Smoking ban, reduced term limit at top of Council’s agenda

Laura Olson

Evanston may find itself two years ahead of Chicago if aldermen amend the city’s smoking ordinance at tonight’s meeting.

The amendments to the city’s indoor clean air law, which narrowly passed the Human Services Committee with a 3-2 vote three weeks ago, would ban smoking in bars and restaurants, venues which were previously exempt from the ban.

Chicago’s ban gives restaurants until July 1, 2008 to become smoke-free areas. If the amendments pass the Evanston council, local bars and restaurants will have until July 1, 2006.

The amendments will also include bans on smoking in housing cooperatives and non-regulated places such as apartment buildings or hotels, where smoke could enter regulated public areas.

Several city residents spoke at the April 11 council meeting when the ordinance was introduced, praising the smoking ordinance and the city’s action to take care of its residents’ health.

Ald. Edmund Moran (6th), who voted against the smoking ban two years ago, said he now supports it because of the bans Chicago, Cook County and other nearby communities have recently passed.

“I’d like to see the state (ban smoking), but I’m not confident that they will,” he said.

Alds. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) and Steven Bernstein (4th) voted against the ordinance in the Human Services Committee because of what they said would be negative economic influences on local restaurants and bars losing business to Chicago and other cities that allow smoking.

Businesses today may lose some customers if they become smoke-free, but they will gain more customers by clearing the air in their establishments, Moran said.

Individual restaurants have not contacted Moran about the proposal, he said. The Chamber of Commerce did not ask him to oppose the amendments but did ask for the ordinance’s start date to be changed to be the same as Chicago’s ban.

The council will also consider an ordinance to establish term limits for the Northwestern University-City Committee. The provision, based on the recommendation of the Rules Committee, would limit the two community representatives’ terms to four years each.

The NU-City Committee includes Eugene Sunshine, NU’s senior vice president of business and finance; Ron Nayler, associate vice president of facilities management; Ald. Cheryl Wollin (1st); Community Development Director James Wolinski; and two additional community members.

The committee was created in 2004 after a lawsuit between NU and Evanston over the Northeast Evanston Historic District. Its purpose was for NU to inform the city about future zoning and development plans.

If the proposal passes, community member Robert Atkins will be replaced by a new member, who will serve four years. The other community member, David Schoenfeld, will continue to serve on the committee until May 1, 2008, to stagger the term endings.

The Rules Committee previously discussed expanding the number of community members, but NU did not approve the proposed change. NU does not need to approve the term limit proposal, Wollin said.

“I think that rotating membership will be helpful so more people from the community will be able to be involved,” Wollin said.

If the proposal passes, the new community member will be nominated by Wollin and submitted to the council for approval.

The ordinance was introduced at the April 11 council meeting. Evanston resident Judy Fiske said at the meeting that neighbors near NU support Atkins and Schoenfeld as the community members on the committee and that replacing one of them would be a political move.

Fiske told aldermen at the same meeting that Northwestern bought a house at 1945 Orrington Ave. The purchase upset several aldermen because Northwestern did not discuss it during the last NU-City Committee meeting.

Reach Laura Olson at [email protected]