Evanston’s City Council Monday will consider plans to spend $5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and $10 million from the real estate transfer tax for reparations programs

The ARPA proposal, from the city’s Reparations Committee, calls for spending the money on economic development activities.

A staff memo cites federal guidelines noting that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on “lower-income Americans and communities of color.”

And it suggests focusing the assistance on “qualified census tracts” and similar census tract block groups with high levels of poverty.

The staff memo does not address whether the federal government’s rules would allow its funds to be used for programs — like Evanston’s reparations program — that so far have explicitly excluded non-Black residents from eligibility.

The City Council pledged in 2019 to spend a total of $10 million on reparations programs over the course of a decade, with funds to come from the local share of taxes on recreational cannabis sales.

But actual revenue from the cannabis tax has fallen far short of that level because only one dispensary has opened in the city.

The staff memo says that since July, when the state authorized a batch of additional dispensary licenses, only one prospect has contacted the city to indicate an interest in considering opening a dispensary here — so it remains uncertain whether Evanston is ever likely to get additional dispensaries.

The staff memo indicates that City Manager Luke Stowe believes additional staff would be needed to develop and manage the reparations program if Council approves the plan for ARPA funding.

A separate proposal from the Reparations Committee calls on the Council to adopt a resolution to transfer to the reparations fund the first $1 million a year collected from real estate transfer taxes on properties selling for over $1.5 million for the next 10 years.

The wording of the resolution indicated the $1 million amount would be in addition to whatever funds are generated by the cannabis tax, and so would represent an increase in total funding for reparations programs.

A staff memo indicates that RETT revenues on property transfers of over $1.5 million easily topped $1 million last year and this, though they did not quite reach $500,000 in 2020.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. How far will “City staff “ take this effort? NO comments from y’all on this latest aggressive bid on a totally mismanaged inaugural initiative?!?! Totally fraught with major flaws related to any and all DEI efforts. WAKE UP tax paying citizens of Evanston. Mayor Biss, please stand down and quit positioning Evanston as the poster child of super naive and progressive “wrong righters”.

  2. Stop stealing my money! I could tolerate the pilfering of the reparations program when it was to be funded by the taxation of the cannabis program because I knew it would take 50+ years to reach its $10 million goal. The proposed diversion of ARPA funds and real estate transfer taxes to generate $15 million over the next few years is not OK. This $15 million belongs to me and the citizens of the entire city.

  3. This is not permissible under the ARPA funds use. Evanston will spend a lot of money defending this in the courts. It is discriminatory towards everyone of all races, genders, disabilities, religions, housing status etc. who do not qualify for the narrowly tailored (and questionable) reparations program. Additionally, it’s insulting to use the pandemic effects as an excuse to misappropriate federal funds. COVID hit the elderly, people with disabilities (regardless of race or reparations qualified status) more than any other demographic.

  4. Reparations were to be paid only by cannabis money! ARPA money should go towards taking care of our buildings in disrepair before they get worse. If funding can be used towards pensions, let’s do that, too. That will save lots more money later on interest.

    Do residents get a vote on this?

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