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 introduces ranked-choice voting implementation ordinance, talks Landlord-Tenant agreements

Daily file photo by Jacob Wendler
The new city flag was selected from over 200 submissions to the Evanston Youth Flag Design Contest.

City Council voted to introduce an ordinance for the implementation of ranked-choice voting and discussed an amendment to Evanston’s Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance Monday night.

On November 8, 2022, Evanston voters passed a referendum that established ranked-choice voting for elected city officials. The City of Evanston authorized this through its Home Rule powers, however, the Cook County Clerk has not taken any action to implement these changes, according to the ordinance. 

Because of this, Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss recommended the approval of this ordinance in order to “eliminate all barriers to implementation.”

“This is an action in support of any effort to make sure that the will of the voters of Evanston — as overwhelmingly expressed in November 2022 — is reflected in the way elections are implemented in April of 2025,” Biss said.

The ordinance was passed by a 7-1 vote, with Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) absent and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) dissenting, voting “hell no.” 

Before the vote, Reid motioned to table the item, but the vote failed. Some of Reid’s concerns included Council not yet receiving an update from their outside law firm as previously voted on by the Council and Rules Committee, that the City does not know “why it’s passing” this ordinance and that the ordinance falls short of its goals.

“This is the information that we needed to have in an ordinance before the voters went to the ballot box to vote on this so they actually understood what they were voting for,” Reid said. “Ranked-choice voting sounds great, but if the details are not there, we could potentially be implementing a system that makes it tougher for folks to vote, not easier.”

The ordinance will be voted on again at Council’s next meeting, June 24, for action.

Throughout the meeting, councilmembers, city officials and the public discussed an ordinance that would amend the City’s Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance. The Housing and Community Development Committee approved 13 amendments at its April 16 meeting.

Some of the proposed changes include restructuring late fees, disclosing utility costs, foreclosure activity and code violations, and increasing the notice period for lease nonrenewal from 30 days to 90 days. 

Several Evanston community members, many of whom were housing providers, raised concerns about the ordinance. They questioned the proposed two month’s rent or actual damages penalty for failing to provide a written notice of the new rental agreement for lease non-renewal and how renters would not be required to renew their lease more than 30 days prior to the termination of the current lease.

“The changes that (City Council is) looking at here this evening have crossed over into a situation where we’re creating, to me, an unbalanced ordinance,” Dan Schermerhorn, president of Schermerhorn and Company, said. “It’s just going to create chaos in the rental market.”

Other community members showed support for the amendments.

Dominic Voz, a fair housing associate with Open Communities, said he “empathetically” supports strengthening Evanston renters’ rights, and that while he believes many housing providers are “reasonable business owners,” laws need to be in place to protect tenants from those who aren’t.

“Business owners generally, rationally, don’t support heightened regulation of their business,” Voz said. “Some of the aversion is reasonable, we don’t want to overburden our very small owner occupied landlords who provide naturally occurring affordable housing — that’s true. But business owners are also capable of and should be mandated to follow basic rules.”

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) began the Council’s debate on the ordinance with a few amendments, including a proposal to move the implementation date from October 1, 2024, to January 1, 2025, and adding protection for housing providers from “unwarranted” lawsuits. 

After a lengthy discussion, the Council voted 9-0 to table the resolution until their July 8 meeting.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated City Council voted to pass the ordinance. City Council voted to introduce the ordinance, not to pass the ordinance. The Daily regrets the error.

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Related Stories: 

Fair housing advocates, housing providers divided on proposed renter landlord ordinance amendments

Evanston becomes first city in Illinois to adopt ranked-choice voting

Tenants and landlords discuss proposed changes to housing ordinance at special committee meeting

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