ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced an initiative to explore a reparations program, including the possible establishment of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), as well as a home ownership program in the city.

City officials say the initiative will seek to use tax revenues from future marijuana sales, and other funding, to “close the wealth gap between Black, brown and white residents.”

“We have an opportunity to make it right and how we invest these dollars to me matters. The people, the neighborhoods and the communities that were most affected by the criminalization of marijuana deserve to be the first ones to receive and also be invested in as we start to distribute those dollars,” Mayor Warren said in a press conference on Friday.

In a letter to the Ibero American Action League president Thursday, Warren says marijuana legalization presents an opportunity to enact reparations through Universal Basic Income or a home ownership mortgage program. The mayor’s letter does not provide any details about how either proposal would work.

“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 writes. “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.”

The letter requests a representative from the Ibero American Action League join city leaders to develop a plan, using other cities as an example, for an exploratory committee.

City officials say the committee will be chaired by City Chief of Staff Brittaney Wells and Chief Equity Officer Dr. Cephas Archie. The mayor has sent invitations to City Council, along with a number of local organizations, including the Urban League, United Way, RMAPI, ABC, IBERO, YMCA, ESL, Farash Foundation, Rochester Area Community Foundation and the Faith Roundtable to participate in the effort. City officials say others will be included as the initiative progresses.

“Just this week, Oakland, California and Evanston, Illinois adopted legislation to begin similar programs in their cities,” Mayor Warren wrote. “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 says the RASE Commission’s recent report showed a need to address historic inequities, and that legal marijuana presents an opportunity.

“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. 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.”

Ibero American Action League president Angelica Perez-Delgado released a statement late Thursday regarding the mayor’s mention of the RASE report and Ibero’s involvement on the exploratory committee.

“The RASE report clearly articulates what many of us have known, the need for precise action in closing the racial wealth gap. This is a matter of racial justice, and Ibero looks forward to learning more about this committee.”

The mayor is up for re-election this year, and will face-off against current City Councilmember Malik Evans in a June primary. Despite the mayor’s dueling controversies — including the city’s handling of Daniel Prude’s death and her indictment on campaign finance charges — the mayor still collected more than 4,000 signatures from city residents to ensure her place on the ballot, according to her campaign manager, Dr. Wandah Gibbs.

Watch the full briefing

Mayor Warren’s letter

Reparations by News 8 WROC on Scribd

This is a developing story. Check back for details.