First, I wanted to extend a special thanks to the Evanston City Council members, and my fellow Evanstonians for participating in this important and time-sensitive City Council gathering. I recognize the short and inopportune timeframe under which this meeting was called and appreciate you taking the time to ensure that Evanston continues to be best positioned to responsibly embrace and execute legislation that improves upon the well-being of our community.
In light of several of our neighboring (and oftentimes competing) communities officially opting out of the county minimum wage and sick leave ordinance, I felt it incumbent upon my responsibility as Mayor to offer up to OUR own community and Council an opportunity to directly discuss and address this important time-sensitive matter that will inevitably impact our residents, businesses and economy. The furtherance of an open, transparent and honest government was a pillar of my campaign, and I stand by that promise today, and will do so, so long as I remain your Mayor.
To ensure that everyone very clearly understands my personal position on the minimum wage and sick leave ordinance, it’s simple and that which I have reinforced since I initiated my campaign. I will reinforce it again right now. I currently support implementation of the Cook County ordinances and believe that our whole city benefits from a work force that is respected, treated, and compensated fairly. Many have unfortunately, and mistakenly, interpreted my call for an open and transparent dialogue on this issue as a modification to that position. That could not be further from the truth. My position currently remains as it has been, and as has been articulated many times over. Nonetheless, since assuming office, and with an absolute willingness and obligation to listen to the many diverse voices of our community, have come to understand that not all share in my sentiment, particularly as the dynamics of the legislation reveal itself and neighboring communities opt out. I have called this meeting to foster dialogue and to allow the community to listen to those voices, along with the many voices of those that I know share my current position on the topic.
The discussion over the past two days on this subject has been heated in some quarters of the community. On the issue directly before us: should the City of Evanston opt out of the Cook County minimum wage and sick leave statutes set to go into effect tomorrow for a short period to further discuss the implications of these laws in Evanston? I believe the community has spoken loud and clear. NO.
I am therefore proposing that the City Council take no action on Evanston Ordinance 66-O-17.
Instead, I would like to use today as the beginning of a new dialogue on these important issues. It is clear now that Evanston will be the only city or among a small handful of Home Rule Suburban Cook County communities that will be covered under these new Cook County ordinances. What can we do as a community to support individuals who find themselves working in jobs in Evanston that make the minimum wage to help them grow their skills and find better jobs? What can we do as a community to support Evanston businesses that employ these workers? If Evanston is going to meet these challenges separate from our neighboring communities, it is important for all of us to work together to support both our workers and their Evanston employers.
I would like to offer my colleagues on the City Council an opportunity to speak, then invite Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, County Commissioner Larry Suffredin and Evanston Chamber of Commerce President Linda Larkin to make comments. Then I want to open the microphone for the next forty-five minutes to allow anyone to speak who has constructive, concrete ideas on how the Evanston City Council can work to support minimum wage workers and the Evanston businesses that employee them all be successful. It is my plan to place this issue on the July 10, 2017 City Council agenda for more discussion and the development of action steps for the future.
I welcome today’s dialogue on this important issue and look forward to listening and working with you all toward our shared goal of making Evanston a better City for all. Remember, this meeting is not an affront to democracy. This meeting is democracy.