Evanston aldermen voted unanimously Monday to name a subcommittee to work with the city’s legal department to develop detailed proposals to provide reparations to the city’s black residents.

The vote came after nearly two dozen people spoke in favor of providing reparations for slavery, discriminatory housing policies and other actions that have hindered economic progress for blacks in the community.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, who initially proposed what she describes as a “solutions only” reparations plan, volunteered to serve on the subcommittee along with aldermen Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward.

In asking for assistance from the legal department, Simmons acknowledged that questions have been raised about the legality of the city providing social programs whose benefits are limited to a single racial group.

The Equity and Empowerment Commission report presented Monday night suggested seven potential approaches the reparations program might take.

Four would offer housing programs restricted to black residents, including:

  • Property tax relief to long-time owners of residential property.
  • Home repair and rehabilitation help.
  • Down payment assistance to income-qualified home buyers.
  • Rental assistance to income-qualified residents.

The other three would provide economic development aid restricted to black residents by:

  • Repurposing the Gibbs-Morrison Center to provide co-working or cooperative work space.
  • Offering workforce training.
  • Providing low-interest loans for entrepreneurs.

The property tax relief and home repair proposals did not include any income restrictions — which could mean that well-to-do home owners, or persons who own rental real estate or other property in addition to their home — would qualify for those programs — while the other two housing proposals did include income restrictions.

None of the economic development proposals specified income or asset limitations for beneficiaries.

Rue Simmons said she hopes the city will allocate a total of $10 million to the program spread over 10 years.

Rainey said the city needs to seek to involve banks and other lenders in developing solutions. “They have to participate with us, because that’s where the money is,” Rainey said.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Reparations

    I had no idea that Evanston was such a narrow thinking discriminatory community.  I’m surprised that Mayor Morton (mayor 1993-2009) would be a party such horrifying behavior.  What kind of community would elect Lorraine Morton?  Oh, and what about the Aldermen who perpetuated this?  Shouldn’t our Aldermen who have perpetuated this horror do the right thing and resign?  I thought our very own Evanstonian Jan Schakowsky was a progressive.  Now I’m finding out she is a John Porter clone!  

    All the time I was celebrating diversity and now I find out we live in a cloistered community.

    Today, I find out that Spain incorporated slaves in South Carolina in the 1500’s (Marooned, page 18 written by Joseph Kelly).  What do we make of this?

    I’m moving to Naperville where tolerance and diversity of thought is celebrated.

  2. This a really bad idea.

    This a really bad idea. It’s time to move and focus on improving human capital not living in the past. The redlining doesn’t matter. The black community would had to pay more for the mortgage and taxes if their houses were worth more than my house. Based upon the logic being offered, I should be compensated since living near the west side lowered the value of my parents’ home a generation ago. There is no systemic racism, only people because life style choice underperform their human potential for multiple generations.


    1. Systematic Racism is Housing

      Before you make generalizations you should first learn some Evanston history.  There was a time when black people were not allowed to buy homes in all areas of the city. For example, my great-grandparents had the financial ability to buy a home east of Maple Ave., but blacks were not allowed to buy past a certain point east.  This is why a majority of black families built and bought homes on the west side of Evanston.  This is where they were “allowed” to buy. Also, after WWII, white veterans were able to buy homes with the help of the GI bill.  Were black veterans able to get this assistance in Evanston?  The genaral answer to this is no. So YES, systematic racism in housing is definitley part of Evanstons culture.

      1. When were black people not

        When were black people not allowed to purchase a home east of Maple Ave?

        Did Evanston ban LBJ’s Great Society–now 54 years old?   Does Evanston D65/202 devote less educational dollars towards blacks?  What discriminatory actions did Mayor Morton take against blacks?

        Living in the past is no way to move forward.

        1. It’s not about living in the

          It’s not about living in the past. I was adressing the fact that the prior reply stated that there was not systemic racism and there absolutely was. I  gave an example of how it was manifested in housing practices. My family has been in Evanston since the early 1920’s, which is probably longer than your family has been here and I have learned a great deal of “unwritten” Evanston history.  Do you really think that it was a rule that was stated out loud, NO, but it still existed. Did you also know that a one time black people were not allowed to be treated at Evanston Hospital? The Black community had it’s own hosital in Evanston, Comminity Hospital.

          The real problem here is that many white people try to pretend that racism does not exist, BUT IT DOES!!  I would have more respect for your opinion if you were able to admit to the fact that racism is real.  Then we could begin to have a legitamate conversation about how to address it in our community.

          1. Why didn’t Lorraine Morton

            Why didn’t Lorraine Morton address this while she was Mayor?

            What about Alderman Delores Holmes?  what has suddenly changed in Evanston that would need to address this issue?

            The idea of reparations is an insult to the over 50 year progressive tradition in Evanston.

            This is an issue that should be addresses nationally–not locally.  Maybe that is why Lorraine Morton didn’t address this.

      2. I’m sorry if your well-to-do

        I’m sorry if your well-to-do great grandparents were prohibited from buying a home east of Maple Ave and instead had to live west of Maple Ave. Now I’m supposed to write you a check?

        1. Well, I do not need a check

          Well, I do not need a check from you.  I make a very good living.  I was adrressing the prior reply that stated that there was not systemic racism.  My example was showing one way that sytemic racism showed itself in Evanston.  

          Instead getting angry, maybe you should think about having a “real” coversation with a black person about the proposal. Maybe you shouldn’t rush to judgement about what it is that you seem to think we all want.

          1. Well, then you shouldnt need this either

            This is absolutely illegal under ALL the civil rights laws in this country. And, the proposal burdens all of Evanston residents, even non-whites. So, other races, or even whites, that had nothing to do with slavery in this country and whose ancestors never owned any African slaves will be financially responsible for your reparations. That’s unfair.

            Ok, I will go along with this. But after this, everything is square right? No more additional handouts in the future. That needs to be guaranteed in writing. If you can’t then, NO deal.

            If we continue to debate history, then you should never forget the thousands of Union white soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War for the blacks’ emancipation. I guess that is not enough repayment.

          2. Are you kidding me

            At one time I was the only white woman living on the 1400 block of Dewey.  The black gang members on the corner stole my motor scooter, am I getting reparations for that?  I was the only white person in attendance at my 75 year old neighbors birthday party.  We all got along.  Everyone can live wherever they want to now in Evanston.  Let’s not focus on the “60’s.  Let’s focus on lowering our real estate taxes so we can afford to live in Evanston.

  3. Ridiculous!

    Seriously, any member of the City Council or the administration needs to visit the memorial at Fountain Square and examine the names of Evanstonians who sacrificed their lives in the Civil War to liberate slaves and abolish slavery in the USA.

    As for businesses and banks engaging in discriminatory practices, legal policies have already been instituted to halt such activities.

    Alderman Robin Rue Simmons even has the audacity to question a vote fraud investigation that occurred in 1931! Fifty votes cast from a single home raised doubts, but now the episode if proof of racism?!

    If this plan advances, there will be costly litigation and Evanston will become a laughingstock.

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