City Council returned to a recurring theme at its Oct. 14 meeting: liquor and cigarettes. Moving from tupperware party-style wine to beer in coffee shops and on to regulation of electronic cigarettes, Council finally retured to another familiar theme – education.
The evening started with an unsolicited expression of thanks from Wanda Reed, who ran the in-house suspension program at Evanston Township High School for more than 20 years. She brought Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl a bouquet of flowers, saying “There’s a person here … who supported me at ETHS. … Ms. Tisdahl, I want to let you know, I appreciate you.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, took a moment of “personal privilege” before reading the Consent Agenda to say, “I clapped because of Wanda Reed [whose] random act of kindness on a Monday night warmed my heart. You’re really someone people should look up to.”
Then Council moved on the liquor. At the Administration and Public Works Committee, on the very night that the revised liquor code consolidating some of its classifications passed, Council introduced another new class of liquor: class M. The business, In Grape Company, plans to travel to customers’ homes to deliver wine selected by the business owner to meet the needs of the client. Ald. Rainey, saying she was struggling to get her mind around the concept, asked, “Are you like the Tupperware of wine?” The classification passed on the consent agenda and will come up next week for debate and vote.
Next came a request from Starbucks for beer and wine. The ubiquitous coffee purveyor, according to its Illinois attorney, is rolling out a concept known as “Starbucks Evenings,” creating what they term a “third space” at the newly expanded Sherman Avenue location. Starbucks asked to suspend the rules so the license could be issued immediately. Starbucks has no plans to seek such a license at any other Evanston location, but several Chicagoland area shops have already adopted the “Starbucks Evenings” concept.
While Council members generally seemed supportive, Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he was not comfortable suspending the rules because, he wanted to give the community time to ask questions and comment on the proposal. Procedurally, though, the rules had already been suspended on the Consent Agenda. Council got around the problem by holding the matter for final vote in two weeks. Comments heard from the Civic Center crowd indicate there may be a bit of a debate at that time.
Citing the unknown health effects of electronic cigarettes, City Staff proposed an ordinance banning the sale of such devices to minors. The staff memo that accompanied the proposed ordinance also claimed to restrict the use of e-cigarettes to areas where smoking was allowed, though the ordinance itself did not contain such language. Calling the attached ordinance incomplete, staff requested that the ordinance be held until the next meeting, and Council agreed.
But not before a number of speakers took to the lectern to denounce the proposed restrictions. Self-described as “vapers,” each spoke of the addictive nature of cigarettes, the health problems associated with smoking, and the life-saving impact of e-cigarettes. “This has saved my life,” said Brandon Hammond. Forcing vapers into close proximity with real smokers, and their second-hand smoke, severely curtails the health benefits of “vaping.” The incentive to “vape” rather than smoke is also virtually eliminated because one reason to decide to use e-cigarettes is that they can be used in more places.
“I just ask you not to put me back into that box,” – the box with smokers, said Randy Conforti.
A decision will have to wait at least until the full proposed ordinance is available. Council did not debate the matter at all.
Next came approval for beacon Academy, a Montessori-based private high school that will open above Cheesy’s at 622 Davis St. in fall of 2014. The Academy will present an International Baccalaureate curriculum and plans to serve about 120 students. Members of the Planning and Development Committee voted 6-1 to pass the matter on to Council, where it was introduced on the Consent Agenda. Alderman Judy Fiske, whose 1st Ward contains the site of the planned school, voted no but allowed introduction. The matter will be debated by the full Council next week.
Finally, Council held the resolution on Township dissolution, with Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, asking the City Manager to provide an outline for a plan for the City to take over the providing of Township services. The meeting took place before Township Supervisor Gary Gaspard resigned and the Council, sitting as Township Trustees, appointed the City Manager as acting Township Supervisor (see story on page 1).