Aldermen discuss issuing bonds to more nonprofits

Ald.+Robin+Rue+Simmons+%285th%29.+Rue+Simmons+expressed+frustration+that+residents+are+struggling+to+preserve+organizations+like+Family+Focus%2C+while+the+city+hasn%E2%80%99t+talked+about+helping+such+organizations.

Noah Frick-Alofs / Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th). Rue Simmons expressed frustration that residents are struggling to preserve organizations like Family Focus, while the city hasn’t talked about helping such organizations.

Cassidy Wang, Reporter

Aldermen discussed the city’s role in issuing bonds for local nonprofit organizations at a public hearing Monday.

The public hearing was held for a proposal to issue city revenue bonds and loan the proceeds to Chiaravalle Montessori School, a nonprofit. In the City Council meeting, aldermen voted 6-3 to introduce the ordinance to council.

Hitesh Desai, the city’s chief financial officer, said Evanston has financed Chiaravalle and Roycemore School similarly in the past through bonds. He said the city has no liability to pay for the debt if Chiaravalle defaults on payments. The bank, not the city, will be providing the money.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) requested a memo from staff that explains the city’s role in the issuance of bonds, specifications on which nonprofit organizations are eligible and the process, which she said have not been made clear. She also said the city should discuss whether other organizations can receive bonds.

“There should be a way we make this available because we have a big city full of nonprofits, all of which probably call us tomorrow and say ‘I didn’t know that you all loan money,’” said Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th). “Whenever we do something particularly around money we have to make sure that other people know that they might be eligible as well.”

Fleming said there is “a little bit shame on us” that the city has issued bonds to schools like Chiaravalle and Roycemoore in the past, without including other nonprofit organizations. She called on the city to do a better job to make opportunities available to “particular populations,” being clear with rules, eligibility and the application process.

“So it never looks like we’re playing favorites or you have to be in a certain know to know to apply for these things,” Fleming said.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said organizations like Family Focus, which need funds, might qualify for such bond issuances. She expressed frustration that residents are struggling to preserve these organizations, while the city hasn’t provided opportunities and resources.

“There’s an information disparity in this community that is keeping other institutions in other communities oppressed and not enjoying the same quality of life and freedoms and liberties as others,” Rue Simmons said. “I’m hoping that the community at broad is not withholding information and opportunities to uplift other parts of the community that we say we’re all concerned about.”

Rue Simmons said she plans to share this information with other nonprofits in the city, so they can determine if they could benefit from applying for bonds.

However, Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said the city is not in any position to qualify organizations for bond issuances or to support a program for them. She said the banks send organizations to the city.

“The city really is the entity that is the last resort here,” Rainey said. “We’re not going to run a program of bonds… that’s not the way it’s going to work.”

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Twitter: @cassidyw_

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