City council stays busy during summer months

Chris Kirk

Though Evanston gets a lot quieter during Northwestern’s three-month summer hiatus, things were as heated and noisy as ever at the civic center. Here’s what happened during the sunshine season:

– The city council, citing social and ethical concerns, abandoned a potential source of revenue by banning video gambling machines in September. The state recently legalized the machines as a way to generate revenue for a $31 billion capital bill, allotting 5 percent of the “net terminal income” of a machine – or how much patrons lose to it – to the municipality in which it is located and 35 percent to the business that owns it.

– The city council approved a sculpture that Alderman Ann Rainey (8th) said looks like a “potential suicide” in July. The sculpture shows two silhouetted people standing on either end of a plank. It will sit on the roof of the Maple Avenue Parking Garage.

“I don’t like it at all,” Rainey said. “It is exciting and it’s very, very different, but it just seems to me we could’ve done better.”

Despite her concerns, Rainey ultimately voted to approve the building of the sculpture.

– The city council approved a sidewalk cafe at Las Palmas, 817 University Place, in August, despite heavy outcry from neighbors. The Mexican restaurant applied for a sidewalk cafe to encourage business during the slow summer months of low student patronage, Las Palmas’ Manager Placido Quintero said.

“We have a lot of employees who live in Evanston,” he said at a committee meeting earlier. “We support their families.”

Residents of the adjacent apartment building circulated petitions and attended a council meeting to blast the proposal, arguing the cafe would be close to some residents’ windows and the chatter of patrons would bother them.

“In the daytime we have people who work at home,” said Jane Driscoll, a resident of Sherman Gardens Apartments, 1860 Sherman Ave., the adjacent apartment building. “They’d be right next to the people having a good time at the nice restaurant, talking and laughing.”

Despite allegations that the manager had violated city ordinances in proposing the cafe, the manager won out. As a compromise, however, the council shortened the cafe’s hours of operation.

– The city council decided to spend nearly $400,000 to replace boat racks and lockers on the beach after heavy debating in August. Advocates insisted the new facility would be a good investment and would ultimately pay for itself.

Aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) and Judy Fiske (1st), however, argued the city shouldn’t be spending that kind of money in the midst of a budget crisis.

“You don’t take limited funds and just spend it on something because it’s a good investment when you are running out of money,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Despite his objections, the city council approved the spending.

– The city council welcomed new City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, who previously worked as the city manager of Santa Paula, Calif. and assistant city manager of Novato, Calif. He grew up in suburban Chicago and earned a master’s degree in public administration from Syracuse University.

– The city council instructed the city manager to explore streaming council meetings online in September, including both live streaming and playback. Currently, meetings are broadcast live on a local cable channel.

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