The Reparations Committee moves cautiously on the exploitation of the tax on real estate transfers

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The affirmative action scrutiny by conservative Supreme Court justices led the city’s repairs committee to take action to protect the restorative housing program during Thursday morning’s virtual meeting.

This week, the United States Supreme Court is hearing cases from Harvard University and the University of North Carolina regarding the use of affirmative action in college admissions. Comments from conservative justices, such as Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts, indicated they believed affirmative action should have an end point.

The High Court’s deliberations took place during Thursday’s reparations committee meeting as committee members discussed a revenue stream recommendation for the council.

The committee previously agreed to use the city’s progressive real estate transfer tax to fund the repairs program. Chairman Robin Rue Simmons suggested that the committee decide on a timetable for using this revenue source before submitting the plan to city council.

City Councilman Devon Reid, 8th Ward, agreed and linked the discussion to the U.S. Supreme Court debate, which he called concerning.

“Listening to this discussion between the Supreme Court justices, I think having a time limit will help us legally,” Reid said. “Every decade a council can come back and determine whether or not the black community in Evanston has been restored.”

Ten years is the magic number of the reparations programme. Resolution 126-R-19 of 2019 that created the reparations revenue fund is also set for 10 years, Rue Simmons said.

Committee member Claire McFarland speaks at the September Reparations Committee meeting Credit: Gina Lee Castro

The committee agreed to this delay and Claire McFarland, a committee member, suggested adopting another protective measure also inspired by the affirmative action cases.

A High Court precedent from 2003, mentioned during the court’s recent affirmative action review, would limit the practice to a maximum of 25 years, according to some judges, with no suggestion of renewal.

McFarland recommended that the committee specifically state in its revenue stream recommendation that the move would be reviewable and renewable.

“Because we expect the program to continue or be renewed and refreshed after a study, I think we need to specifically add some terms,” ​​McFarland said.

The committee voted in favor of recommending that city council delegate $1 million per year of the progressive land transfer tax levied on all properties with a purchase price over $1.5 million for a period 10 years old.

In another action on Thursday, the Reparations Committee discussed other sources of revenue within the city’s local authority. The committee also briefly discussed the October 22 public meeting. And Rue Simmons announced that St. Luke’s Episcopal Church recently donated $70,000 to the Evanston Reparations Stakeholder Authority (RSAE).

Property transfer tax

In October, the committee decided to move forward with using the degressive real estate transfer tax to finance the repairs.

The tax has not been used to fund anything other than the city’s general fund since its inception in 2019, City Attorney Nicholas Cummings said at the committee meeting in October.

Rue Simmons, a real estate broker, has lobbied to use the tax as a source of revenue since the reparations program began. In his view, real estate sales, similar to cannabis-related arrests, have hurt Evanston’s black community.

The progressive property transfer tax is paid to the City when a property is sold.

At Thursday’s meeting, the committee voted to use $1 million of the accumulated tax increase on properties sold at $1.5 million or more. The committee’s recommendation, which must be approved by city council, will cover a 10-year period and align the 2019 resolution so that it expires at the same time.

In 2021, the city collected a $543,200 tax increase on properties sold between $1.5 and $5 million, according to city records. The city earned more than $2.6 million in 2021 on properties that sold for $5 million or more in 2021, according to the city.

The city’s legal department shared a list of other recommended taxes on the rule of origin that could be used as potential revenue sources for the reparations program.

The taxes included are as follows: Municipal sales tax; Car rental tax; Tax on sports competitions; Municipal hotel tax; Cigarette tax; Alcohol tax; Tax on medical cannabis; Tax on real estate transfers; entertainment tax; and the municipal hotel tax.

Reid took a stand against the use of cigarette tax and liquor tax.

“I’m in favor of using general funds, to show that we have a systemic commitment to ensuring reparations funds this rather than, you know, using cigarette tax or liquor tax or whatever. thing like that, which I almost feel would muddy the waters a bit,” Reid said. Rue Simmons agreed.

Councilman Krissie Harris, 2nd Ward, asked about the city’s use of sales tax, which Reid said is the city’s biggest source of revenue.

The legal department is still working on a memo regarding the use of a portion of the city’s sales tax or general fund, to which sales tax contributes, to fund repairs.

Assistant City Attorney Mari Johnson said drawing funds directly from the sales tax rather than the general fund reduces potential legal liability.

The note analyzing the legal responsibility for the use of the municipal sales tax or the general fund is expected for the December meeting of the committee.

Summary of the town hall

The Town Hall of the October 22 Reparations Committee collected 38 public comments. The committee said it would respond to comments at its November meeting.

The majority of public comments praised the city’s reparations program and the committee, Rue Simmons summed up at the start of Thursday’s meeting.

Comments that were genuine questions were repetitive, so Rue Simmons condensed them into two questions and posed them to the committee:

The first question asked why the disbursement of reparation funds is taking so long. Rue Simmons explained that the program is currently funded by a tax on recreational cannabis and donations from the public, but the committee is working to create additional revenue streams, such as the real estate transfer tax.

The second question posed was whether people who can prove their lineage to slavery will be eligible for reparations. Rue Simmons said the city’s reparations program is hyperlocal — meaning it focuses on how the city has hurt the black community through tactics such as redlining.

The Restorative Housing Program, the first reparations initiative, focuses on black residents who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 as well as direct descendants of black residents from that time. So proving the wounds of slavery is not part of the program.

Committee member Carlis Sutton linked this discussion to a question he heard among the panelists during the debate at City Hall.

Asayo Horibe answers questions during the October 22 public meeting on reparations. Credit: Richard Cahan

Asayo Horibe, president of the Buddhist Council of the Midwest, was on the panel. His family received $20,000 in reparations from the US government as compensation for Japanese internment camps established on US soil during World War II.

Rev. Dr. Michael CR Nabors of the Second Baptist Church asked panel members if they thought all black Americans should be eligible for reparations in the United States.

Horibe say no. “Not all African Americans have experienced discrimination or redlining or all the other issues that have arisen in racism,” Horibe said at the Oct. 22 town hall meeting.

Sutton said Thursday that Horibe’s comments are concerning and show she is unfamiliar with America’s history of discrimination against the black community.

“I found this dishonest from a person who received cash payments, from his group, and these are the people who declared war on the United States from Pearl Harbor,” Sutton said. “So we have to be careful when we open these meetings, that these kinds of insensitive comments aren’t made about what we’re doing in our committee.”

A 1982 presidential commission report found little evidence of disloyalty among Japanese Americans, who played no role in Japan’s declaration of war.

Evanston Reparations Stakeholder Authority

From now on, the RSAE will provide a regular update to the Reparations Committee.

Dino Robinson, founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center, shared an update during the meeting. RSAE has a fund with the Evanston Community Foundation to help raise money for the reparations program.

Typically, the Evanston Community Foundation charges organizations to have funds with it, but Robinson said the foundation does not charge for RSAE.

The RSAE educated residents, particularly in the Fifth Ward, about the reparations program and developed partnerships with various organizations and religious groups within the community, Robinson said.

Art competition for young people

The deadline for the youth art competition which the committee organizes in collaboration with the Evanston Arts Council has been extended until January 9th. The contest is open to residents or students of Evanston between the ages of 2 and 22. Entrants are welcome to submit any art form that answers the question, “What comes to mind when you think of repairs?”

Entrants can send their art to [email protected] or deliver it in person to the Morton Civic Center. Contest winners will receive $200.

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