City Council’s first meeting of 2012 took place on Jan. 9. Historically, first meetings drag long into the night, as business stacked up during the holiday break weighs down Council and committee agendas. Not so this time, as the first 2012 agenda allowed for quick business and an end to the public portion of the meeting before 9:30 p.m.

Council started with Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl proclaiming Jan. 9, 2012, as Northshore University Health Systems Day in appreciation for Evanston Hospital’s $5,000 donation to the Evanston Farmers’ Market. The grant allowed the market to offer incentives to customers using LINK cards, matching the first $5,000 spent. As a result of the grant and efforts to publicize the ability to use LINK cards at the market, LINK sales went from about $2,000 in 2010 to almost $12,000 in 2011, said the Mayor.

Sean O’Grady, the hospital’s vice president, announced that the hospital will provide the $5,000 grant again for the 2012 market. The program encourages healthier food choices, and the grant helps make such choices affordable.

City Clerk Rodney Greene announced that every ward in Evanston except the Ninth will lose election precincts as part of Cook County’s cost-saving efforts. Precincts will be combined, so many voters’ polling places will change. Residents should watch the mail for postcards advising them of the new precincts.

Hands-free soon may not be good enough. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, is pushing for legislation making it illegal to talk on a cell phone, even a hands-free one, in the car. A new ordinance may be introduced soon.

The newly revised, improved, and updated City Code has been completed and is now available online at http://cityofevanston.org/government/city-code/.

Council finally approved increases in parking costs and parking fines. Fees go up effective Feb. 1; the fattened fines begin on April 1. (No, that is not an April Fool’s gag.) Nor is this: Council approved a new $100 fee for reserving a parking space for moving vans. The signs, obtainable from the City to reserve a section of the curb for a moving van, will for the first time cost residents money. According to the staff memo, the City expects to make about $50,000 a year in moving van fees. This fee, too, will go into effect April 1. “Welcome to Evanston, new residents. That will be $100, please. …”

Ald. Grover pointed out that the ordinance itself does not reference the $100 fee. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that the amount of the fee appears elsewhere in the code, allowing for easier increases (or, perhaps, decreases) in the future.

The responsible-pet-ownership ordinance, in the works for months as an adjunct to the dangerous-dogs ordinance, was introduced without discussion on the consent agenda. Created in an effort to combat multiple citations for violations of the City’s pet and animals code, the new ordinance, if passed, will allow the City to designate residents “problem pet-owners” if they incur three or more violations in a three-year period. The designation requires an evidentiary hearing.

An important aspect of this ordinance is that dogs or other pets can be impounded pending the hearing. Currently, pet owners issued citations keep their dogs and often do not bother to show up for their hearings. The new ordinance will address that problem. Finally, being designated a problem pet owner means that such residents cannot license or own an animal in Evanston for two years.