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Recap: City Council approves reparations program

The aldermen voted 8-1 to adopt a housing component for the city's reparations program.

Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council meeting at which aldermen voted to implement the city’s reparations program.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:40 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 5:47 p.m.

P1 – TEFRA hearing for Roycemore School revenue bonds
Allows refinancing of school facilities.
City assumes NO liability for payment of the bonds.

Carlis Sutton, retired public school teacher, opposes supporting a private school.

Kathleen Scheidt, Roycemore board chair, speaks in favor of the bond issue. Says 48% of students receive financial support from the school.

Mike Vasilko calls it inappropriate for the city to be funding a private entity. (Falsely claims that the city doesn’t do it for any other schools. In fact the city has provided similar support for Chiaravalle School.)

Anthony Chambers, a Roycemeore parent and trustee, says school has an incredibly strong commitment to diversity. Says nearly 50% of students are persons of color.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says its simply not true that the city is paying for the bonds. Says in fact the city is collecting a fee from the school for the service.

City Manager Erika Storlie says there’s information on the city website about how other institutions can make use of the TEFRA tool, says no other requests have been received so far.

CFO Hitesh Desai organizations would have to qualify for issuing the debt based on their financial rating. Says can work with city’s bond council to see if a group would be eligible from the program.

Hearing adjourned at 6:04 p.m.

Mayoral announcements

Mayor Steve Hagerty says, in reference to mass shootings in Georgia, that Evanston’s police chief tells him there’ve been no recent report of hate crime incidents here toward Asian-Americans.

Says data from IDPH indicates over 37K Evanston residents have received at least one COVID vaccine shot; 59% of those 65 and over have received both doses of the vaccine.

Says vaccine for people in group 1B+ will start getting shots Thursday of this week. Says over 60K people have filled out contact form with health department — need to do that to get on the list for vaccinations.

Says 39% of total eligible population in city has received 1st dose, 20% have received both doses.

City Manager’s Announcements

Erika Storlie says police department has earned accreditation from the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Chief Demitrous Cook says the city has been working on the accreditation process for more than a year. Has included revisions to the department’s general orders based on advice from faculty from Northwestern University.

Storlie says Evanston should receive 50% within two months of $45 million in federal grants in the recently approved stimulus bill. Says it will be transformational in how the city can recover from the pandemic. Says plans to put forward a strategy over the next few months to implement the program.

City Clerk Devon Reid says county reports that only 20 Evanston residents have early voted on this first day of early voting.

Public Comment

It’s 6:39 p.m. Mayor says 62 people have signed up for public comment, so 45 seconds per person, given the 45 minute total time for public comment.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, moves suspension of the rules to give people one minute each. That’s approved unanimously.

Most speakers address SP3, the local reparations program. One speaker says it would take $10 trillion to $12 trillion to properly fund reparations in the U.S. (Proportionately, that would amount to $2.3 billion in payments from Evanston.)

While some people speak in opposition to the program, as proposed, others favor it.

Another set of speakers speak in favor of SP2, a plan to simplify the approval process for special uses.

Public comment ends at 7:59 p.m.

Special orders of business

SP1 – CDBG performance evaluation report

Approved 9-0.

SP2 – Special uses amendment to assist with post-pandemic economic recovery

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says this is really needed to fill downtown storefronts, reduce costs to applicants, and eliminate delay.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says city needs to be “as nimble as possible” to get the recovery going.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says there’s no need for many businesses to go through a six month special use review process.

This is just a discussion item. No sign of opposition from aldermen. Storlie says will move the proposal on to the Plan Commission.

SP3 – Evanston Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program and Program Budget

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said the reparations effort began in Evanston in 2002 with a resolution proposed by then Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste (and supported by Aldermen Rainey and Wynne, the only one on the council both then and now).

Program offers assistance for home ownership, home improvement, and mortgage reduction. Up to $25K per qualified person.

Fairly complicated qualification standards — tied to being Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 or is a direct descendant of such a person — or someone who has directly experienced housing discrimination as a result of post-1969 city policies.

(1919 was the year the city started work in its first zoning ordinance. 1969 is the year the city passed its second fair housing ordinance.)

Rue Simmons says pro-reparations groups have offered pro-bono legal assistance if the program is challenged in court.

Deputy City Attorney Nick Cummings says the letter from the conservative legal group doesn’t come as a surprise. Says the ordinance has been tailored to withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says this will be a long and challenging process. But sometimes need to do that. Says city has taken a leading position on sanctuary city proposals and assault weapons bans. Doesn’t want to delay.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, praises Rue Simmons for her commitment and vision and hard work, also the other subcommittee members.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says its difficult work to determine how to address the harms. Praises efforts of the subcommittee and staff. Says she is in complete support of the approach.

Similar comments from Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, “Just one step, but one step in the right direction.”

Rainey praises Rue Simmons for reaching out to the nation and bringing them along. Says national leaders of reparations are saying “yes this is reparations” — despite contrary views from some local residents.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, says Black people have the right to disagree in public. Says supports reparations, but what have tonight is a housing plan that’s being called reparations.

Says the people should dictate the terms of how they are repaired. Describes program as white paternalistic narrative that assume Black people can’t manage their own money.

Says at $25,000 per person $10 million for 10-year program would only help 500 people.

Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward, says this isn’t the finish line, barely the starting line. Says knew there would be a legal challenge. Real measure of success is how Black Evanstonians feel about the program. Says hopes for more inclusive process in future. But no matter how many meetings there are, people were say there weren’t enough. Says will vote yes on the proposal.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, thanks residents who came out to speak — especially those who’ve attend previous meetings.

Says, to Fleming, have heard what her group, OPAL, wants in new City Council. Says history will note everyone’s position tonight. We make decisions that have an impact citywide.

Says can anticipate that three additional dispensaries are expected to locate in Evanston, to provide more funding. Says various partnerships are in the works to further increase funding.

Fleming says Braithwaite’s comment was out of line. Says changing the form of government in Evanston is a decision for a referendum, not for her.

Approved 8-1. Fleming votes no.

Mayor Hagerty notes this covers the first 4% of the projected $10 million program.

Consent Agenda

Off consent: A15, A19, P2, P5.

With those deletions, consent agenda is approved.

A15 – Resolution supporting passage of Clean Energy Jobs Act by the state legislature

Rue Simmons thanks Citizens Greener Evanston for bringing forward this proposal.

Approved 9-0.

A19 – Liquor license for Double Clutch Brewing Company

Approved 9-0.

P2 – Special use permit for Ali’s Halal Eatery, 955 Howard St.

Approved 9-0.

P5 – Zoning text amendment to permit efficiency homes

Approved 9-0.

Call of the Wards

Fiske … concerned about training for boards and commissions. Says need program for it on ongoing basis. Refers issue to staff.

Rue Simmons — mentions pilot cash benefit program announced today by a national group for Evanston black residents.

Fleming … ward meeting 6 p.m. tomorrow on Zoom.

Mayor notes that deadline for applications for the new reparations committee is March 31.

Meeting adjourned at 9:26 p.m.

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