A Democratic mayor in New York has proposed the use of marijuana tax revenue for a reparations program intended to close the so-called racial wealth gap.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren wrote a letter to the Ibero American Action League on Thursday announcing her plans to explore the reparations initiative through universal basic income (UBI) and a homeownership program in the city.
“I understand the magnitude of this undertaking and know that it will take the support of not just the City, but our government, business, non-profit and community partners to achieve,” Warren said in the letter. “With the legalization of marijuana on the horizon, we have the ability to enact legislation locally to make the concept of reparations through a UBI and homeownership a reality for Rochester and its families.”
Warren added, “Just this week, Oakland, California and Evanston, Illinois adopted legislation to begin similar programs in their cities. It is also important to note that historically the concept of a UBI has had wide support including from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Richard Nixon. We should not let this moment pass.”
The mayor claimed that a recent report by the RASE Commission has highlighted racial disparity in wealth in the city, which apparently should be rectified by reparations via the legalization of marijuana.
“The recent report by the RASE Commission made plain the stark realities that exist in our community and made a strong call for all of us to take action to address these historic inequities,” Warren wrote. “It also highlighted that the 25th Congressional District is one of the worst for Black and Brown people.”
“Beyond changing policies and procedures, we must do more to close the wealth gap between Black and Brown people and our White residents,” she urged. “With marijuana legalization on the horizon in New York, we have an opportunity we never had before to bring real resources to bear to uplift our families and improve, not just their financial wellbeing, but their very future.”
The letter did not go into further detail on how the programs would take effect.
Democratic Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California, announced a similar program Tuesday that would give $500 per month checks to some low income families of color, though low income white families would be expressly excluded.
Starting in the spring, about 600 randomly selected families of color in Oakland will receive $500 checks each month for at least a year and a half. The included families will have to make less than $30,000 annually and have at least one child.
“To qualify, families must have at least one child and make less than 50 percent of the area median — about $59,000 annually for a family of three,” The Washington Post detailed. “And they must be Black, Indigenous or otherwise identify as people of color.”
The money comes from a $7 million private fund raised through the Oakland Resilient Families program, according to the New York Post.
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