Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Controversy arises over Evanston committee appointments

As the Landlord Licensing Committee plans its first meeting in the next month, some residents are hoping aldermen will take a second look at the list of appointed members.

At a Feb. 13 Evanston City Council meeting, a few residents and landlords expressed disappointment at how the committee members were selected. The 12 members of the Landlord Licensing Committee, which was created last year to look into a proposed licensing ordinance, were announced at two separate council meetings Jan. 23 and Feb. 13.

Landlords Josh Braun and Andrew Roberts each spoke during citizen comment at the Feb. 13 meeting about their desire to serve on the committee. They asked to be considered to serve on the licensing committee, based on their experience as landlords in the local community. However, neither was appointed to the committee.

Braun told The Daily on Tuesday he received a phone call from Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl’s office two weeks prior to the Feb. 13 meeting, informing him that he had been nominated.

“But the mayor called me back about a week later and told me my nomination had been rejected,” Braun said. “I was told the city of Evanston has a standing rule that if any of the city council aldermen aren’t comfortable with a person who was nominated, the nomination is not accepted, which is what happened in my case.”

Braun said aside from Roberts and himself, other individuals such as Howard Handler, government affairs director for the Illinois Association of Realtors, and Betsi Burns, assistant dean of students at Northwestern, had also expressed desire to serve on the committee but were rejected.

Tisdahl wrote in an email to The Daily on Tuesday that some of the city’s boards, commissions and committees have guidelines as to who can serve on them, but she did not indicate what the criteria were for the Landlord Licensing Committee. The members of that committee, as with other boards and committees, were selected singlehandedly by the mayor.

“There are more applicants for boards and commissions than there are spaces,” Tisdahl wrote in the email. “There is no appeal process.”

Braun said he was particularly disappointed with the fact that none of the landlords currently on the committee own any property near the NU campus.

“As of today, all the residents on the committee reside in the area surrounding Northwestern, yet none of the landlords on the committee have any properties around Northwestern,” he told the city council at the Feb. 13 meeting. “My nomination was somewhat controversial, but as far as I can tell, this topic is one of the most long-running controversies Evanston has had to contend with.”

Handler also expressed similar reservations in an interview with The Daily on Tuesday.

“For a committee that will hold a discussion on regulating landlords, we need more than three landlords to serve on this committee,” Handler said. “I would like to see a wider breadth of landlords – different geographic locations and different sizes of operations.”

But for some aldermen, the biggest issue isn’t necessarily who or who isn’t on the Landlord Licensing Committee, but the criteria that disqualified some nominees from being appointed.

During the Feb. 13 city council meeting, Ald. Jane Grover (7th) asked the aldermen to look into the appointment criteria for boards, commissions and committees.

“I’d like to have a discussion about…whether an affiliation or employment with Northwestern University will be, in every case, an automatic disqualified for service on a board, commission or committee,” she said at the meeting.

Though two NU students, communication junior Steven Monacelli and Weinberg junior Niabi Schmaltz, and an NU professor, Paul Arntson, were selected to be on the committee, no University administrators were selected to serve.

Burns was one of the individuals who had asked to serve on the committee but was not among the final list of members, Braun said. Burns could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Monacelli, the NU Associated Student Government vice president for community relations, said he was disappointed the committee lacked University administrators and landlords who own property near campus.

“I do understand, however, that having a University administrator on the committee may have some conflict of interest there,” Monacelli said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s also reassuring to know that administrators do meet with city officials on a regular basis, and that makes up for that fact.”

Braun said he asked the council to revisit his appointment during the Feb. 13 meeting because he felt he had worked with landlords, city officials and University administration on the issue. He said though it’s great for NU students to be on the committee, other “stakeholders” should be on it as well.

“I thought this committee was an opportunity for change,” Braun said. “It’s in this committee to come to a resolution that will solve the problems, and that needs all the players that are involved even if others don’t want some of those players on the committee.”

Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) said Wednesday the city’s Rules Committee will look into the process of appointment to these special ad hoc committees.

Unlike regular committees, there isn’t a set process for nomination and approval of volunteers to ad hoc committees, like the Landlord Licensing Committee, Burrus said.

“We need to have a better process,” Burrus said. “What we want to make sure is that one alderman can’t say we don’t like ‘x’ person or we have a problem with ‘x’ person and that immediately disqualifies somebody. We want to have a more stringent model for these nominations.”

Burrus said in her time on city council, she has never seen anyone’s appointment to a committee be blocked by a single alderman.

She added that the Rules Committee, which she leads, has not yet put that issue on the agenda, but they will be looking at it “sometime in the spring.”

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Controversy arises over Evanston committee appointments