Everything Evanston: City Council Rapid Recap talks animal shelter, Dog Beach and a rooster

Mika Ellison and Lily Shen

This week, Everything Evanston’s Rapid Recap of City Council covers two major pieces of legislation and a rooster. The Council voted to approve changes to its current licensing legislation, as well as to approve a contract for the Evanston Animal Shelter construction. Reporter Lily Shen also speaks to assistant city editor William Tong about his recent reporting on Ryan Field.


MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison. This is Everything Evanston, a podcast about the people, business and goings-on in Evanston, Illinois. Today, we’re doing a recap of the Feb. 27 City Council meeting. Then we’ll take a look at one of this week’s leading stories in Evanston.

MIKA ELLISON: This week, over 45 people signed up for public comment. Many signed up to speak to City Council about the upcoming vote to approve a contract for Evanston Animal Shelter construction. Discussion centered on the high-cost prediction that city staff presented to the council. Here’s Evanston Animal Hospital Owner Dr. Gail Henry, who supports the approval of the proposed plan.

GAIL HENRY: I’ve also been in their current facilities on a number of occasions, and can tell you firsthand that the current building is just not sustainable. And that’s coming from a health standpoint, for the pets that are in their care, it likely is creating a lot of stress and can be detrimental to their health.

MIKA ELLISON: The contract was for a little over $6.8 million and would be funded by a combination of General Obligation Bonds, the Cook County Animal Shelter Grant Program, the Evanston Animal Shelter Association and the City of Evanston General Fund. The contract was $1.5 million over budget.

MIKA ELLISON: Evanston resident Mike Vasilko had some hesitancy about the plan.

MIKE VASILKO: There’s consensus on it that there needs to be a new shelter. But we have to be fiscally responsible for the shelter as is proposed.

MIKA ELLISON: Ald. Devon Reid (8th) spoke in favor of the shelter and pointed out that the higher price tag is likely due to the higher cost of making the building LEED certified, meaning the building meets certain standards for sustainability.

ALD. REID: It’s very clear that the sentiment in our community is that we need to make this investment. It’s a value statement. I think making sure that we’re keeping up with our environmental goals and putting the dollar amount that we need to to get to the LEED certification is important.

MIKA ELLISON: Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) expressed concerns about the project’s scope, citing the $8 million total project cost that was presented to the council.

ALD. KELLY: I love the animal shelter, the people that work there, everything about it — I can’t support an $8 million project for an animal shelter. I think a lot of it is about the scope of it. We talked about it, but we never voted on the scope of the project. I don’t know what’s going on there.

MIKA ELLISON: Despite the opposition, the motion passed with a vote of 8-1.


MIKA ELLISON: Another special item up for approval was Ordinance 4-O-23, which would change licensing agreements for shared housing in Evanston. Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) explained how the bill was inspired by the Margarita Inn, a homeless shelter run by Connections for the Homeless. The ordinance includes stricter zoning standards and provides clearer clarification on how to properly regulate said standards.

ALD. NIEUWSMA: Originally, my thought was, ‘We need to develop a license for a facility like the Margarita Inn.’ As things have evolved, staff has rightly pointed out that, you know what, the Margarita Inn is only one type of shared housing. And we have all these other types of shared housing, which are not really adequately regulated by our current code. It’s a highly flexible approach that allows us to finely tune regulations to any number of different types of shared housing.

MIKA ELLISON: Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) cited concerns about the novelty of the legislation. Interim Community Development Director Sarah Flax explained the goals of the legislation further.

SARAH FLAX: We haven’t found one that works exactly like this. But we also haven’t found one that works exactly like the one we already have. Right now we have hotels, rooming houses, all these different things categorized under one license. And so as this has been discussed, what we’re really doing is providing greater ways of distinguishing among them and making sure that they are appropriately regulated.

MIKA ELLISON: The motion passed with a vote of 8-1.

MIKA ELLISON: Another item that was voted on was an amendment to city code that would allow roosters on school grounds for educational purposes, put forward by Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd). Evanston Township High School teacher Ellen Fierer stood up at public comment to explain.

ELLEN FIERER: Our program is based on hands-on experiences, so that our students can learn what it’s like to grow your own food and have food sovereignty. They may someday have their own flock, and it’s good for them to understand how a rooster plays into that role of having a safe, healthy flock of hens.

MIKA ELLISON: The rooster in question, named Tyrone, received votes of confidence from public commenters and councilmembers alike. In order, here are public commenters Vicky Pasenko, Dr. Gail Henry, Dr. Lu Teuber, Mike Meyers, Jill Greer, Diane Valleta and Mayor Daniel Biss.

VICKY PASENKO: Can I have two seconds to say? I think they need a rooster. I grew up on a farm.

DR. GAIL HENRY: I’m also in support of the rooster. I think it’s a great idea.

LU TEUBER: I also support the rooster.

MIKA ELLISON: The council also discussed options for constructing American for Disabilities Act, or ADA, access to the dog beach.

MIKE MYERS: Get the rooster, don’t bring him to the dog beach.

JILL GRIER: I’m pro-Connections and I pro-rooster.

DIANE VALLETA: I vote yes for the rooster also.

