Eighth Ward Council member Devon Reid introduced several ordinances at the July 11 City Council meeting. Of those presented, ordinance 59-O-22, on park hours, was referred to Human Services for further discussion; and ordinance 46-O-22, on burglary tools, passed unanimously.

Eighth Ward Council member Devon Reid.

Under ordinance 59-O-22, city parks would be open around the clock, with quiet hours from 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. However, staff, the Park and Recreation board, and the Evanston Police Department advised against the adoption of this ordinance.

“This is a major change to our park hours, and it has been foisted upon you with no input whatsoever from residents,” Robert Bush, chairman of the Parks and Recreation board said, addressing the Council during public comment.

 “We’ve had input on dog parks, input on skate parks. We’ve had input on city managers, we’ve had input on community gardens, and yet no one has ever asked any of the residents who live at or near parks whether they think this is a good idea,” he said.

Realtor and Parks and Recreation board member Mary Rosinski added, “The other thing we have to talk about is the value of rents and property values. And one of the questions I get often, when I’m showing properties on or near a park is, ‘What are the park hours?’ Because people don’t want a lot of noise. They’re trying to sleep, they’re trying to put their kids to bed, they’re going out to their alleys, and there’s a certain safety factor there.”

Ultimately, the ordinance was referred back to the Human Services Committee with a vote of 6-3, in hopes of incorporating further input from residents and the Parks and Recreation Board.

The next ordinance Reid brought to the Council, 66-O-22, would have allowed a previously-open, sealed container of alcohol or cannabis to be in the non-passenger portion of a vehicle or on the person in a public space, which he said is in line with state code.

The Evanston Police Department advised against moving forward with this ordinance.

“We’re not over-enforcing this now. You’re not getting complaints about people being arrested for these violations,” Police Chief Richard Eddington said during the council meeting. “However, when you get into other quality-of-life issues like aggressive panhandling, where very few people want to sign complaints, or we begin to interview someone, talk to them, and then we find the open container or the open cannabis, that gives us an avenue of enforcement. And so once again, it’s a tool that exists. We’re not overusing it.”

Fifth Ward Council member Bobby Burns argued this ordinance would only allow for “sealed” substances in public areas or vehicles, which, he said, would not interfere with police conduct in that situation.

“I think with the aggressive panhandling, my issue with all of this is that there’s something else that already is in our code. For this scenario you provided, it’s enforceable,” Burns elaborated at the meeting. “So why not remove this, especially if we’re not enforcing it, and it takes it away from being unfairly used in some scenario?”

Eddington responded, “We have a code, but in code enforcement, the complaint has to say, ‘That person aggressively panhandled me.’ So, if you’re reluctant to sign, I can’t enforce that. It’s not an overly used portion of the code, but it’s a tool we can apply in some specific situations.”

Later, Eddington nonetheless agreed that Section B of the city code, which prohibits previously-opened alcohol and cannabis products in a vehicle, does not help the police department achieve its goals.

Reid asked, “Why do we need this on the code, if we’re not enforcing it? We’re not saying that panhandlers are at the beaches, are here in the civic center, public building, or parks…This is fairly ridiculous, and we have a law on the books about aggressive panhandling. I get that we’re saying folks are maybe signing complaints, and then, maybe, that takes a bit of education in the community, but again, to say that we’re going to criminalize people for having a legal substance, something that we say that we want people to buy because we want to make tax revenue off of alcohol and tax revenue for cannabis for reparations programs. So why would we make it illegal for someone to support our reparations program, and then come here and then pay their water bill? That should not be an illegal act, especially when the chief has explained that at least a portion of this clearly does not interfere.”

While the ordinance failed 6-3, the discussion prompted Burns to say he would look into reinstating the Alternatives to Arrest Committee, a mayor-appointed committee that looked at ways to divert juveniles from the criminal justice system.

The third ordinance, 67-O-22, was first proposed by Reid to decriminalize the attempted purchase of cannabis and alcohol by those under 21. Through an amendment suggested by Seventh Ward Council member Eleanor Revelle and refined by Reid, the attempt would instead be a ticketable offense of no more than $50.

Originally, Revelle said, she questioned whether this would allow those under 21 to “go from store to store, until they can find somebody who’s going to sell them a product,” but she and Reid appeared to come to a consensus.

“To purchase alcohol or to purchase cannabis requires a state ID, and having a fake state ID, that says you’re over an age you’re not, is against the law already. And it’s illegal for a business owner to sell cannabis or alcohol to someone under the age of 21, so it’s doubly illegal, and we have a lot of the protections in place,” Reid had contended. “So, to say that somebody who makes an attempt should be arrested is silly. With the amendment that has been made and seconded, I would like to further amend it to make that a ticketable offence.”

The final ordinance, 46-O-22, would delete and replace a portion of the city code known as “Burglar’s Tools.” In this section of city code, a person is prohibited from possessing certain tools, such as picklocks and skeleton keys, unless they can “prove their innocence.” Reid had said during the meeting that the Illinois Supreme Court deemed a near-identical Chicago ordinance as unconstitutional in 1970. This ordinance sparked little debate and passed unanimously.

At the July 25 City Council meeting, Council members voted to send to the referrals committee two ordinances regarding alcohol use. In each case, the vote to refer the matter was tied 3-3 by Council members and the mayor broke the tie.

Sophia Sherman is a 2023 summer intern for the Evanston RoundTable. She is a senior at Evanston Township High School, and the executive editor for the school newspaper, The Evanstonian. Sophia enjoys writing...