Eighth Ward councilman Devon Reid presented several ordinances at the July 11 city council meeting. Of those presented, Ordinance 59-O-22, park hours, was referred to Social Services for further discussion; and Order 46-O-22, Burglary Tools, passed unanimously.
Under Order 59-O-22, city parks would be open 24 hours a day, with quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. However, staff, the Parks and Recreation Board and Evanston Police Department advised against the ordinance.
“This is a major change to the hours of our parks, and it was forced upon you without any input from residents,” said Robert Bush, chairman of the parks and recreation board, speaking to the Advice when making public comments.
“We had comments about dog parks, comments about skate parks. We’ve had comments about city managers, we’ve had comments about community gardens, and yet no one has ever asked residents who live in or near parks whether they think it’s a good idea,” he said.
Estate agent and Parks and Recreation board member Mary Rosinski added: “The other thing we need to talk about is rent values and property values. And one of the questions I often get, when showing properties on or near a park, is, “What are the park’s hours of operation?” Because people don’t want a lot of noise. They’re trying to sleep, they’re trying to put their kids to bed, they’re going out into their alleys, and there’s a certain safety factor there.
Ultimately, the ordinance was sent back to the Social Services Committee with a 6-3 vote, hoping to incorporate further input from residents and the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The next order Reid presented to the Board, 66-O-22, would have permitted a previously opened and sealed container of alcohol or cannabis to be in the non-passenger portion of a vehicle or on the person in a public space, which he said is in accordance with state code.
The Evanston Police Department advised against proceeding with this order.
“We don’t enforce that too much now. You don’t get complaints about people being arrested for these violations,” Chief Constable Richard Eddington said at the council meeting. “However, when you get into other quality of life issues like aggressive begging, where very few people want to sign complaints, or we start questioning someone, talking to them, and then we find the container open or the open cannabis, it gives us an avenue of execution. And so again, it’s a tool that exists. We won’t abuse it.”
Fifth Ward Council member Bobby Burns argued the ordinance would only allow ‘sealed’ substances in public spaces or vehicles, which he said would not interfere with driving of the police in this situation.
“I think with the aggressive begging, my problem with all of this is that there’s something else that’s already in our code. For this scenario that you provided, it’s enforceable,” Burns explained during of the meeting. “So why not remove that, especially if we don’t enforce it, and that prevents it from being used unfairly in certain scenarios?”
Eddington replied: ‘We have a code, but in applying the code the complaint must say, ‘This person aggressively begged me. So if you’re reluctant to sign, I can’t force it. It’s not an overused part of the code, but it’s a tool that we can apply in some specific situations.
Later, Eddington nevertheless agreed that Section B of the city code, which prohibits previously opened alcohol and cannabis products in a vehicle, does not help the police department achieve its goals.
Reid asked, “Why do we need this in code, if we don’t enforce it?” We’re not saying the beggars are on the beaches, are here in the civic center, public buildings, or parks… That’s pretty ridiculous, and we have a law on aggressive begging. I understand that we’re saying maybe people sign complaints, and then maybe it takes a bit of education in the community, but again saying we’re going to criminalize people for having a legal substance , something we say we want people to buy because we want to raise alcohol tax revenue and cannabis tax revenue for repair programs. So why would we make it illegal for someone to support our repair program and then come here and then pay their water bill? It shouldn’t be an illegal act, especially when the chef explained that at least some of it obviously doesn’t interfere.
Although the ordinance failed 6-3, the discussion prompted Burns to say he would consider reinstating the Alternatives to Arrest Committee, a mayor-appointed committee that was looking at ways to divert minors from the system of criminal justice.
The third order, 67-O-22, was first proposed by Reid to decriminalize the attempted purchase of cannabis and alcohol by those under 21. Thanks to an amendment suggested by Seventh Ward Council member Eleanor Revelle and refined by Reid, the attempt would instead be an offense punishable by a ticket of up to $50.
Originally, Revelle said she wondered if it would allow under-21s “to go from store to store, until they can find someone who is going to sell them a product,” but she and Reid seemed to come to a consensus.
“To buy alcohol or buy cannabis, you need a state ID, and having a fake state ID, which shows you are more than one age than you are not, is already against the law. And it’s illegal for a business owner to sell cannabis or alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, so it’s doubly illegal, and we’ve put in place many protections,” Reid argued. “So to say that someone who makes an attempt should be arrested is silly. With the amendment that was made and seconded, I would like to amend it further to make it a punishable traffic ticket.
The final order, 46-O-22, would remove and replace part of the city’s code known as “Burglar’s Tools.” In this section of the city code, a person is prohibited from possessing certain tools, such as picks and master keys, unless they can “prove their innocence”. Reid had said at the meeting that the Illinois Supreme Court ruled an almost identical Chicago ordinance in 1970 unconstitutional. That ordinance generated little debate and passed unanimously.
At the July 25 city council meeting, council members voted to send two ordinances regarding alcohol consumption to the referral committee. In each case, the vote to dismiss the case was tied 3 to 3 by the Council members and the mayor broke the tie.