Liquor license disqualifies Abu-Taleb

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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In the early 1970s, Village President John Gearen asked me to chair a blue ribbon committee of Oak Parkers to consider whether to change the ban on the sale of liquor in our village. As chair of what became known as the Liquor Committee, I was at the center of the debate. For this reason, the question in the current election as to whether the village president may hold a liquor license is of special interest to me. In my view, Mr. Abu-Taleb is not eligible to serve as president of the Oak Park village board because he, or his wife or other family member, holds a liquor license issued by our village.

Members of the Liquor Committee and most Oak Parkers were well aware of the unsavory problems neighboring "wet" communities faced because elected officials and government employees, or members of their families, were allowed to hold — or to have a personal or financial interest in establishments whose owners hold — valuable liquor licenses issued by those municipalities: Sweetheart deals, kickbacks, bribes and lack of effective enforcement of their liquor ordinances.

The members of the Liquor Committee knew that unless we addressed the potential for such unintended consequences, we could not recommend that Oak Park allow the sale of liquor. The only effective solution was to prohibit elected officials and village employees from directly or indirectly holding or benefiting from any liquor license issued by the village.

That principle was the starting point for all that followed. The Liquor Committee submitted a report recommending that Oak Park allow the limited sale of liquor in our village. I was the principal draftsman of the committee's report and the suggested liquor licensing ordinance. The village board accepted our report and adopted the ordinance we recommended.

We have enjoyed nearly a half century of Oak Park being a "wet" community. We have become a fine dining destination because restaurants can serve liquor. We have avoided the scandals that have plagued neighboring communities by insisting on a fundamental principle: neither elected officials nor government employees nor members of their families may hold a liquor license or have a financial or personal interest in an establishment that holds a liquor license.

I strongly believe that this principle must be preserved. Accordingly, so long as Mr. Abu-Taleb or a member of his family holds a liquor license, or if he has a financial or personal interest in an establishment that holds a liquor license, he is not and should not be eligible to serve as village president. I am not persuaded by the fact that he found a lawyer who advises that he can get around our village's liquor and ethics ordinances. Nor am I swayed by the argument that the protections contained in these ordinances are inconsequential or obsolete. They are not.

We need a village president who will honor and uphold the principles that underlie our ordinances, not one who would try to avoid or subvert them.

Gene Armstrong

Oak Park

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Is this for real?  

Posted: March 21st, 2013 10:18 PM

I read this with a straight face until Mr. Armstrong suggested that Oak Park is a fine dining "destination", just 10 miles from one of the true global epicenters of fine dining. Does allowing a liquor license somehow directly enable fine dining? OP has a great restaurant in Marion St. Cheese Market. Taste of Brazil is also great but they don't even have a liquor license. Does this guy really believe the crap he's posting, or has the VMA leeched his sentience away into mush? I smell BS.

Voter  

Posted: March 21st, 2013 10:03 PM

Read the Shrub Town cartoon on page 25 of the Wednesday Journal dated March 20th. It really pokes fun at the VMA stance on the liquor issue.

Not a prude from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2013 9:18 AM

For all the speculation about what would happen if Maya came before the Commission, there has been no discussion about whether Maya has been before the commission. If Maya has been a habitual violator of liquor laws, that should be a part of this discussion. If not, Mr. Anan has identified how he would address this issue and the discussion should move on to the bigger issues facing this community.

Prohibition is over  

Posted: March 21st, 2013 8:43 AM

Race for village president aside, your views on alcohol & ethics are outdated, Mr. Armstrong. They date from less laidback era & attitudes about liquor have evolved greatly. Our recent relaxing of some alcohol provisions was playing catchup--not leading edge. The idea that someone can't hold office & run a business where alcohol is served is backwards & a red herring as far as actual prevention of corruption. Regardless of who wins, the village policy needs revisiting. It's antiquated.

Dirty Campaign  

Posted: March 21st, 2013 7:44 AM

The torrent of dirty politics continues, now from a former VMA president. Let's keep the campaign clean and focus on real issues. This only strengthens my conviction that the VMA has lost focus on the best interests of the community. Sounds like they're scared they may actually lose a seat this time?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 21st, 2013 6:53 AM

Regardless, Anan said at the WJ candidates forum that if he were elected Village President, he would divest himself of Maya del Sol. So it's a moot point. Guess Gene didn't get the memo.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 20th, 2013 11:07 PM

The way the election is shaping up, the village is going to have a nasty lawsuit aabout an ordinance based more on OP aged morals than on real risk. This is a buggy wagon issue being touted by boogie-men.

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