MAYOR DANIEL BISS: Who says we can’t all agree?

MIKA ELLISON: Ald. Devon Reid (8th) and Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) also expressed their support.

ALD. REID: This is larger than just allowing a rooster to be at ETHS. This is really about changing the way that we use resources. Allowing a rooster at ETHS is really a part of a much larger picture and really will provide wider-reaching benefits.

ALD.NIEUWSMA: So often, the City of Evanston is the body of cock-a-doodle-don’t. So tonight, I’m looking forward to being the body of cock-a-doodle-do.

MIKA ELLISON: The motion passed with a vote of 9-0, Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) had a creative way of assenting.

BOBBY BURNS: Cock-a-doodle-do.

MIKA ELLISON: Make sure to tune in for the next City Council meeting. Up next, Lily Shen sits down with Assistant City Editor William Tong to talk about his most recent article on Ryan Field.


LILY SHEN: Hi, I’m Lily Shen, and today we’re going to be talking about William Tong’s story on the Ryan Field project. Ryan Field has been at the front of the minds of Evanston community members ever since Northwestern University announced plans for the $800 million renovation in September. William’s story covers Evanston’s efforts to conduct an independent study on the impacts the renovation will have on the Evanston community.

WILLIAM TONG: What is important to note is that the community is a little hesitant about Northwestern’s Ryan Field rebuild project. By community, I’m mostly referring to Evanston’s residents, city leaders, city organizers. And they have a couple of reasons for that, namely the University released two studies on the Rebuild Ryan Field website that it had commissioned to detail the economic impacts of this project as well as the public support it was receiving.

LILY SHEN: Consulting group Tripp Umbach published NU’s economic impact study in November 2022. They found that the rebuild of Ryan Field would generate about 2,900 new jobs, $660 million in economic impact and $12.5 million in taxes for Evanston. But according to Tong, some Evanston residents find the results vague, especially details about the proposed profit.

WILLIAM TONG: We’re not sure what percentage goes to Northwestern University directly, what percentage goes to local businesses, what proportion goes to, maybe like, chain businesses and franchises, as well as what percentage would go to Northwestern’s contracted services. So, they do contract food retailers and beverage retailers at Ryan Field, and so that would have a different kind of economic impact compared to, say, if the money goes to local business.

LILY SHEN: The second study was a public opinion survey by Impact Research, finding that out of a sample size of 500 Evanston voters, about 56% support the Ryan Field rebuild, while 29% oppose it. Some Evanston residents, as well as 7th Ward councilmember Eleanor Revelle expressed doubts about the methodology and results of this survey.

WILLIAM TONG: Given these two studies, Northwestern is saying, ‘Look, we have the evidence to say this is going to be beneficial for the community.’ Community members, maybe not all of them, but a sizable portion, are saying, ‘We have a lot of concerns.’

LILY SHEN: In addition to the dissatisfaction with the extent and specificity of the findings, Tong says some Evanston residents and city council members are also skeptical of the studies because they were both sponsored by the University. As a result, the city has commissioned an independent study.

WILLIAM TONG: What the city has commissioned is an economic impact study. It is going to analyze Northwestern’s study, first of all. That is one of its goals. Another goal is to perform some economic analysis on its own.

WILLIAM TONG: Additionally, there are council members, there are residents who want other impact information shown. So not just the monetary value of economic impact, but also the environmental impact. This is a very large construction project. It does involve a lot of tearing down and rebuilding. There are questions about what happens with the waste, what happens to air quality? What happens in terms of dealing with the debris from the old stadium?

LILY SHEN: This independent study may benefit the University, which needs to meet a couple of requirements with the city in order to get started with renovations.

WILLIAM TONG: Northwestern Vice President for Communications Jon Yates did say without three entitlements, without the special use permit, without the zoning amendment, without the liquor license, Northwestern is not planning to go ahead with the project.

LILY SHEN: All things considered, this project will have massive effects on the community. Williams says The Daily will continue covering the topic.

WILLIAM TONG: For other people, you know, who might be picking up a print paper and reading about Ryan Field, who might be going on our website and reading about it, who might be listening to this podcast and hearing about it, it’s a hot button issue and it’s not just about football and concerts. It can also affect, you know, people’s quality of life, especially if they live next to the stadium, and I think that’s an important thing to care about. We are guests here after all, so it’s important to respect, I think, and at least hear out what other people have to say about what the University is wanting to do.

LILY SHEN: Absolutely. Thanks for talking with me today, William. That’s all for this week’s city story.


MIKA ELLISON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison.

LILY SHEN: And I’m Lily Shen. Thanks for listening to another episode of Everything Evanston’s Rapid Recap. This episode was reported and produced by me and Mika Ellison. William Tong contributed reporting. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Erica Schmitt, the digital managing editors are Joanne Haner and Olatunji Osho-Williams and the editor in chief is Alex Perry.

MIKA ELLISON: Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikaEllison23

Email: [email protected]

Everything Evanston: City Council Rapid Recap talks Harley Clarke and funding plans
Everything Evanston: City Council Rapid Recap talks ARPA funding and cashless business ban
Everything Evanston: City Council Rapid Recap talks proposed plastic bag tax, 5th ward school and ban on cashless businesses