April 24 City Council meeting focuses on gun safety, sustainability goals

Ethan Ravi, Assistant News Editor

On April 24, the Evanston City Council convened for their bimonthly meeting. This time, the conversations focused on the April 12 shooting at Clark Street Beach, as well as carbon reduction goals for Evanston’s future.

Mayor Daniel Biss opened the meeting with comments on the events of April 12, mentioning how the incident should result in greater efforts to control gun violence in the Evanston community.

“It’s really critical that we take this event as a spur to take dramatic action; dramatic action when it comes to support for our youth, dramatic action when it comes to policies to take on the scourge of guns on our streets, dramatic action to keep everyone in our community safe,” said Biss. “Please let us make sure that we react to this by stepping up in a way that will keep everyone in this community safe. I know that’s a commitment shared by everyone on this dias and across this community. And it’s a commitment, that if we make good on it, is a fundamental representation of what public services is all about.”

The meeting also heralded public comments on gun violence in our community. Among the many who demanded change was Olivia Ohlson, a sophomore.

“Gun violence is something that now affects every aspect of American life; from what areas are deemed as safe to how we as students walk through the halls of our school. I want to live in a community where I can feel safe outside at night, and in my classes, and at the beach,” said Ohlson. “Behind every name, behind every life lost, there is a grieving family and community, and I feel that our community has suffered enough.”

Abigail Stone, a resident who has lived in both the Fifth and Eighth Wards, shared her concerns as a mother of a teenager growing up in Evanston.

“I grew up in Chicago, I’ve had to hit the floor because of gunshots in the night. One summer I spent the whole summer sleeping on the floor with my son because every day there was shooting nearby. I thought that I’ve got to raise my babies in a safe place, and I came to Evanston,” said Stone. “[Gun violence in Evanston] has got to stop. I know it’s becoming rampant, it’s becoming normalized and I’m concerned how it’s affecting our youth’s ambitions if some youth feel like they can’t even see beyond the age of 18.”

Next on the agenda was a presentation by the City’s sustainability team. This team has seen two new hires in recent weeks, Kirsten Drehobl and Benjamin Martin, who Cara Pratt, the Sustainability Manager, introduced. During the Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) presentation, the team highlighted plans to meet Evanston’s environmental goals in the coming decades. This included a timeline for different legislative goals of CARP. In the coming months, the sustainability team hopes to implement laws concerning Evanston’s urban canopy and green spaces, which would help preserve private property trees that are essential to environmental balance. Additionally, in the next week, a circulatory/zero waste bill will come up on the Council’s ballot, which, if voted into law, would tax or ban single use plastic shopping bags. 

After the presentation, Devon Reid, Eighth Ward alderperson, voiced his concerns about how realistic the CARP goals are.

“When we have a council that’s unable to even pass a plastic bag ban and tax, how are we going to raise $70 million, how are we going to make the tough decisions to move this beyond where we are?” said Reid. “At some point, we either have to say that this is just an aspirational goal that we say we care about but we don’t, or we have to actually start making progress.”

His comment led to additional discussion about the costs of the climate goals. While there is no definite cost per household, the estimated costs are somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars. No definitive, consensual opinion on the matter was reached during the meeting, but in the coming months this will be a topic of much discussion.

“Evanston can be a leader,” said Jonathan Nieuwsma, Fourth Ward alderperson. “I expect us to be at the forefront [of the goal to become carbon neutral], but we are not shouldering the burden alone. There is a lot of work that the federal government and the state of Illinois has to do as well.”

Additional discussions centered on Evanston’s recognition as a ‘Bird City’ by the Audubon Council of Illinois, an award that has certain environmental criteria that a city has to meet to receive (Evanston greatly exceeded the minimum criteria to receive the recognition). In statements at the start of the meeting, Biss proclaimed April 30, 2023 ‘Family Strong Day’ in honor of the late Dr. Marjorie Fujara who pioneered the field of child abuse pediatrics and was a major advocate for gun safety. April 28, 2023 was also proclaimed ‘Arbor Day’ in honor of Evanston’s trees.

Final talks concerned requests to add additional crosswalks to intersections around the city, discussions about repairs to the dog beach that would fulfill ADA requirements, and amendments to last year’s City budget. Also, the Council approved the cost of installing furniture at the Arrington Lagoon, totaling $54,063.51.