EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — The City of Evanston is taking on a controversial topic – reparations.
Evanston will start putting money in a fund to address the north suburban city’s decline in African-American residents, among other issues. The fund will be financed by revenue from cannabis – which becomes legal for recreational use in Illinois on Jan. 1.
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported Wednesday night, the objective is to help African-Americans thrive in Evanston. Such a fund for reparations is a step that no other city in the country has accomplished.
On Thanksgiving Eve, the stove burners were already working overtime at Toly Walker’s house.
As the lifelong Evanston resident prepared for a family feast, she was also watching closely what’s cooking with the city’s Reparations Resolution.
“Despite the fact that I was born and raised here, and I live here, and I’m raising my kids here, I could not afford to buy here,” Walker said.
Walker believes she has the necessary ingredients to get ahead.
“I’m educated not just enough to get my position – I have two masters degrees,” she said.
But Walker fells being black and living in Evanston made getting over the financial hump difficult.
“What about people who don’t? So they can’t live here as homeowners? They have to rent forever? That’s discouraging, and it’s angering, and it should anger everyone if you believe in equity,” Walker said.
When recreational marijuana becomes legal, the City of Evanston plans to take the expected green revenue and divert 100 percent of the tax money to “a separate fund in a City account for local reparations.”
Evanston Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) worked to get the resolution approved this week by the City Council.
“I’m offering no apologies,” she said. “This is for black Evanston residents.”
Ald. Rue Simmons knows many sees reparations as controversial.
“It is going to bring the impact our community that is overdue and is well-deserved,” she said.
Rue Simmons points to Evanston’s history of redlining, where neighborhoods were divided based on race and economics. The alderman believes the impact is still felt today – especially in the 5th Ward near Church Street and Dodge Avenue.
“We were intentionally targeted,” Rue Simmons said. “The law, the policy, the actions, the culture of the community, intentionally excluded black residents.”
The hope is that by allocating $10 million of marijuana tax revenue into the reparations fund, it will encourage minority business startups and help longtime residents like Walker – ultimately eliminating the wage disparity.
“This is the first that I’ve heard of in the nation,” Rue Simmons said. “I’m hoping that it will be a model that other localities will explore.”
The city expects some possible legal fights as it continues to iron out exactly how it will allocate the funds.