Members of the Evanston Voter Initiative, a grassroots effort to gain more citizen participation in crafting local legislation, have filed their petition for a referendum in March. The group gathered about 4,000 signatures to have the following question placed on the March 17 ballot:

“Shall the people of the City of Evanston provide for a voter petition and referendum process for the consideration and passage of city ordinances as follows:

“The people of Evanston provide that the offices of City Clerk, Mayor and aldermen of the City Council have the power and duty to determine the necessary and proper procedural rules regarding the passage of city ordinances and the express duty to assist the people of Evanston in exercising their right to petition and make known their opinions regarding the consideration and passage of city ordinances. At the request of at least 25 Evanston electors, the City Clerk shall promptly cause a proposal to be drafted into ordinance form, including an official summary of the proposed ordinance. The official summary of the proposed ordinance may be introduced by a petition filed with the City Clerk and signed by a number of electors equal to at least eight percent of the total votes cast in Evanston for candidates for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election. The procedure for filing the petition and determining its validity and sufficiency shall be established by the City Clerk, who shall make the determination of validity and sufficiency within 21 days of a petition filing.

“Upon the determination of a valid and sufficient petition, the City Clerk shall within one business day submit the ordinance proposed by the official petition summary on the agenda of the next City Council meeting for its consideration. The City Council shall take a record roll call vote on the proposed ordinance within 70 days of submission by the City Clerk. If the City Council does not pass the proposed ordinance within the 70 day period, the official summary of the proposed ordinance shall be submitted by the City Clerk to the electors for their approval by referendum at the next regularly scheduled election held in all precincts of the city and held at least 70 days after referendum submission by the City Clerk. If the official summary is approved by a majority of those voting on the question, the proposed ordinance shall have the force and effect of passage by the corporate authorities of the City of Evanston unless it is disapproved by a resolution of the City Council not more than 30 days after the election?”

A press release from the Evanston Voter Initiative stated, “This process will give Evanston voters the opportunity to create binding referenda which will ‘elevate the people’s voice with ballot choice.’ Through the voter initiative process, Evanston voters could enact local ordinances that would affect affordable housing, minimum wage, government structure, environmental issues, Freedom of Information Act, ethics violations by elected officials, zoning variances and more.”  

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...