Efforts at the Feb. 10 City Council meeting to overhaul the “general offenses” portion of the City Code could not make it over a noise ordinance that appeared to satisfy no one. A Council reluctance to eliminate an antiquated prohibition against spitting on the public sidewalk promised additional revisions to the measure. At the request of Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, it was held at Council, to be revisited at a later date.
The portion of the code at issue was amended in 2012, but the City’s legal staff said in a staff memo that it found a need for further modifications to “clarify language, make it more reader- friendly, and sequence general offenses in such a way as to improve understanding and enforcement.”
The result is a 33-page proposed ordinance revision, which tweaks some provisions while significantly overhauling others. The revision was introduced by Council in January with the understanding, at that time, that the provisions dealing with noise would be further modified.
Before the meeting even began, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz signaled that the overhaul ordinance would be held at the request of Ald. Wilson.
The current noise ordinance does not regulate noise during daylight hours. One resident appeared before Council, saying his across-the-street neighbor plays jazz records all day long, blasting the music from speakers on a front porch. Under the current ordinance, and the initial proposed ordinance, nothing could be done, because hours listed in the law seem to indicate that a resident is free to play music from a porch during daylight hours without committing a violation.
Noise has been a sensitive issue in Ald. Wilson’s ward over the past year, particularly regarding noise coming from Revolution Spin near the intersection of Main Street and Sherman Avenue. Residents have appeared before Council to complain of noise, and police determined each time that, under the current ordinance, nothing could be done.
Ald. Wilson, a practicing attorney, moved to hold the overhaul ordinance saying “I’d like to take a closer look at this.” He did not indicate how long he expected his analysis to take.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, agreed that the noise ordinance needed further revision – but for a very different reason. She protested the absolute prohibition against amplified music at neighborhood block parties, a prohibition included in the latest noise ordinance revision.
Next came the spitting. Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, agreed that the noise provisions needed a closer look, but added, “Why remove the ordinance prohibiting spitting in public?”
“I agree that we should not spit on the street,” said Ald. Burrus.
“I’m agreeing with Mark [about spitting],” added Ald. Wilson.
Those getting their hopes up that expectorating in Evanston is nearing decriminalization must temper such expectations. For now, it appears that a revamped noise ordinance will be returning to Council soon, and that spitting will remain illegal. The remainder of the 33-page proposed ordinance, covering a broad range of offenses, has not yet been discussed or debated.