Repair grants will be released in installments

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Evanston Repairs Committee voted unanimously to have Robin Rue Simmons succeed Council Member Peter Braithwaite as Chair and also decided to release additional repair grants as they go along. as funds become available.

Robin Rue Simmons (Photo by Genie Lemieux)

Additionally, city staff reported that the monthly donation report for the city’s repair fund was overstated by more than $30,000.

The first order of business for the July 13 meeting was to appoint a new chairman in light of Braithwaite’s resignation as Alderman of the 2nd Ward. Lawyer and committee member Claire McFarland Barber nominated Rue Simmons to succeed him.

“I know that without your vision and foresight, we wouldn’t be sitting here,” McFarland Barber said. “I know we have to share you statewide, nationally and internationally, but I know your heart is here with Evanston.”

Rue Simmons accepted the nomination and thanked Braithwaite for his long service and early involvement in local repairs. In 2019, Rue Simmons said, Braithwaite was the only council member at the time to participate in the early community repair process. Board member Bobby Burns participated as a community member.

“President, can I tell you how much we will miss you? Committee member Bonnie Lockhart told Braithwaite. “Your manners, your expertise, your experience…you just signed up to Evanston.”

Housing aid will be released gradually

After Burns’ encouragement, the committee voted to release housing subsidies to the remaining 106 ancestors in $25,000 increments as cannabis revenues slowly pour in.

The money for the first 16 recipients has already been earmarked, so voting will allow numbers 17 and up to start receiving benefits immediately.

Bobby Burns, member of Evanston City Council

Burns insisted that whatever money the city has, “we should just get it out,” he said. “If we have enough for three [more] now, I will simply support its dissemination to these people. But after that we should do it as it becomes available.

Repair Fund Inaccurately Reported So Far

Also at the meeting, Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager, informed the committee that recent monthly donation reports she provided for the repair fund were inaccurate due to an administrative error that combined the total of donations with medical cannabis tax revenue.

There are $35,544 in donations to the fund, although the latest inaccurate report says $69,303 was received.

It was discovered at the meeting that the city cannot report revenue from recreational cannabis sales due to an Illinois state law prohibiting cities from doing so publicly unless it be a minimum of five dispensaries. To do so would be a breach of confidentiality under state law.

The town currently has one dispensary and only has capacity for three, Rue Simmons said.

“So that said,” she continued, “we will never be able to report based on our current dispensary capacity.”

Local Restorative Housing Program

Evanston’s Local Repairs Restorative Housing Program is the first step in the city’s $10 million commitment to address the ongoing impact of slavery. Officials have earmarked 4% of the money, or $400,000, for housing.

Peter Braithwaite

Applicants who meet the requirements and are selected will receive up to $25,000 to help buy or renovate a home or pay off a mortgage. The home must be in Evanston and must be the applicant’s primary residence.

To be eligible for the current housing program (the application window closed Nov. 5), Black Evanstonians had to fall into one of three categories:

  • Black residents who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 (referred to as “ancestors”).
  • Direct descendants of a black resident who lived here from 1919 to 1969.
  • Someone able to present evidence proving housing discrimination due to city policies or practices after 1969.

The first 16 recipients were randomly selected from the ancestor category on January 13, and the ancestor category is prioritized for funding.

City completes review of direct descendant applications

City staff said they have completed the review of 470 direct lineage applications to the restorative housing program. Of these, they were able to verify 354 candidates.

In the verification process, staff must confirm the age and identity of applicants, as well as the applicant’s family lineage to a black resident of Evanston from 1919 to 1969.

Of the 470, 116 applications are missing verification, so the city is following up with those people via email, mail and phone for additional documents.

Officials said 11 direct descendant nominations were incorrectly grouped as such, and the committee voted to move them to the ancestor category, to which they belong.

The Evanston Reparations Committee was established on Nov. 9, 2020, and is tasked with working with city residents and experts to “explore and identify programs and opportunities to be supported by the Reparations Fund,” according to the site. City website.

The committee meets at 9 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month.

About Stephen Arrington

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