Reparations panel hopes to finish work by June

Robin Rue Simmons at the Reparations Subcommittee meeting.

The head of the Evanston City Council's Reparations Subcommittee, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, has outlined a scheduled for the committee that calls for completing its work of devising a plan for implementing the reparations program by this June.

At Friday's meeting of the committee Rue Simmons distributed a timeline for its fortnightly meetings, prepared by Acting Assistant City Manager Kimberly Richardson. The schedule shows the following progression:

  • Feb. 21 -- Discussion of remedies for redlining and other forms of housing discrimination in the city.
  • March 6 -- Reports from community outreach groups discussing the reparations issue.
  • March 20 -- Report on efforts to involve local banks and other financial institutions in reparations efforts.
  • April 3 -- Discussion of potential mental health and emotional healing efforts related to reparations.
  • April 17 -- Discussion of involving local businesses in reparation effots.
  • May 1 -- Additional reports on community outreach and on all focus areas for the reparations project.
  • May 15 -- Schedule an evening town hall event to discuss outcomes from the community outreach process.
  • June 5 - Subcommittee submits recommendations to the full City Council.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that by the time of the May town hall she anticipates that subcommittee members will have met with potential institutional donors to the program -- like Northwestern University, the two hospitals, real estate groups and banks -- and will be able to report "on who's inclined to support us and who needs a little more lobbying."


About 20 spectators turned out for the noontime meeting of the subcommittee.

Rainey said she is seeking "not just cash, but services that they don't normally render for free" from such organizations.

Related story

Could rezoning be a form of reparations? (2/8/20)

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Comments

Court Challenges to Reparations Program Likely

Amazingly a thorough legal assessment of whether Evanston’s reparations program will be able to withstand legal challenge appears nowhere in the calendar of the Reparations Subcommittee.

I posed the question of legal review to Michelle Masoncup, the former City Attorney; she responded, “the City is just starting to analyze the concept of reparations and has not set forth a process, qualifications, programming, or level of funding.  Without understanding the basic issue of what the proposal is and how this works, we cannot weigh in on the legalities just yet.”

Ms. Masoncup’s position makes no sense.  Whatever structure the reparations program ultimately takes, the undisputable fact is that it will use municipal tax revenue to benefit one racial group in a multiracial city. This is, in my opinion, an invitation to litigation. I predict that plaintiffs’ lawyers will be eager to challenge the Evanston ordinance.

I suppose the next logical

I suppose the next logical question is around who in Evanston would have the courage to raise such a legal fight?

Plaintiffs' lawyers could recruit Evanston residents

This may be the jaded view, but it is altogether possible that it would be a plaintiff's lawyer "sponsoring" the challenge to Evanston's reparations program.  A plaintiff's lawyer--especially one with an eye to publicity--may decide that he/she wants to file a lawsuit against the city as a "test case"  (it would be the first such lawsuit in the country).  In this circumstance, the plaintiff's lawyer would look for an Evanston resident who was "similarly situated" to the resident(s) receiving the financial benefits of the reparations program.  The plaintiff's lawyer would then "recruit" this person to serve as plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city.  So please don't make the mistake of assuming that it would have to be an Evanston resident working in isolation to bring a challenge to Evanston's reparations ordinance.

I will, and I am trying to

I will, and I am trying to raise funds to sue this City in preparation. And hopefully get class action status.
But, its true that I will need to first be aggrieved and harmed by being denied assistance solely because I am not black. This will happen.

But there are so many other issues that this City government has failed; from proper stewardship of taxpayers' money to governance of the committee. It is being run like a dictatorship not as a democracy. This should have been voted on by the citizens of Evanston.

Reparations Lawsuits

The above Comment by "Failure of democracy" illustrates why I have been pushing so hard for the City to immediately begin legal research into whether an Evanston reparations program will--or will not--withstand a court challenge.  My efforts have mainly fallen on deaf ears. 

As stated in my initial Comment (above), the City seems to be taking the incomprehensible position that this legal research will be performed only after a reparations program is finalized.  What is the point of pouring resources into the development of a reparations program if it will likely be struck down in court?

The Reparations Thing is a PR stunt

My sense is that the people on the council who know better realize that this thing will get shot down in the courts. With the new revenue coming in from pot sales, the thought is, "let's let Simmons have her little reparations thing. Start a committee. Earmark the pot money for it since it is not being taken from any existing program. Let this committee work. It will build good PR for the city in light of recent events (Suzette Robinson lawsuit, the NU student who got harassed by the cops for driving his car, etc...) .

Hagerty, Storlie and their cronies can tell the "cry racism crowd" that they are wrong. Get some national positive press. But eventually, the program will fail due to a court challenge. There really is no long term cost. The legal fees will be paid out of the pot money and any actual reparations programs will never be implemented while the case winds its way through court. Eventually the city will lose and they can say, "we tried our best" and the pot money can be used for things that help the community as a whole.

I am sure Simmons or Fleming don't see it this way, but most people with any knowledge of the law and the constitution understand this is a work of folly that will be soundly defeated in the courts. They feel the costs incurred fighting it in court will outweigh reputational costs of being called racists, etc...

Response to Peter Gunn

Peter Gunn, 

Intuitively, I am inclined to agree with everything you wrote although I certainly don't have hard evidence to support my inclination.

I disagree with only one of your statements.  You write, " It will build good PR for the city in light of recent events (Suzette Robinson lawsuit, the NU student who got harassed by the cops for driving his car, etc...) ."  To the contrary, I fear that the reparations initiative will eventually lead to bad publicity for Evanston.  If a case challenging reparations goes to court, plaintiff will do its best to paint Evanston's reparations process as sloppy, rushed, and poorly-conceived.  This will draw adverse publicity to Evanston.

I have no opinion for or against reparations as a substantive issue.  I do, however, have grave concerns about the reparations process in Evanston, concerns which I have been largely unsuccessful in conveying effectively to alderman and city government officials.  Only Mayor Hagerty and Nicholas Cummings, Deputy City Attorney, have indicated that they are aware of the legal peril Evanston may face.

The action we can do now is force a referendum

Please please please. Everyone who believes in freedom and democracy we need to get a petition started for the November election.  This Reparations program needs to be forced into a referendum and be voted on by the citizens of Evanston. To do this, we need signatures of Evanston registered voters. Lets do this!