Glencoe on Thursday became the latest North Shore community, and the second in New Trier Township, to pass an ordinance regulating unscheduled bus dropoffs after a recent increase in buses from Texas dropping off migrants across Chicagoland.
The ordinance unanimously passed through the Glencoe Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on Thursday, Jan. 18.
Nikki Larson, Glencoe’s chief financial officer and deputy village manager, said some of the bus drop-offs throughout Illinois have “resulted in dangerous, inhumane conditions for passengers who have, in some cases, been abandoned in municipalities with few resources at their disposal.”
Glencoe’s ordinance regulates “all one-way transportation providers of 10 or more passengers originating from a location outside of the Village that is not a regularly scheduled service.”
It requires either the bus owner, operator or driver to complete a pre-registration process with the Village’s public safety department at least five days in advance of the expected dropoff. Hours of dropoffs are limited to between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“In drafting and considering this ordinance, the Village is seeking to advocate for the health, safety and wellbeing of the passengers, including migrants,” Larson said, “a consideration that is within the core principles of the Village of Glencoe for all that reside in our community.”
Village attorney Steve Elrod added that his firm, Elrod Friedman LLP, has drafted a number of ordinances for other municipalities, and said they’ve all “attempt(ed) to address constitutionality issues.”
“You will see that our ordinance is very generic,” he said. “Our ordinance does not address anything to do with passengers or identification of passengers. It’s an ordinance that applies to buses. All buses that fit into this category are covered.”
Later in the discussion, in response to a question from Trustee Gary Ruben, Elrod said the ordinance could also apply to situations such as a bus dropping off someone for a sporting event or a bar or bat mitzvah if it is a one-way, unscheduled bus, “because we wouldn’t want them being dropped off in the middle of the night or off-hours without notice.”
While the ordinance received unanimous approval, three individuals spoke against the measure during public comment, urging the board to reject the regulations.
Rabbi Bruce Elder, of Glencoe’s Congregation Hakafa, said that while he appreciated the spirit of the ordinance, he questioned why the five-day advanced notice was necessary.
“I understand you want some warning, but the bus companies themselves do not know five days in advance where they are going to be sending people,” he said.
Elder said he was concerned that an ordinance like Glencoe’s could cause complications for the passengers.
“The ordinance will potentially send buses farther away from Chicago and the processing center, will make it more dangerous for asylum seekers, and more likely that they will be dropped off in a place that won’t take care of them like Glencoe will,” he said.
The other speakers were Lee and Nancy Goodman, members of the migrant advocacy group Witness at the Border, and Northbrook residents who also made comments during Highland Park’s City Council meeting two days earlier.
Their comments in Glencoe were similar to what they said in Highland Park. Lee Goodman said the ordinance is meant to only target migrants, while Nancy Goodman described a recent visit they made to Pima County, Arizona, and what migrants have to go through when they cross the border.
“If you pass this ordinance, you are passing the buck and shunting these people to Antioch or Rockford or other towns that haven’t passed ordinances,” Nancy Goodman said. “You make their journey longer, and therefore, more perilous.”
Village President Howard Roin stated numerous times throughout the discussion that the ordinance is not anti-migrant, saying that it is meant to protect migrants and other bus passengers.
“The purpose of this ordinance is to prevent bad dropoffs so that people don’t get left in Glencoe like it was last weekend when it was 20 below,” Roin said.
He went on to say that the recent bus dropoffs have made people aware that this could happen to anyone, not just migrants.
“We don’t want anyone in large, unannounced groups being dropped off with no one knowing about it, so no one can help them,” Roin said, later adding that the ordinance does not prevent migrants from coming to Glencoe, “but there has to be a warning so the Village and our clergy community and (Family Services of Glencoe) can prep so that no one is abandoned here.
“That’s the goal, and I hope it’ll work that way.”
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Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.