City Council pushed its usual Monday meetings to Tuesday, April 10, to accommodate the annual Evanston Township meeting. Under state law, the township meeting takes place the second Tuesday in April, and since the City Council is also the Board of Trustees for the town in Evanston, efficiency dictates shifting City meetings one day.
The Town meeting added a charge to the atmosphere as tension between an identifiable group of residents who support the Town filled the chambers. Other than the Town meeting itself, however, there were few controversial items on the agenda.
The item most directly affected by the Town supporters was probably the request by City (and Town) Clerk Rodney Greene for an additional, part-time, deputy clerk. An explosion in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to nearly 550 last year, has resulted in too much work for the clerk and a single deputy. Many of the requests come from “repeat requesters,” said the clerk. Kevin O’Connor, one of the most vocal Town supporters, frequently references his FOIA requests in Citizen Comment, and did again on Tuesday evening. Junad Rizki, another Town supporter, does as well.
All FOIA requests start and end in the Clerk’s office, said Mr. Greene. At the mention of repeat requestors, many on Council nodded in understanding. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said that the City had no interest in limiting FOIA requests, but that “FOIA has a cost.” Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked for the names of the frequent FOIA requestors, though it was not clear if there was a legal manner of providing those names.
Before Mr. Greene could finish his request presentation, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “I didn’t want to cut you off, but I want you to know that the additional work entitles you to an additional part-time employee.” Her motion to approve a part-time employee passed unanimously. Moments later, in Citizen Comment, Mr. O’Connor applauded Council’s decision. Mr. Greene said the part-time deputy clerk will be paid $17,500.
Perhaps the timing was a coincidence, but at Administration and Public Works Committee, Aldermen approved new surveillance cameras for the Levy Center just a few days after a rock shattered one of the Center’s large windows. Ald. Rainey said that after learning of the window she asked, “What did the video show?” and was told that the cameras had not worked since July. She asked why it had taken so long to install an operating security system, .
Doug Gaynor, Director of Parks, said the security system was composed of interior cameras and would not have shown who threw the rock. He added that the security system costs about $24,000 and the City tried to repair it before it became clear in December that it needed to be replaced. The broken window will cost between $400 and $800 to replace, he said. The item passed on the consent agenda.
Assistant City Manager/CFO Marty Lyons presented a fleet purchase plan under which the City will replace vehicles in a more systematic manner than in the past. Based on expected useful life, he said, the City has a backlog of 151 vehicles that need to be replaced, he said. The plan laid out a schedule under which the City will catch up on the backlog over a 10-year period without having to borrow money, in the form of bonds, as it did in the mid-90s, he said.
The proposal will add $1.1 million to the $2.4 million in fleet purchase funds already authorized for 2012. The money will come from the General Fund ($500,000) and City reserves ($600,000), and is justified because maintenance costs on aged vehicles result in more costs than the failure to replace vehicles saves over time, Mr. Lyons said.
Ald. Rainey first asked why the City has passenger vehicles in its fleet, the white sedans driven by City inspectors, rather than paying employees mileage reimbursement for the use of their own vehicles. Mr. Lyons said he would return with an analysis. “I bet dollars to donuts it’s cheaper [to pay mileage reimbursement] than buying cars,” said Ald. Rainey. She then protested the use of General Funds for fleet purchases. But she was alone, and the measure passed 8-1 at Council.
Ald. Rainey said that the Administration and Public Works Committee liked the World of Beer proposal so much that “we proposed a new law that would have allowed” it. She then called for a new license that would preemptively allow for a bar or tavern in the future. The Council too often reacts, she said.