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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City Council keeps term limits for city boards, commissions, committees

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
Ald. Devon Reid (8th), along with Alds. Krissie Harris (2nd) and Bobby Burns (5th), opposed removing term limits for city board, committee and commission members.

City Council voted 3-4 to reject introducing an ordinance that would remove term limits from the city’s board, commission and committee members at the end of its Monday night meeting.

Residents serving on most of these bodies will continue to be limited to two full terms, which usually last two years. 

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), who introduced the ordinance, said she hopes the removal of term limits for these bodies — which include prominent groups like the Land Use Commission and Reimagining Public Safety Committee — would allow experienced members to serve longer if they so desire. 

“I see only a benefit in making that a possibility for those residents who are serving as volunteers, who have deep expertise and institutional knowledge,” Kelly said. 

But other councilmembers, including Alds. Devon Reid (8th), Krissie Harris (2nd) and Bobby Burns (5th), pushed back. They said removing term limits would hinder diversity on Evanston’s boards, commissions and committees. 

While discussing an amendment that would have Kelly’s proposal remove term limits for every city committee, Reid said the Land Use Commission in particular should be exempt from the change. 

“I have residents reaching out to me to join committees, and there aren’t places for them to land,” Reid said. “There are a lot of folks who have been denied access to committees, and I think we need to create more space for resident engagement and new voices.”

Kelly countered, saying that doing away with term limits could also allow members of minority communities to serve longer if they wish to. 

Harris and Burns echoed Reid’s concerns. They said removing term limits wouldn’t be the best solution to filling vacancies on the city’s boards, commissions and committees while ensuring diversity. 

Councilmembers need to do a better job convincing residents with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to apply for openings on these bodies, Harris said.

“It was my job as a councilmember to call people in my ward and say ‘Hey, we got some openings. I think you would be really good at this,’” she said.

Term limits aren’t especially relevant to the city’s current vacancy problem, Mayor Daniel Biss and Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said. Currently, there are 20 vacant seats across Evanston’s nearly 40 boards, commissions and committees.

Nieuwsma, who served on the Utilities Commission before his election to his councilmember seat, said he doesn’t feel strongly about the term limit issue. However, he said he could “see the benefit of old timers.”

Biss said the council should focus on other changes to diversify and fill vacant board, commission and committee seats.

“The main observation is that we’ve just got more (boards, commissions and committees) than anybody else,” he said. “If we think that getting this right is going to address the question of filling vacancies with diverse, passionate, knowledgeable residents, we’re totally barking up the wrong tree.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @william2tong

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