Here’s how Evanston’s newly-elected councilmembers are advancing their agendas


Daily file photo by Nick Francis

Bobby Burns. He is one of four councilmembers elected to the dais last year.

Avani Kalra and Shannon Tyler

When councilmembers Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th), Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) were elected to the dais for the first time last April, they promised increased affordability, environmental sustainability, equity and transparency.

Since their 2021 appointments, Evanston’s new councilmembers have proposed a series of referrals, or agenda items, to advance towards those goals:

Devon Reid (8th)
Reid ran for the council to prioritize transparency and accountability in Evanston. Since his election, Reid has proposed 36 referrals, the most of any councilmember seated last year. Four of his referrals have been adopted, including the implementation of free weekend beach passes for Evanston residents. The city will provide free admission to city beaches for Evanston residents every day during the 2022 season.

Reid’s measure eliminated beach tokens, which required beachgoers to pay for access to Evanston beaches, altogether. Beach tokens are the result of historical discrimination along Evanston’s lakefront.

Nieuwsma amended Reid’s measure to restrict free-beach access to Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.

Reid also proposed a successful redistricting measure to redraw ward boundary lines, which the city has not updated since the 2000 Census. He volunteered to serve on a committee to develop a new redistricting strategy and process.

He proposed two more successful referrals: one to permit food trucks on the lakefront and another to review committee chairs.

Since he was elected, Reid has proposed six referrals that were ultimately rejected by the council. Three of them addressed City Council procedural processes.

The council has not yet voted on the rest of Reid’s referrals. Three have been discussed, but there has been no vote. Councilmembers debated instituting a lakefront fee, ending the distribution of the daily crime bulletin and decriminalizing drugs.

Clare Kelly (1st)
Kelly campaigned on affordable housing, ending wasteful tax spending and negotiating a more fair tax contribution from Northwestern. She promised to focus on community-focused growth and making Evanston more affordable for middle class residents.

Since her appointment, she has made eight referrals, four of which were adopted.

Kelly’s first successful referral proposed a separate fund to account for the receipt and disbursement of American Rescue Plan Act funding, a one-time COVID-19 stimulus.

Kelly also halted city property tax levy increases in a successful referral for 2022 and allowed dogs at outdoor restaurant patios. She proposed creating a subcommittee of the Planning and Development Committee to look into rental properties’ zoning, codes and standards.

She said her referral for an accessory dwelling unit moratorium would stop landlords from buying up single-family homes, though the measure was rejected.

Still, the Planning and Development subcommittee intends to find solutions to affordable housing issues facing Evanston renters.

Kelly’s most recent referral would create a Payment in Lieu of Taxes program Task Force which will examine the relationship between the city and tax-exempt institutions — namely Northwestern. Some think NU doesn’t pay enough to the city because the University ranks among the richest universities, yet ranks low when it comes to financial contributions to its host city.

The task force would reevaluate how institutions like the University can compensate local governments for some or all of the property tax revenue lost because the University and other institutions have high tax exemptions. The referral about the task force has not been scheduled, but Kelly said she wants to see it brought to the council by the end of February.

Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th)
Nieuwsma’s campaign for 4th Ward alderman was centered on equity and social justice, environment and sustainability, and economic development and engagement.

Since his election in May, Nieuwsma has referred one proposal to the council. He aimed to improve lighting under the Davis Street Metra station and generally update the appearance of Metra stations in Downtown Evanston. Nieuwsma proposed the use of ARPA funds to fund these improvements and sought further staff recommendations on how to beautify Evanston’s downtown. There has not been any action on the measure.

Bobby Burns (5th)
During his campaign, Burns promised to address the effects of redlining on 5th Ward, diversify community voices in decision making processes and advocate for a more equitable delivery of public services like COVID-19 testing.

Of the 16 referrals Burns has made, two were adopted, four failed and 10 have yet to be discussed by the council.

In August, Burns successfully proposed to keep Ingraham Park a public space in the 5th Ward. The action followed residents’ concerns about the impact of the city’s Tax Increment Financing district on the park.

Burns’s other adopted referral consolidated the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals into a new Land Use Commission.

Of the 10 referrals awaiting discussion, three address housing issues in Evanston. Burns proposed creating an anti-displacement and anti-gentrification subcommittee, a fund for emergency situations including eviction and an evictions notification policy change.

The council’s anti-displacement and anti-gentrification “Here-to-stay” subcommittee would identify immediate actions that can be taken to reduce the involuntary displacement of longtime residents.

Burns also proposed an evictions notification policy change that would require landlords to notify the Health and Human Services Department about an eviction 30 days in advance. The victims fund referral will create a fund to pay for emergency hotel rooms and other relevant expenses for those in emergency.

Neither of these referrals are scheduled, but Burns briefly discussed them in an Oct. 4 Human Services Committee meeting.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @avanidkalra

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