The rule change would lift restrictions on Reparations Committee members eligible to receive housing awards.

Should members of the committee overseeing the city’s remediation process receive benefits from the fund if they qualify?

With the first housing grants coming out last week, City Rules Committee members weighed this issue at their January 19 meeting.

The seven-member Reparations Committee – which includes three current board members (Peter Braithwaite, 2nd district; Bobby Burns, 5th district; and Devon Reid, 8th district), a former board member (Robin Rue Simmons, 5th district) and three citizens – was created in October 2020 to oversee the city’s Reparations Fund.

The group’s responsibilities include evaluating applications and recommending funding allocations for housing and economic development programs that address historic discrimination by the city.

Committee members held a random draw on January 13 at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, distributing the first $25,000 in housing grants to 16 recipients of 122 eligible applicants who qualified as “Ancestors.”

Under the direction of the Reparations Committee, funds currently available for the Restorative Housing Program will be prioritized for the Ancestors. According to guidelines posted on the city’s website, an Ancestor is defined as an African-American or black individual who was an adult resident of Evanston between 1919 and 1969.

Generally, members of public bodies cannot receive gifts, such as money or fees, related to their government services, Nicholas Cummings, the city’s Corporate Counsel, wrote in a memo to the Rules Committee.

“This would create a barrier for members of the Reparations Committee who may be eligible to receive benefits from the city’s reparations funds,” he explained. “Currently, there is at least one Committee member who would be eligible to receive benefits as an Ancestor.”

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