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Mayor Lucas Signs On To Test A Reparations Program For Black Kansas Citians

File photo by Lisa Rodriguez
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas has joined a group called Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity.

A group of 11 U.S. mayors — including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas — is pledging to establish pilot reparations programs aimed at the racial wealth gap that persists in cities across the country.

Updated June 22 at 2:15 p.m. to include comments from Mayor Quinton Lucas.

The group, which calls itself Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity (MORE), was announced Friday, the first iteration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Aside from Lucas, it includes Mayor Tishaura Jones of St. Louis and the mayors of cities such as Denver and Los Angeles.

Speaking Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the group members have made three commitments:

  • To back a bill in Congress that would establish a commission to study and develop reparation proposals across the country.
  • To create an advisory committee of “black-led organizations and leaders” that will help the mayors identify funding sources and craft reparations proposals.
  • To establish “pilot reparations programs targeted at a cohort of black residents.”

“These will vary in style and scope, and they would serve as proof of concept of this movement,” Garcetti said. “Cities will never have the funds to pay for reparations on our own. This is a national conversation.”

It’s not yet clear what a pilot program in Kansas City might look like. Lucas told KCUR that the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic, largely left out Black businenesses.

"I want to make sure that... we are getting real funding back into communities that have long been underinvested, into populations that I think, frankly, have also suffered from underinvestment and discrimination over the years. And that's what I think reparations really mean," Lucas said.

He said he is also considering a pilot program to increase access to housing.

"Housing vouchers, for example, but not ones that are simply just a voucher every month like exists," Lucas said.

During Friday’s announcement, Darrell Steinberg, mayor of Sacramento, California, said reparations “should include direct compensation to people who are descendants of slaves,” but he also argued that “the function of a city is to invest directly into its neighborhoods.”

The latter concept — pushing investment directly into specific neighborhoods — mirrors an existing proposal for Kansas City put forth last fall by Strong Towns, a popular urban planning website.

Charles Marohn, the group’s founder, highlights Kansas City’s racist history of redlining, the echoes of which can still be seen primarily in neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue.

He writes: “To put wealth in the hands of the people who live in these redlined neighborhoods, two things must happen. First, the neighborhood must experience investment, an inflow of capital that stays within the neighborhood. Second, that capital must be allowed to accrue to the people who are already there; it can’t result in their displacement.”

Marohn argues that existing tools for development, such as zoning changes and Tax Increment Financing, can be scaled and repurposed for use in neighborhoods that have seen historic disinvestment.

Friday’s announcement by Lucas and the other mayors comes amid a growing movement to consider reparations. California last year became the first state to establish a commission to study the concept. And the Associated Press reports that Evanston, Illinois, a wealthy Chicago suburb, voted to earmark $400,000 for eligible black households. Grant recipients could get up to $25,000 for expenses such as home repair or a down payment for property.

As a reporter covering military and veterans’ affairs, I tell the stories of current and former service members and their families. I hold the government, elected officials and others responsible when they break their promises. And I explore how Americans can best uphold our commitments to those who serve.
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