Evanston's Equity and Empowerment Commission is scheduled tonight to sift through more than hundred ideas for possible reparations programs to benefit black residents of the city.
The panel, chaired by former 7th Ward alderman Jane Grover, held two public meetings last month of its "Solutions Only Sub-Committee," formed at the urging of Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, to solicit suggestions for such a project.
Among the ideas included in a list in the panel's meeting packet are:
- Providing free tuition at Northwestern University and at community colleges for black students from Evanston.
- Creating a new black-owned media outlet in the city.
- Having the city donate a building to the Shorefront Legacy Center, which researches black history on the north shore..
- Force payday loan businesses to invest in the community.
- Provide free mental health care.
- Provide housing vouchers scattered across neighborhoods.
- Pay homeowners to replace chain-link fences with plantings or more attractive fencing.
- Provide tax forgiveness for homeowners.
- Provide rent control for tenants.
- Appoint more blacks to city boards and committees.
Several of the suggestions involved actions that most likely are outside the city government's purview and would have to be undertaken by the city's two school districts. They include:
- Having African-American teachers teach black history in the schools.
- Investing heavily in childcare and early childhood education programs.
- Provide free transportation to students walking several blocks to school.
- Stop "forced busing" -- the busing of students to improve racial balance in the schools.
- Build a STEM school in the 5th Ward.
Rue Simmons has suggested that the City Council fund reparations programs at a level of $1 million for the next 10 years and develop a designated revenue stream to cover the cost.
The commission's meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Room 4802 at the Civic Center.