As the pre-budget season continues and summer has wound down with the return of students to school all across the City, including Northwestern, Council’s calendar turns more weighty as well. The Sept. 26 meeting was a preview of things to come, with more debate and more significant decisions on the horizon.

Things began on a feel-good note, with the Administration and Public Works Committee approving the installation of the Delores A. Holmes Recording Studio at Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center, 1823 Church St. Funding for the $23,200 project comes from a donation from Northwestern University, which insisted that the studio be named after her as a condition of the donation, said the eponymous Fifth Ward alderman. As would be expected, there was no debate over the measure.

 More trees are coming. The City will purchase 145 trees from the Suburban Tree Consortium, which will plant 70 of them; City staff will plant the rest. City programs permitting residents to pay extra to get more trees planted early worked, allowing for 23 of the new trees. In addition, the “I Heart Evanston Trees” donation program netted $5,147, resulting in even more trees planted.

“Our little tree programs are working,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “People wanted a way to help out and it’s working.”

Council approved a new law-enforcement policy manual in digital form at an annual subscription cost of $23,246, plus a one-time implementation fee of $11,790.  The program allows for immediate updates based upon changes to local, state and federal laws, as well as court decisions, said Deputy Chief of Police Jay Parrott. “It is updated on a timely fashion and does not get outdated,” he said. The manual is available digitally to all officers.

The success of several new businesses near Davis and Oak could result in surprising changes. Dan Kelch, the owner of Five and Dime, Taco Diablo, and Lulu’s, asked that Council reconsider its lease with the Post Office for parking spaces near the intersection. He referenced Smylie Brothers, his business and other new restaurants and businesses still in development. Given the increased traffic, he said, “there may be better ways to use that land than letting trucks park there all night long.”

Alderman Don Wilson, whose Fourth Ward includes the area under discussion, asked that “staff take a look at, globally, what parking looks like” near the intersection. Parking is being pushed into nearby residential neighborhoods causing stress, he said. He asked staff to review and bring a report back to the A&PW committee. Both parking contracts – in the surface lot and spots in the Maple Avenue garage – were held pending the staff report.

Benchmarking was once again held by Council, but only after a vote to table the matter failed 5-4. The problem expressed by Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and echoed by others, is “notification to building owners who did not know anything about this.”

The ordinance would require building owners to measure energy and water usage in their buildings and report those numbers to the City for compilation and publication.

Ald. Rainey said a number of self-managed condominium associations in the Eighth Ward asked questions about the ordinance, and “I was totally incompetent to explain it to them.” If someone who spends three nights a week in meetings at the Civic Center cannot explain the benchmarking ordinance, she said, then building owners need more time to digest and understand it before it passes.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, spoke of a Second Ward building-owner with tenants like Goldfish Swim School and Temperance Brewery. “They use a lot of water,” he said, for obvious reasons, and asked about the impact of the ordinance as a result. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t answer them,” he said.

The slim majority, however, saw nothing but the positive in the ordinance. Benchmarking is “helping to protect all of us,” said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3td Ward. “Chicago has already gone ahead on this, and that’s unusual,” she said.

“That’s embarrassing,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

While the measure was not tabled, Council ultimately agreed to hold it until a date certain – Nov. 28. The matter will be voted on at that point. If the vote to table is any indication, it could be a tight vote.