Parks and Recreation Board wants more public input on 8th Ward’s Reid’s park proposals


Members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board have not closed the door on a council member’s proposal that would remove restrictions on park hours.

Council Member Devon Reid (8th) speaks to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Credit: Bob Seidenberg

But the board, at its August 18 meeting, urged Devon Reid of the Eighth Ward to do more outreach and further gauge community support for this proposal as well as another on standards for public nudity, before changing long-standing policies.

Initiating the discussion, Robert Bush, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, noted that the system currently used by officials “works very well…”

Although Reid replied, “It depends who you ask.”

Bush continued, asking the council member, “As we sit here today, has there been a single town hall – a single effort to involve the people who live near and around the parks to have their thoughts on whether this is a good idea?

“Don’t you think it would be a good idea to have community meetings in places other than the Eighth Ward to see what the temperature is like for people who live in and around the parks?” Adding later, that it would give Reid “a better intelligence on how to craft a prescription that you think could pass the mark.”

Reid said his proposal was presented at several neighborhood meetings and there were five discussions in all, including the Parks and Recreation Board meeting that evening.

“Went to all the parks in Evanston and knocked on the doors of the 500 neighbors around this park? ” he said. “No, it can’t be done. But what I did was I made myself very available for people to share their concerns and comments.

Currently, public park hours are 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily. Under Reid’s proposal, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., people could stay in or enter a public park to sit, walk, jog, or ride bikes quietly.

A person or group of people making noise audibly from a distance greater than 50 feet would not be allowed to stay in a park from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. under the proposal.

Addressing the Council, Reid said he appreciated the opportunity to give a clear description of what he was seeking to do through the Ordinance Amendment.

First, “I’m not looking to keep our parks open 24 hours a day or allow people to pitch tents,” he said, an impression created by a news article that had a photo of a town of tents in his article on The Proposal.

Instead, he said his goal was to “allow people to do things they usually do”, like walking along the lake at night.

During the Northern Lights that recently occurred in the area, he noted, “if anyone wanted to go to the edge of our lake and sit peacefully and watch the sky and enjoy…this experience , it wouldn’t be allowed to do that here in Evanston (with the lakeside park also closing at 9pm)

In neighborhood parks, the change would allow people “to sit, walk, or jog in the park quietly, as I think most people do sometimes,” he explained.

He said officials would still have tools to take enforcement action if someone was making noise or creating a disturbance.

Evanston residents pay big bucks to ‘buy calm’

Members of the Parks and Recreation Board, who have spent two previous meetings discussing the proposal, oppose the change.

Bush, who as a private attorney at one time served as legal counsel to more than 50 park districts in the Chicago area, pointed out that the amendment:

“Going to place the responsibility of imposing bad behavior on the residents because they are going to have to make a call and say that there is noise in the park across the street and that the police will come and when the police will arrive, the noise will stop.

“And so the residents will have to sign (a complaint) will then have to testify in court to show that there has been a violation of the order.

“Currently I think we all recognize the way the police work if someone calls and says there’s a problem across the street in the park, they’ll show up, shine (their flashlight pocket), they will say, ‘the park is closed, please leave,’ and everyone is happy,” he said.

“I haven’t heard of a compelling reason to change the order,” Bush said, citing a recent shooting at an Evanston park as an additional concern. He said “laws, ordinances and policies of public entities should not be changed on a daily basis to accommodate what may be perceived as the ability to see the Northern Lights.”

Donald Michelin, another member, and former principal of Reid College in Haven, spoke of the vested interest people have in keeping the community quiet.

Evanston “has a high tax base – people are paying a lot of money,” he said. “You’re buying peace of mind…and I think we should honor the taxpayers of Evanston.”

“We’re talking about the needs of the few that outweigh the needs of the many in this area.

“Let’s do everything we can to keep our community quiet, so we can continue to attract people who can pay the high taxes. I tell you, they don’t come unless it’s calm and they feel protected.

Park board member Mary Rosinski agreed with the premise behind Reid’s change that “we don’t want to criminalize people who wander around or may randomly stop in parks.” .

She wondered if there was a way to deal with these situations while governing to make it possible as long as people don’t come together. As a longtime real estate agent, she agreed that people pay a lot to live near parks and won’t want to have to call the police to complain.

Board member Kerri Machut also supported holding broader meetings to gauge public support.

If the new legislation was put in place, “I wonder if that would evolve over time, after you’re in office,” she told Reid, when a new council was sat “and things could just involve, allow for more activity.

Board member Patricia Gregory said she had already done her own survey and received mostly “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” responses.

“And so I think it’s very important to get it out there,” she said of further investigation.

Plus, she noted, “The lakeside is just a little bit different from the local parks, because you’re away from neighbors and northwest [University] children, people come to sit on the rocks and watch the sun rise. But we’re not talking about the lakeside park here.

Reid was encouraged by the remarks, suggesting there might be room for compromise.

“I’m not coming from above and saying this is going to be the rule and it’s so or not,” he said.

He suggested the possibility of modifying the ordinance, for example, to allow people to use the lakeside park in the way he had proposed, as well as other larger parks or areas, in accordance with ensuring that “we integrate the voices of the residents while always allowing the gentleman who leaves work late at night and wants to take a decompressing walk in a park because he does not have the opportunity to enjoy this public space during the day because of his strenuous work schedule”, just do it.

Public nudity also needs public debate

Changing the definition of public nudity also needs more comment. Bush said the board is very interested in seeing what the board member can come up with, get broader feedback.

“We would certainly be happy to help you organize any kind of city-wide meetings to get a better idea of ​​what the people of this city really want to do in terms of park hours. I therefore strongly recommend that you do not go further without undergoing this kind of information.

The council also urged Reid to seek further comment on another of its proposals, removing the current order prohibiting the presentation of a female breast with less than fully opaque coverage of any part below the top of the nipple.

Reid told members of the Recreation Council that the reason for her change was never, as one publication reported, “Reid’s topless beach plan.”

He said his proposed ordinance change addresses the fact that public nudity as it is currently defined in the city ordinance “regulates women’s bodies in a way that does not regulate men’s bodies. , and specifically prohibits women from exposing their breasts in public.”

Reid cited a Colorado case with an order that mirrored Evanston’s that was ruled unconstitutional and did not advance further, he argued, on cost grounds.

Bush noted that Evanston’s company attorney Nicolas Cummings, in a memo in February, said the city’s legal department was confident it could defend the city’s ordinance in the event of a CONTESTATION.

In the memo, Cummings cited a recent Missouri case, which claimed that the sexualization of women was the real driver of an order. The court found the argument unconvincing and upheld the order, Cummings reported.

Beyond that, Bush pressed Reid on what prompted the change in legislation.

“Can you give us petitions from all the women in Evanston who are so upset they can’t take their tops off at the beach?” He asked. “There are so many things that Evanston needs to do better, allowing women to be topless on the beach is not one of them,” he claimed.

“Whether it’s illegal, immoral, or whatever, do you think that’s a good way to approach your time as a representative of Eighth Ward?”

Reid replied, “I think I have a legal duty to uphold the Constitution. I took an oath to the Constitution and I believe my constitutional obligation is to ensure that we do not have a double standard.

“I don’t know why we are afraid of women’s breasts,” he said. “Why, it’s only because the men in our patriarchal system have decided that women’s bodies are more sexualized than men’s bodies.”


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