Breaking out of the August slow period, Council saw the typical full September calendar of meetings with full Committee and Council meeting on Sept. 15 and Sept. 21, plus a Human Services committee meeting on Sept. 8. Despite the breather, though, issues remained largely the same as in July.
At the Sept. 21 meeting, the gun range licensing ordinance passed to general acclaim from gun control advocates. Denise Stoneback, a vocal opponent of guns in Evanston, called the measure “really pretty comprehensive” in its safety plan, age restrictions, and requirement that all potential gun range employees have a state firearms license. Others echoed her praise for the City in crafting strong preventative language in the ordinance. No one expects a firing range in the City any time soon.
The zoning changes bring to a conclusion a months-long effort to establish parameters in the City limits for establishing both firing ranges and retail outlets selling firearms. Under recent court decisions and a new Illinois law responding to those decisions, it was possible for gun shops to open in any zoning district that permitted retail sales. The new law changes that possibility by limiting gun sales to heavily regulated and controlled firing ranges allowed only as a special use in very limited locations.
Also on Sept. 21, the City renamed Council chambers the James C. Lytle City Council Chambers in honor of former Mayor Lytle, who served as alderman in the 70s and then mayor from 1977 to 1985. Mayor Lytle said the day was “a really joyous occasion. Forgive me if I turn my back on the City Council” to address the jam packed Council Chambers “but there are more voters out there in case I want to run for office again.”
He went on to say he remembered the good times and had forgotten the bad times. Nazi marches and streetlights were particular memories, he said, along with the vote to establish the downtown farmers’ market. “The vote was either 9-8, or 9-9 with a tiebreaker,” he recalled. At the time, each ward elected two aldermen. “I am very, very humbled and honored,” he concluded.
City Council decided to hold the refuse collection contract with Groot rather than accept a staff recommendation for a two year extension, even though the cost actually diminishes slightly. Aldermen Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, both spoke of residents’ complaints about service and testy interactions between Groot employees and residents.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the City planned to continue with efforts to combine with Skokie on a consolidated contract at, he hoped, even lower rates. Signing a one year extension with Groot, offered at the same rate as the current year but not at the reduced rate a two-year contract would bring, might allow those talks to reach conclusion, he said.
Deputy City Manager Marty Lyons said the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) recently lowered “tipping rates,” the cost of dumping a loaded truck into the landfill in Glenview. Because a City representative, currently Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, sits on the SWANCC board, the City is well aware of tipping rates and therefore holds a stronger bargaining position. Reduced tipping rated necessarily means lower operating costs for Groot.
In the end, Council decided to hold the contract extension until the next meeting. The current contract expired Halloween, so residents can expect a decision before Oct. 31.
Every single item on the Sept. 15 agenda passed on the consent agenda. Even at the committee level there was very little discussion. Highlights include an intergovernmental agreement with District 65 for the cost of a video communications specialist hired to tape both Council and School Board meetings. The meetings occur at the same time, but taping and broadcasting will be accomplished by the specialist, paid $25,000 per year (salary and benefits) by the School Board. Their portion represents a third of total compensation, though. Assistant City Manager Erica Storlie said hours will be entered into ledgers monthly and adjustments made based on actual time spent on each entity.
The specialist is necessary because of the demise of ECTV, the organization once responsible for video production services for the City and School Board.
Also of note: Maxwell Style Grill is coming to the former Dairy Queen on Howard Street, a space vacant for 10 years, said Alderman Ann Rainey. “The neighbors are very supportive,” she said. The new owner promises to sell soft-serve ice cream, she added. The only sticking point with neighbors, noted by both Ald. Rainey and Director of Community Development Mark Muenzer, is the restaurant’s mustard-and-ketchup color scheme, which remains in negotiation.