A San Francisco supervisor championing plans to provide a $5 million-per-person reparation payment for black people in his city has called for an additional $50 million to be set aside for an office, to handle the logistics of the payouts.
Shamann Walton, the only black person on the 11-member Board of Supervisors, first introduced a resolution for reparations in February 2020.
A committee was formed and spent two years deliberating recommendations: their report was published in December, and given its first public hearing last week.
On Tuesday, at a routine Board of Supervisors meeting, Walton said that he was making an additional request, and wanted $50 million for an ‘Office of Reparations’.
‘Today I am here asking again for my colleagues to support a supplemental appropriation for $50 million in order to establish the Office of Reparations and to implement approved recommendations in this fiscal year,’ he said.
Shamann Walton is seen on Tuesday at a Board meeting requesting $50 million to set up an Office of Reparations in San Francisco
‘The supplemental will specifically be for reparations only.
‘And it will guarantee money in this budget cycle as the final report we’ll receive, very soon, to set up an Office of Reparations which is already a recommendation.
Who qualifies for reparations under the AARC plan?
You must be:
1) An individual who has identified as ‘Black/African American’ on public documents for at least 10 years
2) 18 years or older
You must also meet two of these eight criteria, and be able to prove it:
** Born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996 and has proof of residency in San Francisco for at least 13 years
** Migrated to San Francisco between 1940 and 1996 and has proof of residency in San Francisco for at least 13 years
** Personally, or the direct descendant of someone, incarcerated by the failed War on Drugs
** Record of attendance in San Francisco public schools during the time of the consent decree to complete desegregation within the school system
** Descendant of someone enslaved through US chattel slavery before 1865
** Displaced, or the direct descendant of someone displaced, from San Francisco by Urban Renewal between 1954 and 1973
** Listed, or the direct descendant of, a Certificate of Preference holder
** Member of an historically marginalized group that experienced lending discrimination in San Francisco between 1937 and 1968 or, subsequently, experienced lending discrimination in formerly redlined San Francisco communities between 1968 and 2008
‘It will also fund some of the reparations recommendations after receiving the final report, and this Board makes a decision on what to fund.
‘It will provide funds to create a database to start storing and vetting eligibility for reparations for final eligibility requirements.’
Walton later said he had already requested legislation from the City Attorney’s office to create the office, under the city’s Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission is overseeing the work of the African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC).
‘It is time for us to prove that we support repairing the harm that has created so many negative outcomes and wealth disparities for black people in this city, by design!’ Walton said, in a statement issued after the hearing.
‘I want to thank my colleagues Supervisors Preston and Ronen for co-sponsoring and reiterating the commitment ALL of my colleagues have made to reparations!’
The AARAC’s suggestions – 111 in total – include a $5 million lump sum given to every eligible black person; a $1 house; and a $97,000-a-year guaranteed income for 250 years.
The board will not decide on whether or not to adopt the recommendations until later this year, once the AARAC has submitted a final report.
Another meeting has been scheduled for September.
Hillary Ronen, a member of the board, told the hearing on March 14: ‘You have my 100 percent support and commitment to implementing, quite frankly, all 111 of these recommendations. They are all warranted.’
Yet critics have described it as financially impossible, noting it would cost an estimated $600,000 per household for the lump sum payment alone, according to an analysis by the Hoover Institute, and asking why it was being discussed without any consideration of how it would be paid for.
The proposal has been met with fierce resistance.
‘This is never going to actually happen,’ said Xaviaer DuRousseau, a conservative activist who used to support BLM.
‘It is so unrealistic to think that the average family in San Francisco is going to be able to pay $600,000 extra a piece.’
DuRousseau said that he felt the reparations plan was designed ‘to indoctrinate people with victim mentality’
Hillary Ronen, one of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, said she was in favor of all 111 recomendations on the African American Reparations Advisory Committee (AARAC) plan
DuRousseau, who was born in Chicago but moved to California aged 19, and lived in the Bay Area, told Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham he was ‘disgusted’ that homeless people were on the streets in large numbers while the city discussed handing out $1 homes.
