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.