City Council Member Introduces Reparations Request

District 9 Council Member Demetrus Coonrod

As the April 11 Chattanooga City Council Agenda Session was nearing its conclusion, City Council Member Demetrus Coonrod asked Chairman Darrin Ledford to be recognized. The District 9 representative serving in her second term for the areas of Glenwood, Missionary Ridge, Ridgedale, Eastdale, and East Chattanooga brought attention to the attention of Council Members a document that had been distributed requesting a reparations study be established.

In her brief remarks, Council Member Coonrod recalled a resolution previously discussed and passed by the Chattanooga City Council, “when the civil unrest had happened,” in the summer of 2020. Stating that her proposal “is just adding on to that,” the request introduced would result in actions to establish a feasibility study for reparations and specifically, “the authorization of expenditures to develop, establish, and implement reparations.”

In a presentation lasting under 90 seconds, Council Member Coonrod introduced a proposal that would be an annual budgeted line item for Chattanooga’s budget, housed under the Equity Department, apparently the Equity & Community Engagement Department of Chattanooga, which would involve a selected panel which would make up a reparations committee.

Continuing in her remarks, the Council Member, who also chairs the City Council Economic Development Committee, informed her colleagues that she awaits some possible costs of a feasibility study from Marcus Mauldin, PhD, an associate professor within the Department of Political Science and Public Service.

City Council Chairman Darrin Ledford, presiding over his final agenda session as the body’s leader, asked if the proposing Member would like to have the request presented further and discussed in the Strategic Planning Committee, to which Council Member Coonrod agreed.

Federal legislation in Washington, DC has passed neither the US House nor US Senate. In 2007, a Congressional discussion failed to produce actionable legislation followed in 2019 by the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. In 2020, reparation payments per descendent were projected over $151 million ,and proposed legislation in 2021 to establish a Congressional Commission to study the issue saw consideration and markup at the Judiciary Committee level with no further action.

However, states’ and local governments have discussed, debated, and brought forward actions on the issue of reparations, which include cash payments and resources to narrow the “Africans in America during centuries of oppression and exploitation” due to enslavement and subjugation, as described by the National African American Reparations Commission.

The first program considered America’s original reparations effort was passed and launched in 2019 in Evanston, Illinois, as a housing initiative named the Restorative Housing Reparations Program. The program addressed discriminatory housing policies. Contrast this with the statewide program in California which began as a study with a released 2022 interim report, and moving to the final report due in summer of 2023 that is expected to establish a mechanism for implementation. Any Chattanoogans interested in this issue may attend the open Strategic Planning Committee meeting that is next set to meet on Thursday, April 20th and contact their Council Member.