The city would also pay all Home Owners Association fees or taxes associated with the property, the plan recommended.
‘When people look at this list of the things that they are recommending, the most alarming thing for most is the $5 million going to each black person,’ DuRousseau said.
‘But for me as an American, I am looking at the list and I see that they are wanting to sell homes at $1 to black Americans.
‘As an American and someone who used to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is disgusting to me that we are more focused on slavery which ended in 1865 then we are focused on the veterans who are on the streets of San Francisco homeless and begging for spare change in 2023.
‘That’s where they need to start sending their money.’
DuRousseau said that he saw the campaign as part of a move to ‘indoctrinate’ black Americans into dependency.
‘This is 111 ways to gaslight black Americans into thinking that we need to be dependent on a system of handouts in order to be successful,’ said DuRousseau, who has previously spoken about being raised a Democrat, and then ‘seeing the light’.
Hillary Ronen was among the board members praising the reparations plan
Ronen said that she thought the reparations proposals were ‘warranted’
He now works as a commentator for PragerU, an advocacy group that creates videos and content to promote a conservative viewpoint.
‘Black Americans have been indoctrinated with these lies for too long, and I used to fall for the lies until I took a deep dive into the videos on PragerU.com and realized how easily debunked to these fraudulent narratives around systemic racism actually are.’
He concluded that it was ‘virtue signaling’ by ‘white liberals’.
‘People are taking full advantage, they are selling their books, they are selling black people their own oppression, because it is profitable to indoctrinate people with victim mentality,’ he said.
Reparations are being considered in various Democratic cities around America as a means of providing compensation to the descendants of enslaved African-Americans.
Many say they are owed not just for the time their ancestors were enslaved, but also for generations afterwards, because African Americans have been incarcerated at disproportionately higher rates than white Americans.
The proposals put forward in San Francisco are among some of the most generous to be heard to date.
Those who advocated for them last night did so whole heartedly.
Activists are seen on Tuesday expressing their support for the reparations plan
Shamann Walton, who initially proposed the idea of reparations, is the only black person on the 11-member Board of Supervisors
One sang a verse from the 1964 Civil Rights anthem by Sam Cooke, A Change is Gonna Come.
The Board of Supervisors who heard the suggestions can vote to adopt some or all of the recommendations.
The board however signaled its enthusiasm for the plan.
‘If you look at the (draft) report, you’ll see so many examples of how black folks were done wrong here in San Francisco, and all of that can really be traced back to the negative effects of slavery,’ said Walton.
Sgt. Yulanda Williams, the president of the police association Officers for Justice, told the board: ‘My dad always taught me never to beg. And I am not begging you today.
‘It is time for you to do the right thing and provide us with reparations: make us whole.’
Tinisch Hollins, vice-chair of the African American Reparations Advisory Committee, alluded to those comments, and several people who lined up to speak reminded the board they would be watching closely what the supervisors do next.
‘I don’t need to impress upon you the fact that we are setting a national precedent here in San Francisco.
‘What we are asking for and what we’re demanding for is a real commitment to what we need to move things forward,’ she said.
The AARC, a 15-member panel, was convened in December 2020 amid soul-searching after George Floyd’s death and given two years to come up with proposals for reparations.
Their 60-page draft plan was published in December 2022.
Among the 100 recommendations were payments of $5 million to every eligible black adult, the elimination of personal debt and tax burdens, guaranteed annual incomes of at least $97,000 for 250 years and homes in San Francisco for just $1 a family.
To be eligible, a person must be over 18 and ‘have identified as black/African American on public documents for at least 10 years’.
They also must fit two of eight criteria – among them, being born or migrated to San Francisco between 1940-96, and having 13 years of proof of residency; or being able to prove descendancy from someone enslaved before 1865.
Other criteria include being ‘personally, or the direct descendant of someone, incarcerated by the failed War on Drugs’, or proof of being ‘displaced, or the direct descendant of someone displaced, from San Francisco by Urban Renewal between 1954 and 1973.’
In June a final plan will be revealed, and then potentially voted on. The AARC disbands in January 2024.
