The city council is exploring a new rule proposed by Mayor Daniel Biss that would require referrals — actions brought for the city council and its committees — to receive at least two co-sponsors for guaranteed committee placement.
Evanston residents spoke out against Biss’s proposed rule at the Oct. 10 city council meeting, saying it would suppress original ideas.
“While I’m sure we all want board members to work together and support each other, I strongly believe in giving creative ideas every chance to be heard,” said activist and resident Darlene Cannon. .
The current rules assign all referrals to a committee, usually the referrals committee, for discussion before reaching the city council, unless it is considered a special agenda. Biss’ proposed rule would still allow sponsors to introduce a referral without co-sponsors and would still appear before the referral committee for initial review and possible placement on the committee.
Biss’s proposed rule was initially met with hesitation by city councilors, but passed the rules committee 9-1 with Ald. Devon Reid objected on September 19.
Reid said he opposes the idea because it creates a barrier in the legislative process.
“Our only power as council members is our legislative authority, so creating an obstacle for lawmakers to do their job doesn’t make much sense,” Reid said. “There are elements that have come up in this tenure – and historically – that maybe didn’t always have (support) early on.”
Reid said a group of referrals seeking to review potentially unconstitutional orders, including the burglar’s tools ordinance and an ordinance regarding public nudity, are examples of this.
“I made reference to the burglar’s tool and (a local news agency) covered it in a misleading way, so some of my colleagues were wondering ‘what is it’ “, said Reid. “I was able to fire him and he was granted a Human Services Committee hearing. Because of this, our legal department reviewed the matter and determined that this order was found to be unconstitutional.”
The Burglar’s Tools Ordinance originally prohibited carrying items that could be used to execute a burglary. Reid said he wondered what defines a burglar’s tool, considering something as simple as a credit card could be used.
Under the original order, residents of Evanston had to prove to law enforcement officials that the item they were carrying was not being used for burglary but as an everyday item, Reid said. The language of the law was eventually changed to conform to state law.
At the rules committee meeting on September 19, Biss said the removals committee felt it would not be constructive to move forward with some removals — that it takes time and staff resources to ultimately go nowhere. Biss said he would like to give the referral committee the power to remove referrals that fall into this category, but he still wanted to provide referrals with a guaranteed placement on the committee if he has enough support. Other communities have policies similar to this one, according to Biss.
“A proposal that I have heard from many people, which is done in many other communities, is that you must obtain a statement of support from the majority of the council before significant staff time is taken. dedicated to something,” Biss said. “It would be four co-sponsors. It was too much. For me, I felt like there should be an intermediate step (that’s why there are two).
The proposed rule has been filed until November so that the rules committee can discuss it further.
Corey Schmidt is a freelance journalist at Pioneer Press.
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