We’re looking back at what Evanston Now readers read most in 2022, and found some topics you might not expect.
A city plan to hit pickup truck owners with a $350 fee to park overnight in front of their homes struck a nerve with Evanston Now readers and ended up being the most-read story of the year.
Thanks to the blowback the story engendered, the charge — which had been in the works for months — was scaled back to $25 and limited to apply only to vehicles with commercial markings.
Under the previous ordinance such trucks were not allowed to park overnight at all on mostly residential streets — but enforcement of the rule was spotty.
Update 12:40 p.m.: In case you were wondering how the new rules are working out, Luke Tatara, the city’s interim parking division manager, says that, since the new rules went into effect on Sept. 1, the city has issued a total of five commercial vehicle permits, one each in wards 1, 2, 3, 6 and 8. The ordinance had set a cap of 20 permits per ward.
And, in the first three months the rules were in effect, parking enforcement officers issued 94 tickets for commercial vehicles parking in residential areas — compared to 80 in the previous three months.
#2 — A judge ordered Northshore University HealthSystem to pay $10.3 million to settle claims by more than 500 employees who said the Evanston-based hospital chain violated their religious rights by requiring them to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The employees are expected to get their checks soon.
#3 — Metra announced reductions in its service on the Union Pacific North line through Evanston this year — adding two rush hour trains but eliminating four at midday. Late in the year a rail strike that could have halted passenger service was averted. But the RTA is warning of a fiscal cliff ahead for public transportation.
#5 — The deaths of two members of the Evanston Township High School community cast a pall over the start of classes at the school in August. Rowan Shimer was an incoming freshman. Alex Thomas was a member of the school safety staff and a coach.
#6 — An Evanston landlord posted signs outside the apartment building where Ald. Devon Reid (8th) lives, saying he was more than $9,500 behind on his rent and facing eviction. The council member got to stay in the apartment after receiving a grant through Connections for the Homeless to cover money he owed.
#8 — In September, City Manager Luke Stowe floated the idea of adding porta-potties around town as a way of dealing with sanitation problems associated with the city’s homeless population. The story drew critical comments from many readers. We didn’t see a line item in the 2023 budget for porta-potties — and haven’t heard an update from the manager about the project.
#9 — Ald. Reid proposed stripping a ban on baring female breasts in public from the city code — saying it threatened gender non-conforming folk with a risk of arbitrary arrest. After months of controversy over whether that would open Evanston to topless beaches, the City Council voted to delete the word breast from the code but add a highly ambiguous requirement that people be “properly and decently clothed.”
#12 — The only two tenants on the City Council early this year revived the idea of a licensing ordinance that could bar landlords from receiving income from their property if they failed to maintain it. But as of year end, no licensing scheme had been enacted — at least in part because of short-staffing in the city’s housing inspection unit.