As the new City Council members prepare to take office next month, one of their first tasks will be to meet as the Rules Committee and decide how to govern themselves.
We would not presume to tell them how to run a Council. Still, we hope that at an early Rules Committee meeting Council members will consider ways to make Council meetings more citizen-friendly.
We understand, at least from a distance, that inherent in the job of a Council member is the dynamic tension between conducting City business efficiently and making government accessible and transparent: Citizens must be allowed to speak and participate; issues must be given full attention and deliberation. No one, however, would endorse continually protracted meetings.
The fact that the Planning and Development and the Administration and Public Works committees, which used to meet concurrently on the same night as Council, now meet consecutively stretches a City Council night into a five-hour show – and that is when things are running smoothly.
But is there a better way to do things? Should the Administration and Public Works Committee and the Planning and Development Committee meet at the same time, with aldermen and citizens alternating between meeting rooms to address issues of importance to them?
How much time should citizens be given to air their concerns, petition their government on weighty matters? What end, if any, is served by limiting – or, for that matter, expanding – public comment?
We do not pretend to have answers for these questions but hope that the new Council will consider these matters, as their decision will set the tone of citizen-government interaction for the next four years. We wish the new Council members and the new mayor the best on their new venture, but most of all, we wish the best to the citizens of Evanston, who will have a new Council to petition, admonish, advise and collaborate with.
The April 27 City Council meeting was effectively the last one for Mayor Lorraine Morton and aldermen Cheryl Wollin, Steve Bernstein, Edmund Moran and Anjana Hansen. Elizabeth Tisdahl, though no longer an alderman, will remain on the Council as mayor.
For the past four years – even longer for most – they have shared their time and their knowledge with and on behalf of the citizens of Evanston. We have not agreed with any one of them all the time – and in fact have disagreed with many of them more than once. Still they worked hard for and made valuable contributions to the City and the citizens of Evanston.
Perhaps we will continue to see their faces and hear their voices, as they contribute their knowledge to both the new Council and the soon-to-be-hired new City Manager.
We bid you farewell and thank you – public servants, all.