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Council to vote on reparations plan

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Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to vote on having staff conduct a feasibility study of several approaches to provide reparations to black residents for historical weath and opportunity gaps.

Reparations proposals have been very unpopular nationally, with only 27% of registered voters in an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted in July saying they are a good idea and only 46% of Democrats favoring them.

A memo from the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission and Pat Efiom, the city’s chief equity officer, suggests seven possible forms a reparations plan might take here.

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 commission adopted the recomendations last month. They grow out of a request from Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, to develop what she calls “a solutions only” response to the impact of slavery and segregation on the economic status of black residents.

Rue Simmons has suggested that the city should devote $1 million a year for 10 years to such programs and that they could be funded in part from the recent increase in the real estate transfer tax.

On a related issue, the Commission will also seek City Council support tonight for the Commission to conduct a truth and reconciliation Initiative as a follow up to a resolution the Council adopted in June pledging to end structural racism and achieve racial equity in Evanston.

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