The Will County Finance Committee is expected to resume discussion on how the county might spend tax revenue generated from recreational marijuana sales at a meeting on Nov. 5.
While activists are pushing the Will County Board to adopt a plan which would establish a committee tasked with advising how to use the money specifically to help Black residents, some members are signaling they expect a great deal of debate before a decision is made.
Finance Committee chair Ken Harris, D-Bolingbrook, said there likely won't be any vote held at the Nov. 5 meeting, but added he anticipates a "nice, healthy discussion" on how to spend the funds.
Will County Board member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, officially unveiled the proposal Tuesday with supporters in front of the new Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet. She called on her fellow board members to be "bold and courageous" by supporting the plan.
Ventura and other speakers at the event emphasized the proposal is less about the money and more about a "transfer of power" toward Black residents who have been disproportionately affected by systemic racism and the War on Drugs.
She also signaled a willingness to hear suggestions on changes to specific provisions of the proposal, such as the size of the committee or the requirement that all members be Black.
"If there are other changes that need to be made, please come forward, but do it with thoughtfulness, compassion and knowing that that this is the direction that we need to head," Ventura said.
Still, proponents of the plan insisted the money be used to specifically help Black residents to begin the process of redressing past harms.
"We're not willing to compromise on what the foundation of this is and it's about healing the Black community," said Ernest Crim, a Black teacher at Joliet Central High School. "So I think any conversation that deters from that, and tries to make it about something that's not about healing what was intentionally done to us, it's just counterproductive."
Still other questions remain about the specifics of the proposal.
Will County Board Speaker Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville, said officials are investigating whether the board can legally create such a committee. While other seemingly similar committees and boards exist throughout county government, many of those are mandated by state law.
Cowan said she expects "plenty of ideas" among board members about how the funds should be allocated.
"I want to make sure that we’re first getting a legal understanding of what we’re capable of and what makes sense," Cowan said. "I certainly want to see the revenue invested in a way that benefits communities, especial communities that have been underserved for a variety of reasons."
The Will County Finance Committee will meet virtually at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 5.