On March 14, Board members – some of whom had, in the weeks leading up to the meeting, expressed skepticism – were unanimously supportive of the plan.
The requirements for black San Francisco residents to be eligible for the payments. They must meet two of eight
Some said they were shocked at critics, who said it was financially ruinous.
‘Those of my constituents who lost their minds about this proposal, it’s not something we’re doing or we would do for other people.
‘It’s something we would do for our future, for everybody’s collective future,’ said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes the heavily LGBTQ Castro neighborhood.
Supervisor Myrna Melgar said, prior to the hearing, that she felt the reparations committee had done ‘exactly what we asked them to do.’
‘This report is good. I am ready to accept it,’ she told The San Francisco Chronicle.
‘That doesn’t mean that we’re approving the $5 million for every person.
‘But I think it’s important for us to acknowledge that, as a city, we have not done right by some of our citizens.’
Even supporters of the plan, like Melgar, admit they have not worked out how to fund it – but insist that does not make it unreasonable.
‘I push back against people who think that’s too much or think that’s ridiculous,’ Melgar said.
‘This is all well documented in history. We know that people were systematically excluded from educational opportunities, home ownership opportunities, everything down the line. How much does that cost? How do we quantify that?’
The board of supervisors that will decide to adopt some or all of the reparations
Supervisor Shamann Walton, middle left, speaks during a special Board of Supervisors hearing about reparations in San Francisco on March 14. Walton first proposed the plan in February 2020, and Tuesday marked the first public hearing to discuss a reparations proposal unveiled in December
Activists calling for reparations staged a rally on Tuesday ahead of the 3pm Board of Supervisors meeting, at which the public could share their views
Aaron Peskin, the chair of the Board of Supervisors, has previously said the $5m idea is unworkable.
‘San Francisco doesn’t have the financial wherewithal, even if we thought it was good policy, to get into the reparations payment business,’ he said.
‘But that should not truncate a conversation about ways that this society and its government should address past ills.’
He told the paper he did not think lump-sum reparations payments were feasible, but felt some of the other ideas were interesting.
‘That is the bigger, harder conversation, and I think that we would be doing a disservice if we got lost in the politics of a one-and-done reparations payment,’ he said.
At least two of Peskin colleagues, Supervisors Joel Engardio and Hillary Ronen, have previously expressed similar views, telling The Chronicle that they thought the city probably couldn’t afford $5 million individual reparations payments.
Aaron Peskin, chair of the Board of Supervisors, has said he thinks the $5 million-per-person lump sum is impossible – but he is open to some of the other 100 recommendations
On March 14, Tinisch Hollins, vice-chair of the AARAC, alluded to those comments.
‘I don’t need to impress upon you the fact that we are setting a national precedent here in San Francisco,’ Hollins said.
‘What we are asking for and what we’re demanding for is a real commitment to what we need to move things forward.’
The idea of paying compensation for slavery has gained traction across cities and universities.
In 2020, California became the first state to form a reparations task force and is still struggling to put a price tag on what is owed.
The idea has not been taken up at the federal level.
In San Francisco, black residents once made up more than 13 percent of the city’s population, but more than 50 years later, they account for less than 6 percent of the city’s residents — and 38 percent of its homeless population.
The Fillmore District once thrived with black-owned night clubs and shops until government redevelopment in the 1960s forced out residents. One man on Tuesday wore a Fillmore t-shirt.
Critics of the plan say the payouts make no sense in a state and city that never enslaved black people, and taxpayers who were never slave owners should not have to pay money to people who were not enslaved.
Supporters say that view ignores a wealth of data and historical evidence showing that long after U.S. slavery officially ended in 1865, government policies and practices worked to imprison black people at higher rates, deny access to home and business loans and restrict where they could work and live.
John Dennis, chair of the San Francisco Republican party, said he does not support reparations, and called the city’s current conversation ‘completely unserious’.
The $5m lump sum payment ‘seems ridiculous’ he said.
He added: ‘It also seems that this is the one city where it could possibly pass.’