Evanston aldermen are scheduled to vote tonight on a package of ordinance revisions that — among other things — appears to require residents to obtain a city permit to use a smartphone outdoors.

The changes, drafted by Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar, attempt to deal with a chronic source of complaints in town — that one person’s music is another person’s noise.

The new provisions would make “the playing, using, operating or permitting to be played, used or operated, at any time, any radio, musical instrument, television, smart phone, computer, tablet or other machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound” a violation subject to a fine of up to $750 if it could be heard more than 25 feet from the source and was determined to have disturbed the peace.

And it requires any person seeking to use such a device in an outdoor area to get a permit from the city manager, which would require the approval of the ward’s alderman.

The revisions do not change the distance requirement for car audio systems — they would still have to be audible from 75 feet away to violate the city code.

The revisions also cover a variety of other offenses.

Among other things, they eliminate the fine for spitting on a sidewalk, and they remove a range of offenses related to numbers running and bookmaking that the corporation counsel figures are no longer a problem, now that the state lottery and legal casinos have largely surplanted the illegal numbers racket.

But, curiously, the changes do not eliminate a prohibition on advertising any form of gambling activity — which would appear to make it illegal for publications in Evanston to run ads for the state lottery or legal casinos.

The proposed changes were introduced at a City Council meeting two weeks ago where they drew little comment.

Related document

City Council packet. (Proposed City Code revisions are item A7 and start at page 153.)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Guess it be ok to open my

    Guess it be ok to open my windows and turn the Stero  or TV up as loud as I want 🙂

  2. Say what?!

    Why can't they just have a noise ordinance that covers anything – music, shouting, construction noise, whatever?

    Evanston becomes more and more of a joke everyday. If it isn't forbidden, it's compulsary. And there's a fee attached either way.

  3. Another SE Evanston idea ?

    I have no attachment to the 'Matrix'– no cell phone, smartphone, iPod — and do find cell phone users very inconsiderate of people around them.

    Maybe if someone started listening to them, recording phone numbers they give out, who they are cheating on the spouse with, what shadey/illegal business deals they are undertaking, etc., and blackmail them, perhaps the loud conversations would stop.

    And NU students walking into oncoming traffic against the lights — the Darwin effect will probably take them out of the population pool soon enough.

    However this proposal sounds like another proposal only the SE Evanston group would propose.

    As it is the police don't enforce the 75-foot ban on noise from cars — you can hear the music a block away — and with the base turned-up, feel it.

    They don't even enforce the muffler noise esp. against motorcyclists who try to make as much noise as they can. A policeman said the muffler noise law applies to motorcycles also but the police gave up issuing tickets since the judges always throw the case out and the officer's time is wasted.

  4. Smartphones

    If it weren't so ridiculous, I'd quit laughing and wonder how anyone could support this let alone enforce it.

    1. Let’s not forget…

      And Nan, let's not forget how anyone could even propose such nonsense!

      Good grief! 

  5. Phone permits? What next

    A permit. For my cell phone. What if I wanted to use my cell phone only to, you know, make a phone call or receive a phone call or maybe even send and receive texts?

    I would not be too noisy doing that.

    The city wants  to punish the universe for the sins of a few. Expand the noise regulations – fine! But permits? And what about iPods, tablets and related devices. Someone might be playing a movie on their tablet. Lots of loud explosions and violence, not to mention R rated language!

    Insanity, thy name is Evanston!

  6. April Fools joke?

    If this wasn't the middle of Feb., I would have guessed that this was an April Fools joke.  Another attempt at over-regulating Evanston citizens.

  7. Permit/Alderperson Approval

    So  if I have friends and family  over for the 4th of July BBQ. If we sit on the Deck and play some music I need a Permit from the City. "
    "And it requires any person seeking to use such a device in an outdoor area to get a permit from the city manager, which would require the approval of the ward's alderman"

  8. Aldermen with smartphones is an oxymoron

    I can't believe the City Council is even considering this. If passed I can spit on the sidewalk, run bookmaking but I would need to get a permit from the city manager, which would require the approval of the ward's alderman, in order for me to use my cell phone outdoors?

    You get what you vote for – big government nanny state ninkapoop aldermen. 

    This ordinance if passed will be challenged and overturned in court. We need an entirely new City Council.

  9. Misleading and Ridiculous

    This headline will probably go down as the most ridiculous ever written on this site. I hope you got what you wanted out of it. The angry and uninformed few spewing vile at the city they freely choose to live in.

    1. Can’t agree — it’s the proposal that’s ridiculous
      Yes, requiring a permit to use a cell phone in public is a ridiculous idea. But that’s exactly what the proposal would have allowed the City of Evanston to require. Once a government entity gives itself the authority to do something, who is to say that that entity won’t use that authority as broadly as possible (and happily use that authority to raise revenue as broadly as possible)?

      Are you saying that if we choose to live somewhere, we can’t criticize how the government in that place operates? Kind of like “America, love it or leave it?” Seems rather anti-democratic, doesn’t it? Given that I pay property taxes to the City, I plan to keep my right to criticize the screwball proposals that are considered by our City Council. Ditto for keeping an eye on and criticizing, when appropriate, every other taxing entity that has its hands in my pockets at every turn.

      A noise ordinance that’s actually enforced. That’s what we need. The biggest problems are the cars that go boom-boom down the street and the motorcycles that sound like a prolonged backfire. If our current noise ordinance can’t be used against these types of problems or judges always throw out the tickets, sounds like we need a redo on the current noise ordinance.

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