Packing all its August business into one evening, City Council members addressed 26 agenda items, approving most for either introduction (to be considered at the next regular meeting) or action. The backyard-chicken ordinance made it to the “introduced” stage, but more clucking occurred over a personal dispute between an alderman and some supporters of the Library Board’s recent funding decision.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, attempting to broker a truce, invited members of the Library Board to a meeting, yet twice interrupted one of the speakers at citizen comment for criticizing the alderman’s stance. When Ninth Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus asked about the format of the meeting – scheduled for one hour before the Sept. 13 City Council meeting – and where the Library Board and the Council would sit, Mayor Tisdahl replied that she had not thought of those things and added, “This is not ending the Vietnam War; this is trying to improve library funding.”
Interim Fire Chief Greg Klaiber presented a citizen commendation to Luke Austen-Smith for alerting a family that their house was on fire during a storm on July 23. Because of the violence of the storm, the family members who were at home sought shelter in the basement, unaware that lightning had struck their home and the top floor was on fire. Mr. Austen-Smith, who had been driving past the house with a friend, Eliza Alexis-Ferguson, when they noticed the fire, knocked on the door and waited until the mother and son were safely out of the home. Ms. Alexis-Ferguson called the fire department, which responded within three minutes, Chief Klaiber said. “We get a lot of 911 calls,” he said, “but it’s another thing to get out of the car in a storm and get pople safely out of the [burning] house.”
Council members also approved the following items:
An ordinance allowing one-day licenses for the sale of liquor at private parties. The ordinance came at the request of Foodstuffs, which will cater a private party later this month. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she objected to a license “that allows the world to get a Thursday [until 2 a.m.] license.” Mayor Tisdahl said it was her understanding that she could “refuse [to grant] any license” and that this ordinance did not set a precedent for granting other licenses.
Another three-year extension for the project at 1603 and 1609 Orrington Ave. The planned development ordinance for the property was granted in 2005 and extended in 2008, to expire in September of this year. The new ordinance grants owners LR-JV Orrington LLC another three years to complete their plan to upgrade the underground parking and develop parts of the plaza and existing buildings into residential and retail space.
Fourth Ward Alderman Donald Wilson said he had “reservations about going that far out” for the extension. David Reifman of DLA Piper, attorney for the owners, said, “The owner has completed a three-year extension for his loans. Even though the retail is not yet ready, the owner has invested about $2.5 [million] in plaza and garage improvements.”
Ald. Wilson said that since the company was maintaining the environment and making improvements, he felt comfortable voting for the extension. Ald. Rainey said she was glad that the owners were still interested in developing the property.
A five-year extension of the City’s franchise agreement with Commonwealth Edison. Ald. Wilson, who chaired the franchise negotiating team, said both he and members of the City’s Energy Commission felt the five-year extension, with an option on the City’s part to extend it for another five years, was satisfactory because it locked ComEd into performing certain services for the City. ComEd will provide regular reports about reliability and interruptions of service.
Ald. Rainey, another member of the negotiating team, said she wanted only a three-year extension and said the five-year recommendation came “before the blow-outs took place. It doesn’t seem to me that we should be without power during a storm.”
Ald. Wilson said ComEd had offered the five-year extension but also had pressed for a standard extension of about 25 years. “We have high expectations, and we expect quality services from them,” he said.
Two ordinances that occupied much aldermanic discussion at the Aug. 2 Human Services Committee were approved for introduction: the backyard chicken ordinance, which would allow Evanston residents who comply with its safety and sanitary provisions to keep up to six hens for fresh eggs, and the mobile food vendor ordinance. Ellen King, chair of the backyard-chicken committee thanked Council members for considering the ordinance, which would allow Evanston residents to have fresh eggs, and for their interest in promoting sustainability with locally grown food.
A mobile food truck on the streets of Evanston proved to be somewhat controversial. While Ald. Wilson and Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne said they supported the ordinance allowing the food truck, Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she had several concerns: “It’s a mobile Type 2 [fast food] restaurant, which uses paper cups and paper plates,” she said, adding that she hoped that the truck would be banned from areas with single-family residences. She also said she was “concerned about the impact of the food truck on other restaurants,” saying that restaurants on Noyes Street could be harmed if the food truck came to the Civic Center offering lunches.
The Council meeting ended as it had begun, on a note of divisiveness. Ald. Rainey, who had been criticized for writing ad hominem attacks on the message board of her personal (and personally paid for) website, told Council members, “Leave my message board alone.” She said any attempt by the City to shut down the message board would be met with a lawsuit.
Ellen Newcomer of the Library Friends group had said during citizen comment that Ald. Rainey’s attacks on the library board and its recent actions violated a section of the City code that prohibits publication of material designed to stir up, among other things, racial or class hatred. The alderman also described personal attacks upon her. She said the ordinance to which Ms. Newcomber referred was written in the 1950s and referred it to the Rules Committee for re-examination.
Ald. Burrus praised Ald. Rainey for her forthrightness. Second Ward Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste said he knew that Ald. Rainey was a fighter and knew how to stand up for herself. But he added, “The Mayor has called for a cease-fire,” and asked that she respect the call for a truce.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said she would like the Rules Committee to consider what civil discourse entails.