowed by this one issue. Unless you believe there is nothing worthy to promote in Evanston besides NU.

  5. I don’t think you could have written a more misleading headline if you tried. The issue is whether Evanston dollars should go to an organization that’s lobbying on behalf NU and against the desires of many Evanston residents (who pay taxes and vote and are watching this whole sordid business.)

    1. Two responses: one, while technically true that many residents oppose the plan, polls indicate that many more are in favor. And two, it is misleading to say the Convention and Visitors Bureau is lobbying on behalf of NU. Their job is to attract more people to Evanston and the North Shore. Clearly a new stadium and concert venue would do that and as such they would be negligent in NOT advocating for it.

      1. Thank you, John. You are spot on. The many Evanston residents who oppose the plan aren’t even close to the majority. Data actually show the opposite.

  6. I just read what Ms. Speckman said; this caused Eleanor Revelle, along with perennial naysayer Suffredin, to be offended? Who are these thin skinned residents that had their feelings hurt by such innocuous comments? Seriously, they felt disparaged by this?
    How about being called stupid, naive, uninformed, selfish, divisive ,cowardly and most recently by Aaron Cohen, MEGA for having a different view point; one that sees the benefits of a new stadium.
    If I’d known all I had to do is tell Eleanor that I felt disparaged, maybe she’d listen to me and other voices in her ward for a change!

  7. Democrats borrowing from the DeSantis playbook on Disney. They punish free speech that they don’t like.

    1. DeSantis is the one hating on free speech? He’s literally trying to tell teachers what they can and cannot say and ban books like the Nazi Party did.

  8. Just curious how a one-man band making noise about livable cities gets to represent anyone but himself.

    Sure, defund the advocates for tourism. Watch all of Evanston’s hotels close, then become homeless shelters. Most livable city? Try again.

  9. I watched the recording of the council meeting and the video shown to council and it all makes Suffredin look kind of foolish. The visitor bureau statements seem very reasonable with a legitimate viewpoint, one that I am sure the overwhelming majority of Evanston business operations share. Nothing disparaging was said, nothing unreasonable was said, and to claim that it was shilling for Northwestern is quite a stretch. Maybe not a stretch for someone like Suffredin who has held longstanding and open animosity towards NU, but quite a stretch nonetheless.

  10. This is becoming the norm in Evanston. Disparage, humiliate, try to destroy, and erase anyone who thinks differently than “the leaders.” This town is literally Exhibit A in the explainer for The Horseshoe Theory (the “far left” and the “far right,” instead of being opposite of one another in a straight line, are almost identical, staring each other in the face like the opposite ends of a horseshoe). The lack of decorum and respect, the bullying, and the inability to accept people with differences in thinking is tearing the fabric of this town. Congrats City Council — you are and behave like exactly what you claim to vehemently oppose the most.

  11. I’m aware of the disparaging comments that were made. Frankly, refusing to fund the convention and visitor’s bureau out of spite is childish. That said, here are better reasons for voting against funding. For one, there continues to be no accounting for what Evanston’s contribution is doing. If this bureau can’t tell what the money is accomplishing, the $70,000 we pay is more of a donation than an investment. Could this be because the bureau doesn’t have any measurable goals for what they’re trying to accomplish?

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