Ald. Devon Reid talks ARPA allocations, public records access


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ald. Devon Reid (8th). Though Reid is new to being a council member, he is not new to Evanston government as the city’s previous city clerk.

Jorja Siemons, Assistant City Editor

This article is part of a four-part series featuring new City Councilmembers. The Daily is sitting down with councilmembers to find out how they’ve been adjusting to their new roles — and where they stand on their platforms now.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) is new to City Council, but he’s no stranger to Evanston government.

The youngest city clerk in Evanston history, Reid focused his four-year term, which ended in 2021, on promoting government transparency and public access to records. As city clerk, he supported the Evanston Voter Initiative, a 2020 referendum that would have given residents more influence over City Council voting matters. He also started to push for policy change that would publicize Evanston Police Department misconduct and use of force records.

Now, six months after being sworn in to represent the 8th Ward, Reid said his priorities still lie with transparency and community engagement. He added his experience and the relationships he built with others on the dais have made the transition more manageable.

“It’s a fairly ideal transition, because I’ve had the last four years to observe the council,” Reid said. “While I am a new member of this council, I feel like a senior new member.”

Reid is new, however, to working with the 8th Ward’s neighbors: Chicago’s 49th and 50th ward representatives.

He said he’s looking to build a relationship with Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), who has served the ward since 2011. He has also developed a close working relationship with Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), who is in her first term.

Prior to their council elections, Hadden and Reid worked together on issues related to participatory budgeting, the process where the community weighs in on public budget allocations.

Reid is currently on the committee planning the disbursement of about $2.5 million in the city’s American Rescue Plan Act fund, which was set aside for the participatory budgeting process.

“It’s critical to actually addressing the needs of the community,” he said. “(It’s) really giving folks the ability to be in the driver’s seat of government.”

Reid has also expressed concerns about the city’s overall use of short-term ARPA funding to hire long-term city staffers.

“I don’t think we’re being as intentional as we need to be,” Reid told The Daily. “So I’ve really stayed focused on really looking toward the budget and more permanent financial situations.”

Given his city clerk experience, Reid has also focused on council-clerk office relations during his time on the dais. He said because the clerk’s office is an independently elected office, it remains accountable to constituents regardless of City Council’s legislative actions.

Now that he sits on council, Reid engages with the policies he first encountered as city clerk, often critiquing other councilmembers for their inaction. He said the council must take more responsibility for Freedom of Information Act data requests, and proposed creating a subcommittee on the rules committee responsible to deal specifically with FOIA-related issues.

City Council approved a resolution in 2019 to expand personnel who deal with FOIA requests for public records from just the city clerk to the four top officials of the city’s Law Department, Collectors Office and Police Records Bureau. But Reid, who currently chairs the city’s Rules Committee, said he didn’t think adding extra personnel was the best way to address FOIA request backlogs.

Reid has introduced multiple proposals for new legislation in the last six months, at a rate he said outpaces most of his colleagues.

Still, he noted the first months of his career have made him keenly aware of a significant obstacle to becoming a council member: financial compensation.

Reid said his city clerk position paid a living wage of 80% to 90% of Area Median Income salary — the average paycheck of those living in his geographic area — but now as a city council member, his job only pays about 20% of AMI.

While the current council has more economic and racial diversity than previous councils, “we tend to end up with council members who are retired or independently wealthy,” Reid said.

“I think we really have to rethink the structure of our council – both the pay and the resources that council members receive – in order to make this a feasible choice for a larger demographic of our community.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @JorjaSiemons

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Last July, former City Clerk Devon Reid implemented a police transparency policy. Almost a year later, the city has yet to follow it.

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