Despite a beautiful fall evening, anger filled Council chambers on Monday night, Oct. 11. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz probably will be happy that this is the meeting he missed, as residents and members of the business community unloaded displeasure at most of what the Council tried to do – and almost none of it had to do with the budget.
The Administration and Public Works committee meeting began with Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, expressing anger that drug dealers use money seized in raids to pay their lawyers. Seized money is returned after trial according to a judge’s order, and Ald. Rainey asked why so much went back to the convicted drug dealer. Police Chief Richard Eddington said the funds were used to pay attorneys, leaving the City with $300 and a seized vehicle out of about $1,500. “I bet you 10 to 1 that we spent a whole lot more money arresting this guy,” said Ald. Rainey.
Another topic that stirred anger months ago returned to Council but passed with barely a whisper. The controversial new traffic signal in the middle of a block on Sheridan Street received funding. The City and Northwestern will both chip in for the midblock signal at its parking lot south of Garrett Place. A Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant will cover the remaining cost, and modern, coordinated traffic signals along Sheridan will be the result.
The Planning and Development Committee agenda held nothing but a discussion over a new licensing scheme for rental properties in Evanston. See story on page 4.
The development at 1700 Central St. moved forward on an 8-1 vote with Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, casting the lone “no.” Angry residents spoke against it, particularly those in the immediate area, citing parking limitations and less attractive building materials. It was not enough.
The original project, approved about five years ago, envisioned a 51-unit brick condo development with 100 parking spaces, 19 spaces dedicated for retail parking. The revised plan, approved Monday night, changes the development to a Hardie cement siding apartment complex with 80 units and 80 parking spaces, none dedicated for retail parking. The first floor of both plans calls for retail development.
Council determined that despite the changes to the previously approved plans, there was no need for the project to go back before the Plan Commission. Vague references to possible litigation did not deter them. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, cited a project on the 2600 block of Prairie Avenue that she opposed in the development stage but now says she believes that, “it’s been a good addition to the neighborhood.” No one addressed the issue of whether the matter should have been sent back to the Plan Commission.
The Rao row returned to Council, as Padma Rao and B.K. Rao were joined by their attorney, Douglas Cannon to complain of their treatment during the citizen comment period of recent City Council meetings. “My clients have authorized me to seek redress,” said Mr. Cannon, pointing out “three thin-skinned council members,” Ald. Rainey, Ald. Fiske and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, as targets of legal action. The Raos again spoke against the Kendall property subdivision and the destruction of “over two dozen mature trees” that will result.
By the time the dangerous dog ordinance came up on the agenda, most to the anger had seeped out of the room. Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who proposed the revised ordinance, thanked Ald. Fiske for her work on making the ordinance better. Amendments adding a right of dog owners to engage an animal behaviorist and appeal a “dangerous dog” designation sailed through without opposition. The ordinance itself then passed 9-0.
This story is not over, however. At Call of the Wards, Ald. Fiske announced a new round of amendments that will be taken up at Human Services next month. This time the amendments will address “problem pet owners.”