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Ald. Devon Reid Talks About ARPA Allocations, Access To Ald Public Records. Devon Reid talks about ARPA assignments, access to public records

Daily file photo of Katie Pach

Ald. Devon Reid (8th). Although Reid is new to the council, he is not new to the Evanston government as a former town clerk.

This article is part of a four-part series featuring new councilors. The Daily sits down with council members to find out how they have adapted to their new roles – and where they are now on their platforms.

Ald. Devon Reid, 8th, is new to the city council but is no stranger to the Evanston administration.

As the youngest town clerk in Evanston history, Reid focused his four-year tenure, which ended in 2021, on promoting government transparency and public access to records. As a city clerk, he supported the Evanston Voter Initiative, a referendum in 2020 that would have given residents more leverage over the city council’s voting questions. He also began pushing for a policy change that would expose the Evanston Police Department’s wrongdoing and use of acts of violence.

Now, six months after he was sworn in to represent the 8th ward, Reid said his priorities are still transparency and community engagement. He added his experience and the relationships he had built with others on the podium made the transition easier to maneuver.

“It’s a pretty ideal transition because I’ve had the last four years to watch the council,” Reid said. “Although I am a new member of this council, I feel like a high-level new member.”

However, Reid is new to working with the 8th ward neighbors: Chicago’s 49th and 50th ward officials.

He said he wanted to develop a relationship with Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), who has been working on the ward since 2011. He has also built a close working relationship with Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), who is in her first term.

Prior to their council elections, Hadden and Reid worked together on issues related to participatory budgeting, the process by which the community interferes in the allocation of public finances.

Reid is currently on the committee planning to pay out approximately $ 2.5 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act fund that was earmarked for the participatory budgeting process.

“It is crucial to actually meet the needs of the community,” he said. “(It) really gives people the opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat of government.”

Reid also expressed concern about the city’s general use of ARPA short-term funding to recruit long-term city workers.

“I don’t think we’re as premeditated as we need to be,” Reid told The Daily. “So I really focused on looking at the budget and more permanent financial situations.”

With his experience as a town clerk, Reid also focused on relationships between community officials and clerks during his time on the podium. He said that because the clerk’s office is an independently elected office, it remains accountable to voters regardless of city council legislative action.

Now that he’s on the council, Reid grapples with politics that he first encountered as a town clerk, and often criticizes other councilors for their inaction. He said the council needs to take more responsibility for data requests under the Freedom of Information Act and proposed that a subcommittee be set up in the relevant rules committee to deal specifically with FOIA-related issues.

The city council passed a resolution in 2019 to expand the staff dealing with FOIA requests for public records from the city clerk to the top four officials in the city’s Legal Department, Collectors Office and Police Records Bureau. But Reid, who currently chairs the city’s rules committee, said he doesn’t think additional staff is the best way to resolve backlogs on FOIA inquiries.

Reid has tabled several proposals for new legislation in the past six months, at a rate he believes is surpassing most of his peers.

Nonetheless, he found that the first few months of his career had made him aware of a significant obstacle to membership in the Council: financial compensation.

Reid said his position as city clerk paid a living wage of 80% to 90% of the Area Median Income salary – the average paycheck of those living in his geographic area – but now as a city council member, his job pays only about 20% of the AMI.

While the current council is more economically and racially diverse than previous councilors, “we end up with councilors who are retired or who are independently wealthy,” Reid said.

“I think we really need to rethink the structure of our council – both the pay and the resources councilors receive – to make this a viable choice for a wider section of our community.”

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @JorjaSiemons

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