Ald. Fleming to vote against the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program

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Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th). The alderwoman announced Friday her intention to vote against the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, the first facet of Evanston’s historic reparations initiative.

Jason Beeferman, Reporter

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) announced Friday she will vote against the housing reparations initiative at Monday’s City Council meeting. Fleming is the first alderman to publicly announce opposition to the bill ahead of the vote.

The Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program would allocate the first $400,000 of a $10 million reparations fund toward bolstering Black homeownership in Evanston. If passed, the resolution would mark the first distribution of public Black reparations dollars in American history. 

Fleming said the current program doesn’t give Black residents enough of a say in how reparations will be distributed. Fleming expressed support for reparations in the form of cash payments, which some residents have been asking for in recent months. 

“Let’s not short-change Black people on something they’ve been waiting centuries for,” Fleming said, adding that the program should be labeled as a “housing program” rather than “reparations.”

The proposed housing reparations initiative would distribute up to $25,000 each in benefits to qualifying Black residents to be used for home improvement, mortgage assistance or as a down payment on an Evanston home. Eligible Black residents include those who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969, those who have a direct ancestor who lived in Evanston during that time period, or those who can prove they experienced housing discrimination due to the City’s policies after 1969. 

“True reparations should respect Black people’s autonomy and allow them to determine how repair will be managed, including cash payments as an option,” Fleming said. “They are being denied that in this proposal, which gives money directly to the banks or contractors on their behalf.”

Fleming’s opposition comes after local community group Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations formed early this month to pressure alderman to vote against the first reparations housing initiative. The group called Fleming’s opposition an example of brave leadership in a March 19 Facebook post.

At a March 8 City Council meeting, Braithwaite challenged his fellow aldermen to come forward if they plan to vote no on the bill.

Almost a dozen residents spoke out against the resolution in public comment at the March 8 City Council meeting, claiming the subcommittee has not adequately involved the community in the development of the reparations program. E3R organizers have said city leaders did not listen to residents advocating against the restorative housing program throughout the fund’s approval process. 

In response, Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said community members had a space to voice their concerns and set program priorities during reparations subcommittee meetings. The city has held about 20 community meetings since July 2019, according to a March 12 news release.   

Residents also urged the vote be delayed until the new Council takes office next month, at which point at least 3 of the 9 current Council members will have been voted out of office or will have left their seats after opting not to seek reelection.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th), who has led reparations efforts, said at the March 8 meeting she was “excited” by the increased interest in the program, and reminded residents that there are still millions of dollars to be allocated for later initiatives.

“This is only 4 percent,” Rue Simmons said. “We still have $9,600,000 plus, thanks to all the residents and businesses that have contributed, to do more work.

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Twitter: @jasonbeeferman

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