Human Services Committee to recommend an alternative emergency response pilot in 2021 budget


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th). The city approved a budget with a one percent property tax increase Monday, but Fleming said the city should also draw funding from the University’s $1 million Good Neighbor Racial Equity Fund.

Jacob Fulton, City Editor

The city’s Human Services Committee decided to recommend that City Council support an alternative emergency response pilot program, and planned to form a subcommittee to address the matter during its Monday meeting.

This recommendation comes amid city-wide calls from activists to defund the Evanston Police Department — a movement supported by a majority of City Council. At the meeting, Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said the city can potentially allocate $200,000 for a trial program to go into effect in 2021.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said the committee will look for City Council’s commitment to support the program in its next meeting on Sept. 14, and will establish a subcommittee if City Council offers its support. The decision will need to be made before the city releases its tentative budget on its website on Oct. 9.

Recently, Evanston elected officials have engaged in conversations with other cities across the nation with similar programs in place. Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) said other programs, such as the one in Olympia, Wash., will often consult local police departments.

However, beyond police, Fiske said it would be essential for the eventual subcommittee to work with community organizations that provide a variety of human services. She also said the subcommittee will need to incorporate the different needs of all of Evanston’s nine wards.

“I don’t think everyone necessarily understands how interconnected this all is,” Fiske said. “And I think that’s not a failure of our wards, but our wards are really different. ”

As a result, Fiske said the council’s initial support will be pivotal for the trial program — which is why she said it would be important to discuss each alderman’s concerns and ensure there is funding in the budget to work with.

However, Fleming said the theoretical $200,000 for the program may not be enough once the subcommittee begins to put together a more detailed plan. The program in Olympia, for example, has a yearly budget of $550,000, so Fleming said she wants to consider the possibility of a larger budget.

“It’s fine that we have the $200,000 as a placeholder, but I don’t know that when we have a subcommittee, that’s all that we’ll think we’re going to need — there’s lots of added full time staff and benefits and so on,” Fleming said. “$200,000 is a great start. But I don’t want to go forward saying that it’s our end all be all, and I think there’s still time to review other budgets.”

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton

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