A proposal from Ald. Devon Reid (8th) to shift $5 million from Evanston’s general fund to its reparations program has run into opposition from Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings.

Evanston Now reported last week that Reid wants to divert the funds because the city’s cannabis tax has so far failed to generate the projected $1 million a year for the reparations program, and because he anticipates the general fund will end this fiscal year with a substantial surplus.

But Cummings, in a memo prepared for Thursday’s meeting of the Reparations Committee, says, “It is not advisable to use funds set for mandatory spending,” such as the general fund, for discretionary spending like reparations.

He says, “Use of those funds specifically for what the United States Supreme Court calls a ‘suspect class’ could violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and could widen the scope of individuals with standing to challenge the city’s reparations program.”

Cummings says the city has more discretion about spending home-rule taxes, like the Real Estate Transfer Tax, and that the transfer tax “is likely the best home-rule tax” to consider because, as a tax on housing, it relates to the restorative housing program developed by the Reparations Committee.

He noted that the Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that Cook County and other local governments must use transportation-related taxes on actual transportation projects, and not on general government operations.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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