Editor’s note: This story was revised Wednesday, June 8, to correct the number of committee members as well as to include comments from Council member Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward.
Most residents might not notice any effect from the three-and-a-half hours of work the Human Service committee did Monday night, but Eighth Ward Council member Devon Reid said he believes it will make a huge different in many people’s lives.
“None of the proposals individually are groundbreaking or are going to have a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of most residents,” said Reid. “But collectively, the packages of code revisions that I’m putting forward will decrease opportunities for negative interactions with law enforcement that sow distrust with marginalized communities.”
The committee, which is five Council members, voted Monday, June 6, to bring the City Council to amend a series of city regulations. City Council approval is required for any of the amendments to become law.
Reid, the new chair of the committee, got pushback pushback from Second Ward Council member Peter Braithwaite, who said while he appreciated his colleague’s intent to want to clean up laws, that the process was too fast.
“What good legislation looks like is one that is collaborative with our staff and the public,” said Braithwaite. “If your intent is to impact change, I would suggest public meetings.”
He also suggested that the staff – city attorney and police – should have had time to prepare supporting documentation for the impact and the need for the amendments.
Reid authored the vast majority of the docket discussed at the lengthy committee meeting Monday, June 6, and he said there are more coming.
“The package of ordinances that I put forward really looks to address issues of equal rights, civil liberties and the challenge the constitutionality of certain laws that are on our books,” Reid told the Roundtable.
Amendments to City Council
The recommendations that passed aim to accomplish the following:
- HS9 would end the distribution of the portion of the daily crime bulletin that includes the names and addresses of people arrested.
- HS3 would amend a previously vague noise ordinance by deleting the portion that makes illegal “any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise which annoys a reasonable person.” Instead, the amendment requires a permit for loudspeakers above 75-decibels and within 150-feet of a residence.
- HS6 would allow “quiet” walking, biking, jogging and sitting in a public park after it officially closes. At the meeting, Fifth Ward Council member Bobby Burns said by making the parks off-limits, “We’re trying to limit or really deny people’s ability to access … outdoor public spaces, not for crimes they are committing, but what we think they may commit.”
- HS11 would reduce the legal consequences of carrying a “burglar’s tool” from a felony charge to a $750 ticket, the highest fine the city can impose. Evanston city attorney Nicholas Cummings said the city of Chicago had a similar ordinance to the one Evanston currently has, but it was struck down in court. “ “I’m not looking to allow burglars to run loose throughout Evanston,” Reid said. “I’m looking to address this law in a manner that comports with our [state] constitution.”
- HS8 was divided into various parts, with amendments on the portion concerning “consumption in vehicles.”
- It would allow open containers of cannabis and alcohol to be kept in the trunk or non-passenger part of a vehicle.
- People cannot be arrested if someone under the age of 21 attempts to purchase alcohol, they will instead be ticketed.
- People cannot be arrested if they are 19-years-old and in the proximity of underage drinking.
(Although it was clarified that it would still be illegal to operate any motor vehicle, bicycle or the like while under the debilitating influence of any substance.)
Fifth Ward Council member Bobby Burns told the committee he supported these changes because adult recreational cannabis consumption is now legal.
“[Recreational users] literally get to go home every time they make a purchase, and they go to the beach. And it’s just not realistic. We know people are doing this,” Burns said. Without this amendment, he said, possession would be selectively enforced on young African American men with cannabis in their pockets or backpack. “It’s enforced on him, but not on the countless people I see even on the lakefront every summer,” Burns said
Two other ordinances not introduced by Reid passed and will be sent to council, including a new honorary street name between Darrow Avenue and Dewey Avenue called “JoAnn Avery Way.”
Reid responds to recent attacks
Reid told the Roundtable that he believes a recent news (from another publication) article “grossly distorts” his positions and intention with bringing these amendments forward.
“It’s been a lot of internet attention about this. … And it feels unfortunate that I even have to say this, but I am not pushing for topless beaches,” said Reid.
The controversy refers to HS10 about public nudity. Reid offered an amendment to a public nudity ordinance to eliminate a provision that prohibits showing off female body parts, because it creates “an unequal standard between two genders” and also creates “ambiguity for transgender and non-gender-conforming residents,” the memo reads. This amendment was tabled until the next meeting,
Disagreement from city staff
Second Ward Council member Peter Braithwaite, who left the meeting early, suggested that Reid’s proposals infringe on Evanston’s family values, and said there wasn’t enough community engagement about the issue before it was brought to the committee.
“I think that there should have been collaboration with the law department … [and] with the Police Department. And with the absence of the community engagement piece, you leave yourself open to this time and time again,” Braithwaite said to Reid. “ I am concerned with the direction of some of these suggestions.
“And I think, as a parent, someone who raises young people, and for anyone else on this dais that has kids, for me to read this, it is I can’t even find the word to characterize it. And it’s probably best that I don’t.”
Police Chief Richard Eddington also voiced apprehension about the volume of amendments Reid brought forward at once, because it left him unprepared to respond with lots of concrete information for committee members.
“Frankly, it was kind of taken by surprise at the number of ordinances on this agenda,” Eddington said. “I think last time when we had a robust discussion of burglary tools, I was able to bring information back to show how this works, and to understand the concerns of the Council member.”
Department of Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson was particularly firm on her disapproval of HS6, which would allow people to remain in the parks after closing hours. She said, in essence, it makes parks open 24 hours.
“And so from someone saying, ‘Hey, the park is closed, move along,’ you can’t do that anymore. “