Editor: I am a reparations skeptic.

From reading various sources (NPR, Evanston Now, Evanston Roundtable), it appears the primary reasons for reparations in Evanston center around disproportionate arrests for marijuana, black residents being priced out of their homes,  preserving black residency and predatory lending.

Has any consideration been offered for the deterrent effect of potential incarceration (albeit incredibly low) that may have kept individuals from using marijuana and that the individual who has avoided marijuana use has had a better academic/life outcome? 

From the Washington Post, June 26, 2019:  “More than 99% of federal drug offenders are sentenced for trafficking (defined as sales, distribution, manufacture of illicit drugs), according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics”.  Is there anyone who believes dealing in illegal drugs (including marijuana) is a social good?  What about the damage to families caused by those dealing in illicit drugs (including marijuana) in terms of higher suicide rates (webmd, 2/13/19 author Serena Gordon, “Not only were those who smoked marijuana more likely to suffer depression and suicidal thoughts, they were also more than three times as likely to attempt suicide between the ages of 18 and 32.”), non-functioning individuals and families?

While marijuana purchased through licensed dispensaries will be legal, there will continue to be an active black market.  Won’t those who are arrested for dealing illegal marijuana continue to be incarcerated?

The issue of residents being priced out of their home is a problem for all Evanstonians—not just blacks.  Evanston doesn’t have the commercial property tax base of neighboring communities resulting in higher property taxes for comparable homes.  The challenge of police/fire/municipal pensions being less than 50% funded places a significant property tax burden on Evanston’s residents.  Increasing property taxes have suppressed property values.  According to Zillow, the average Evanston home has increased in value by .8% per year since 2010 while inflation has averaged 2% per year.  Evanston property values are not even keeping up with the rate of inflation while the property taxes continue to increase—4.5% in 2019 according to the Patch.  This situation impacts all Evanstonians and doesn’t single out any particular Ward.

The concern about maintaining black residency is troubling.  Consider the following demographic profile of Evanston, Skokie and Wilmette compliments of the US census:



































The common thread between Evanston (2019 data), Skokie and Wilmette is that all three communities saw a decrease in white population.  All three communities saw significant increases in the Asian and Hispanic population.  Skokie and Wilmette have seen an increase in their black populations while Evanston has seen a decrease in the black population.  Evanston celebrates diversity.  Why is it problematic that the Asian and Hispanic population has grown over the last 29 years?

Poverty rates in Evanston (US Census) are 18.4% black, 9.03% white, 19.77% Hispanic and 24.19% Asian.  In a society that preaches equity, how would awarding marijuana tax revenue to one group of individuals prove to be equitable when there are other groups in even deeper poverty?  Shouldn’t Evanston offer a helping hand to all in need—regardless of race, creed, gender or color?  Aren’t the poor of Evanston all impacted by the high cost of living in Evanston?

Those supporting reparations also seem to ignore, that D65 will have Dr. Devon Horton as superintendent effective July 1, 2020, had Dr. Hardy Murphy as superintendent for 13 years, have Demitrous Cook as our Police Chief, had Lorraine Morton as Mayor from 1993 to 2009.  The City of Evanston’s employee profile is 23.51% black, 61% white, 9.95% Hispanic and 4.14% Asian.  This hardly seems consistent with a community that discriminates against blacks.

There has been mention in the reparations discussion about redlining.  Redlining was outlawed in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.  Penalties for violating the Fair Housing Act can be as high as $105,194.  To discuss redlining, we must be prepared to discuss how the Chinese were redlined in San Francisco, how the Jews were barred from buying houses on our very own North Shore (Jews in Chicago Area Barred from Buying Houses, jta.org), how the Irish, Italians and Jews were not viewed as desirable compared to Europeans throughout the United States.

Back to Evanston, has there been any Fair Housing Act violations in the last 52 years?  What about the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 that ended discrimination in lending to low and moderate income neighborhoods?  What about the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 that makes it unlawful for any creditor to discriminate against any applicant, with respect to any aspect of a credit transaction, on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, or age?

Evanston’s mission statement, “The City of Evanston is committed to promoting the highest quality of life for all residents by providing fiscally sound, responsive municipal services and delivering those services equitably, professionally, and with the highest degree of integrity.”  How does reparations for one race of people fit the mission statement?

$10 million is a lot of money; $10 million dollars would fund the nearly closed Firehouse 4 that serves Wards 2 and 9 (Ald. Fleming and Braithwaite) for 8 years.  $10 million would nearly fund the taxpayer’s Evanston police pension annual obligation of $10.4 million (as reported from 2017) or reduce the $113 million unfunded pension liability to $103 million.  For the firefighters pension, the annual taxpayer contribution in 2017 was $8.3 million and the unfunded liability was $91 million.  Maybe this where the $10 million marijuana tax revenue should be directed.

Fitch ratings 2018:  Fitch anticipates that the city’s natural rate of expenditure growth will be above its revenue growth rate. The city retains adequate spending flexibility pertaining to service delivery, head count and capital spending, but fixed carrying costs for debt service and retiree benefits are presently elevated, totaling approximately 32% of governmental expenditures in 2017.

Knowing that debt/pensions consume 32% of governmental expenditures why would the City of Evanston allocate funds that targets a specific color of skin when Evanston has much higher obligations to the community?

Responsible governance funds pensions and maintains police and fire protection.  It serves the needs of its’ community in an impartial manner.  Reparations will only succeed in dividing our diverse community, trigger unnecessary litigation, and continue to strain our taxpayers.  The marijuana revenue needs to be directed to serve the City of Evanston.

Those that support reparations should donate to private organizations that support the reparations agenda as defined by Ald. Rainey, Rue Simmons and Braithwaite. 

                                                                                                                                                                           —  John Foley