Evanston’s Equity and Empowerment Commission Thursday named a subcommittee to study a proposal from Alderman Robin Rue Simmons to develop a city-funded program to increase home-ownership rates among black residents.

Simmons suggested using revenue from the recently increased real estate transfer tax and from future sales of city property to fund the program that she advanced as a way to provide reparations to the city’s black residents.

Rue Simmons cited the Metropolitan Planning Council report on The Cost of Segregation as a basis for the view that black residents deserve compensation for the impact of discriminatory policies on their lives.

Monte Dillard, pastor of the First Church of God, Alejandra Ibañez, a program officer at Chicago’s Woods Fund and former aldermen Jane Grover and Delores Holmes volunteered to serve on the subcommittee.

“Many individuals have a very marginal understanding” of what reparations is — just ‘here comes the money,’” Dillard said.

He suggested a program could be structured to not just “provide people here some money, but provide the resources to address the mental impact and the whole embodiment of segregation.”

But Bobby Burns, a residents at the meeting, said, “It is about the money — that controls the quality of life.”

Dillard said he agreed, but added, “$100,000 in the hands of somebody who understands money is very different than giving it to someone who doesn’t. I want people to know how to turn that $100,000 in to $1 million.”

This year’s city budget projected that the increase in the real estate transfer tax would generate about $850,000 a year.

Subcommittee members said they hoped to report back to the full panel by the commission’s August meeting.

During public comment at the meeting Carlis Sutton said the city should give money to elderly property owners as reparations, rather than providing benefits to developers.

Tina Paden said the 5th Ward, which Rue Simmons represents, “now is pretty gentrified. The original minorities in the area have either passed away, or been foreclosed on or had to move out of the area.” She suggested the city should provide money to her to help cover her costs in renting to low income tenants.

Betty Sue Ester said the group could stop worrying about gentrification of the 5th Ward. “You have totally gentrified it already,” Ester said. “If you go door-to-door, you’ll probably find an even mix of folks — blacks, Hispanics and whites.”

Related stories

Reparations on agenda in D.C. and here (6/19/19)

Aldermen want city to apologize for racist policies (4/18/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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