Mayor Daniel Biss presides over the 81st City Council. (Photo by Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios)

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City officials faced a tricky situation May 10, allowing the 80th Evanston City Council to finish its business and install the 81st City Council. By law the new City Council had to be seated at the first regular or special City Council meeting after results from the April 6 General Election had been certified. That meeting fell on May 10.

Stephen Hagerty, the outgoing mayor, addressed the matter at the start of the May 10 meeting.

“In the past, we convened one meeting of the current Council, then adjourned to convene the new meeting, including swearing in the elected Evanston City Council,” he said.

“This year, it has come to my attention that the procedure of commencing and adjourning two separate meetings has been questioned,” Mr. Hagerty said.

The Solution

After the 80th City Council finished its business, which included several controversial items on its agenda, Mr. Hagerty said, “we’ll recess” or “I’ll ask for a motion to recess.”

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste, a former Second Ward Alderperson, administers the oath of office to new Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss. (Photo by Bob Seidenberg)

Allowing for a short break, Mr. Hagerty then reconvened the meeting before handing over the gavel to new Mayor Daniel Biss to start the proceedings of the new City Council, Evanston’s 81st.

Big Contrasts

The contrasts between the two Councils are noticeable.

The 80th Council was perhaps the most senior Council in years of service in Evanston legislative history.

Alderpersons Judy Fiske, (elected 2009), Peter Braithwaite (appointed 2011), Melissa Wynne (elected 1997), Donald Wilson (elected 2009), Eleanor Revelle (appointed 2015), and Ann Rainey (first elected in 1983) alone accounted for nearly 100 years of service.

Alderpersons Braithwaite, Wynne and Revelle, as well as Thomas Suffredin, 6th Ward, and Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, won new four-year terms.

But they joined four first-time alderpersons as well as a new Mayor, with roughly 50 years of collective service, one Council member (Ald. Wynne) accounting for nearly half of that total.

Some Other Contrasts

The last City Council was composed of three members with legal backgrounds: Ms. Wynne, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Suffredin; two with experience in real estate: Ms. Fiske and Ms. Rainey; one in government: Ms. Fleming is on the staff of Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin; and four with backgrounds in business: Ms. Fiske, who once ran a local pet-supply store; Mr. Braithwaite; Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward; and Mayor Hagerty, owner of an emergency-management consulting firm.

New City Council members and City Clerk (Photo by Genie Lemieux, Evanston Photographic Studios)

Ms. Revelle was the only editor-writer among the group and Ms. Fleming and then-City Clerk Devon Reid brought experience in government.

The new Council, meanwhile, consists of four members with experience as community or political organizers – Clare Kelly, 1st Ward; Bobby Burns, 5th Ward; Mr. Reid, 8th Ward; and City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza.

New Fifth Ward Alderperson Bobby Burns is also doing parent duty as he takes the Oath of Office. (Photo by Bob Seidenberg)

Ms. Kelly, a longtime Spanish teacher at Evanston Township High School, is the first teacher to serve on the body since Anny Heydemann, who served as alderperson in the Fourth Ward from 1991 to 1997.

First Ward Alderperson Clare Kelly is the first to Alderperson who gets to try out her new seat on the Council. (Photo by Bob Seidenberg)

Ms. Kelly and Ms. Mendoza also bring Spanish-speaking fluency to the group.

Indeed, at the May 10 City Council meeting, Ms. Mendoza thanked supporters in Spanish first, and then translated her remarks into English for the audience.

New City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza thanked supporters first in Spanish, then English. (Photo by Bob Seidenberg)

New Mayor Daniel Biss, a former State Legislator, good-naturedly apologized at the May 10 City Council meeting that “I didn’t go to law school,” as he acclimated into his new role as presiding officer over Council discussions, ruling on parliamentary procedure issues.

Indeed, Mr. Biss may bring an even more valuable attribute to discussions.

Before he began his political career, he served as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Chicago.

Math skills are particularly prized as Council members deal with the intricacies of the City‘s $300 million budget every year.

 

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