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Concern about the future of the City’s Youth and Young Adult Division continued through the Council discussion. Several residents questioned the motivation behind breaking up the division (See story by Larry Gavin on this website.) Paul Barker said, “The attitude seems to be, ‘If it ain’t broke, let’s break it.’”
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, moved that Council hold an open discussion of reorganizing the Youth and Young Adult Division until after the budget has been approved.
Mr. Bobkiewicz has proposed breaking up the team of Kevin Brown, Porschia Davis, Nathan Norman and other outreach workers.
Mr. Brown manages the division; Ms. Davis oversees the Summer Youth Employment Program; Mr. Norman handles much of the street outreach. Mr. Brown would become a manager of workforce development in the Community Development Department. Kenneth Cherry, pastor of Christ Temple Missionary Baptist Church, also manages the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. He would succeed Mr. Brown and work with Ms. Davis and Mr. Norman. Mr. Brown would move into a new position of workforce development in the Community Development Department to help find jobs for unemployed or under-employed adults in Evanston.
When Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson objected to the fact of the Ald. Braithwaite’s motion as well as its content, the discussion became a battle over territory and authority.
Ald. Wilson said the program, though split, would be fully funded, “so it’s not a cut in the budget.”
He also said, “I don’t think it’s a proper motion, since [the Youth and Young Adult program] is not in the budget and not on the agenda.” He asked for direction from Corporation Counsel Michelle Masoncup.
Ms. Masoncup said Ald. Braithwaite could not make the motion, because “there’s nothing on the agenda.”
However, according to the Illinois Open Meetings Act, it is only in specially called meetings – not regularly scheduled meetings – that motions not listed on the agenda are precluded.
Ald. Braithwaite persisted. “I’ll call this personal privilege,” he said. “Several months ago we directed the City Manager not to touch this program.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz said, “I notified you of an intent to make some staffing changes, which is my right as City Manager. The only idea behind the reorganization was the promotion of Mr. Brown. Mr. Bobkiewicz said the Council could object to the promotion of Mr. Brown but not to the reorganization.
Mr. Brown has said Mr. Bobkiewicz did not notify him or discuss with him the proposal to reorganize the division before it was publicly announced.
Ald. Wilson said, “I was told by the City Manager that he was going to reorganize it.” He added that the program remains “fully funded.”
“I didn’t hear anything,” said Ald. Braithwaite. “I’m glad you had a conversation. I wish I’d had the courtesy.”
Ald. Wynne said, “What you’re suggesting, Alderman Braithwaite, is that we take over the City Manager’s authority.”
Ms. Masoncup also said she felt Ald. Braithwaite’s motion challenged Mr. Bobkiewicz’s authority.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, said, “When it came up the first time, we gave you directions. People said, ‘Keep the program intact.’ I think that Alderman Braithwaite’s request that we keep the program intact is not invalid.” She said that so many residents were already alarmed over the closing of a fire station and other proposed cuts that leaving the program intact could ease some of the tension among residents.
“Why cause more angst in the community?” she said.
Ald. Braithwaite said to Mr. Bobkiewicz, “I would think that, instead of digging your heels in – just wait.”
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she felt the reorganization could be viewed as a promotion or “in a very different way,” many of them positive. She said the issue is confusing and asked for clarification of the rationale behind splitting up the team.
Mr. Bobkiewicz said Ms. Davis and Mr. Norman “are the day-to-day leaders” of the program so he feels comfortable removing Mr. Brown from the management position there. He also said there is need for workforce development and he had spoken with Community Development Director Johanna Leonard and Parks/Recreation and Community Service Director Lawrence Hemingway. “Mr. Hemingway and Ms. Leonard came up with an idea to leave the Youth and Young Adult Program in place and have Mr. Brown develop workforce – as part of a larger reorganization of this department, with Council’s authorization. … From my perspective, that promotion [of Mr. Brown] requires City Council authority. The reorganization does not.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz also said, “I’m dismayed. I’m dismayed that the credibility I have gained in this particular area alone [is being challenged]. I have worked very diligently to build resources. … But I hear what you’re saying. … I think there’s opportunity for additional discussions with this.
“I’m perfectly happy to have this be a management decision only, that requires no budget authority. That’s not my preference. I think the reorganization would make this a better program. … My role as your City Manager is to put the right people in the right place, and I have a nine-year record of that. Certainly in this area we’ve seen only success.”
A reorganization of departments in 2015 resulted in a discrimination lawsuit against the City, the Corporation Counsel, the Human Resources Director and Mr. Bobkiewicz. The City spend $400,000 in outside counsel for litigation costs and in 2017 reached a settlement of the lawsuit for $500,000 but admitted no liability.
Ald. Braithwaite said, “My concern echoes the concerns I heard from the floor. They will keep coming until this is clarified. I’m concerned about how the reorganization is going to affect people on the west side and the south side.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz said, “I’m concerned about those people over 25 who don’t have jobs.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz said he would bring to the Council on Nov. 12 a clarification of the proposed reorganization and its likely effects on the community. He said he would bring Mr. Norman, Ms. Davis and Rev. Cherry to the Nov. 12 meeting and “will cease working with Mr. Brown on his new job.”