Plan Commission Aftershocks Continue

You'd think the last thing Evanston needs is more meetings, but in the wake of the "walkout" by three commissioners at the last Plan Commission meeting come two more meetings this week. First, on Monday, May 19, at 6:00 pm in the Aldermanic Library, the City Council is having a special meeting at which the agenda includes only one public item, "Discussion of the Plan Commission." I have no further information on this cryptic reference at this time and would encourage Ald. Moran and Ald. Tisdahl, both registered users for this site, to offer a little illumination.

Next is a meeting of the Rules Committee of the Plan Commission on Thurs., May 22, at 7 pm. The public may submit suggestions for conduct of meetings and hearings.

Personally, I get depressed by meetings about meetings, and on the surface it looks like both of these meetings are about process, not substance. When everyone's being fair and civil, reliance on rules is unnecessary. Only when the system starts to get "gamed" do people stand on procedure.

Below the surface, one hopes that these do not turn out to be be yet one more brick in the wall, by which we've seen, in recent years, a consistent theme of limiting citizen input at school board meetings, City Council, and other bodies, in the name of a more "streamlined" process -- streamlined for whom?

I don't see any burning need for either the Council or the Commission to change any rules. Understandably, things can get heated when big decisions and big bucks are in play. Everyone can lose their cool from time to time. What's needed is to keep in mind that we're all in this together. A little common sense, civility, and respect would go a long way. That's a two-way street.


Just to clarify, the May 22 meeting of the Plan Commission at which citizen comment is invited on Plan Commission rules--particularly those applicable to the public comment period--was in the works weeks before the "walkout" at the May 14 meeting.

I believe the Chair of the Rules Committee of the Plan Commission wants input as to how to structure the public comment at future PC meetings in order to confer greater uniformity and predictability of format.

People who attended PC meetings where there was public comment on the Tower and the draft Downtown Plan will recall the complete lack of predictability as to the format. Would the microphone be at the podium or laying on a table? (The latter is avery uncomfortable setup if you are referring to documents.) Would there be a time limit? If so, what?

And then there was the carefully orchestrated format--which no one had predicted--of public comment on the draft Downtown Plan being segmented according to sections of the Plan. The result: the many people who had turned out to talk about the height issue found themselves listening to interminable comments on such items as streetscape. Of course, when the height issue was finally reached, it was after 10:00, and most people had left. An accident . . . or a deliberately manipulated format?

--Barb Rakley