Evanston aldermen voted this week to get the City Council’s Reparations Subcommittee back up to its original size of three aldermen — but decided not to expand the membership to include outside experts.

Adding experts to the panel had been proposed by Mayor Steve Hagerty, but he seemed content with the alternative suggested by the subcommittee’s chair, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, that the panel consult with various experts as needed, without making them subcommittee members.

Rue Simmons suggested adding more members could create problems in achieving a quorum for subcommittee meetings, especially given the noon-hour meeting schedule set by the group because aldermen are already faced with so many evening meetings to attend.

City Attorney Michelle Masoncup said the city’s Law Department lacks the expertise and available time to handle the reparations project.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, suggested that the American Civil Liberties Union or law school professors with an interest in the subject could advise the panel.

Hagerty suggested that would be OK to start, but that the city might need to hire outside counsel for advice as the program gets closer to implementation.

Peter Braithwaite.

The Council voted to add Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, to the subcommittee, to replace Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, who resigned from the group late last year.

Braithwaite said he hoped the Council would be able to approve a plan for spending the reparations funds by the time funds from the city’s tax on adult use cannabis sales start arriving in September.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, also serves on the subcommittee.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Spotlight on Reparations

    Attorneys must be involved in formulating Evanston’s reparations program.  Because reparations is a timely and controversial topic, the City should try to forestall a potential legal challenge to the reparations program.  A legal challenge is at least somewhat likely because the reparations program will use City sales tax revenue to benefit one particular racial group in a multiracial city.

    On an unfortunate note, no one at the Council meeting seems to have brought up the point that the reformulated subcommittee must be multiracial.  At the moment, 2/3 of the subcommittee is black (Braithewaite, Simmons). with a black Northwestern professor (Tillery) mentioned for inclusion in the subcommittee.

    The buy-in of all racial groups in Evanston should be obtained in order for the reparations initiative to be successful.  Since establishing a reparations fund is groundbreaking work, every racial group in Evanston should be offerred a seat at the table.

    When the reparations program is finalized, the entire country will likely be looking at Evanston.  The Washington Post, for example, has already published a lengthy article on Evanston’s reparations ordinance as it is the first reparations legislation in the U.S.

    Because of  the national spotlight which may fall on Evanston when it presents its finalized reparations program, it is critically important for city residents to be able to present a united front around this program.  None of us, I believe, would want national attention focused on an Evanston split into factions, one delighted about reparations and the other resentful of reparations.

    This is a one-time opportunity for Evanston to shine on the national stage.  Let’s proceed slowly and mindfully in order to get it right.

    1. Attorneys

      Attornys are excellent at creating solutions to problems that do not exist–at excessive cost to the city of Evanston.  Remember the $8.3 million that Evanston wasted on cost of an unsuccessful lawsuit against the electric and gas utilities.

    2. Reparations.
      Reparitions are for those affected by demonstrable racist policies in this city namely black folks, we might consider Hispanic and other groups that can demonstrate that they too were victimized by these policies, but this is NOT white people’s business therefore they should NOT have a voice in how the funds from a reparitions fund are administered. You don’t get to administer your victims. Those who suggest they have a right to representation need to look in the mirror and reflect QUIETLY!!

      1. So you’re basically saying
        So you’re basically saying shut up, it’s our money to spend how we want? I guess that’s fine by me as long as this then means the slate is now clear & no one owes anyone else moving forward. Reparations can be a double edged sword, no?

      2. Us Against Them Attitude Not Helpful

        I was saddened to read Mr. Henry’s comment, which seems to exemplify the us-against-them attitude responsible for the dismal history of race relations in this country. 

        My original comment simply asserted that subject matter experts and attorneys–regardless of their race–could add value to the reparations subcommittee.  This is particularly true in that Evanston’s reparations ordinance, as the first in the country, may well be challenged in court.

        I hope that Mr. Henry’s attitude is not representative of that of Evanston’s black community as a whole.  Clinging to an us-agains-them mentality will do nothing to advance interracial understanding, which I believe–perhaps incorrectly–is our common goal.

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