Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss and city staff on October 18 announced a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, giving city employees until November 15 to be fully vaccinated.

The policy applies to all city staff, including seasonal and part-time workers, contractors, volunteers and interns.

“Getting vaccinated is the single most important action we can take to protect ourselves, our families, our coworkers, and our community from COVID-19,” the mayor announced at the time.

Since the announcement, officials have secured memorandums of understanding with the city’s three major employees groups – police officers, firefighters and public works employees – pledging to come into compliance.

But what about City Council members, who are not covered under the city’s mandatory vaccination policy?

Evanston City Council members are not covered under the city’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy, yet all but two confirmed they have received vaccinations. (Photo by Bob Seidenberg)

The council as a group has been holding in-person meetings for several months now. As a result, they often come into close contact with staff, community members and each other.

Are they vaccinated? What is their opinion on mandatory vaccinations?

  • City Clerk Stephanie Mendoza, Biss and seven of the other 10 council members have responded to emails and in some cases follow-up calls and texts from the Evanston RoundTable, confirming they had been vaccinated, receiving both shots.
  • Two Council members, Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, and Devon Reid, 8th Ward, have not responded to emails, text messages or follow-up calls attempting to verify their vaccination status.

In responding to the survey, a number of council members stressed the importance of vaccination.

  • Second Ward Council member Peter Braithwaite: “I think it’s important we lead by example.”
  • Third Ward Council member Melissa Wynne: “I agree with the mandatory COVID vaccine policy. I think it should apply to the City Council as well. We are all in this together. We all need to protect ourselves and our neighbors.”
  • Fourth Ward Council member Jonathan Nieuwsma: “I’ve been vaccinated since shortly after I became eligible. My father-in-law, who lives with us, is in a high-risk category, so my wife and I qualified as caregivers a few weeks before we would have otherwise been eligible.”
  • Ninth Ward Council member Cicely Fleming: “We’re supposed to set an example for other people. And our staff should have done this long ago as well. We [city offices] still have not opened. The schools are open, everyone else is open. I don’t think we’re setting a great example.”

In announcing a mandatory vaccination policy last month, officials referred to President Joe Biden’s September 21 COVID-19 Action Plan, requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis.

Following the President’s order, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration implemented the requirement November 4.

Based on reports the Evanston Health and Human Services Department had received, approximately 82% of the city’s staff had been vaccinated at the time of the city’s October 18 announcement of its policy and deadline. Options were to be granted for certain medical or religious reasons.

The policy also made an exception for any employee whose personal preference was to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing in lieu of being vaccinated.

“EHHS has the ability to identify staff members who fail to comply after all attempts, and efforts have been made to achieve compliance,” the city’s mandatory vaccination policy stated. “Violations of this policy or associated procedures may result in a reprimand, appropriate disciplinary measures and up to and including termination.”

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.

4 replies on “Mandatory vaccination policy does not cover Evanston City Council members, but most confirm they have been vaccinated”

  1. I have a growing concern about what’s happening here in Evanston. This is my first of others to come.
    It is a sad state of affairs to have three more of Evanston’s finest to resign from the Evanston Police Department. ​
    Why is this happening? These newest resignations arises from the lack of concern and support for our Officers from the governing body The City Council .
    I don’t blame them for resigning, but it places our welfare and safety in jeopardy.
    How can they “SERVE AND PROTECT” this community when their numbers are so drastically depleted. We need more Police Officers not less, to provide the necessary protection for this City.
    With that said, there will be three new officers in the Department on December 1, 2021. These Officers will be graduating from the Chicago Police Academy on the 30th of November, 2021 around the hour of 9:00 am.
    Three Officers are existing and three new Officers are entering the Department, but more recruits are needed to serve this community of 75,000 residents.
    Realistically speaking, their numbers have fallen by 35 less Officers from what is being reported to the community.
    Will the City Staff and this Council become more honest & transparent much sooner than later? Well, that’s the million dollar question for today!!

  2. This is outrageous! Reid’s narrative has consistently been about the lack of transparency in our city government; so much for that.

  3. If there is this mandate for compliance, tell me why Council members Burns and Reid have not responding to the phone calls or texts to clarify their compliance to the mandatory vaccination policy? How can the Council expect their constituents to trust them, when they are not honest and transparent in keeping the rules and regulations they propose for the community? Just a thought!!

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