Village board wafts toward compromise on smoking ban

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By KATHARINE GRAYSON

Village board approval of a complete indoor smoking ban appeared unlikely Wednesday night, after many trustees said they would prefer to look for a compromise solution, such as a phased-in ban.

"We need to not look at this issue as we look at too many things in Oak Park, as one polar extreme or the other," said Trustee David Pope.

The proposed smoke-free ordinance, recommended by the Board of Health, is on the village board's agenda Monday night, and has drawn strong opposition from local business owners and an outpouring of support from residents and health professionals.

Compromises suggested including phasing in a ban over several months, to give restaurants and merchants time to prepare, as well as grandfathering in existing businesses.

Pope said he supported some form of grandfathering, while Trustee Robert Milstein said he favored a phased-in ban, which would be coupled with an equity assurance program to protect businesses in the case of lost revenues.

"We have a history of taking very progressive stances. We can work with businesses to help them," Milstein said. "To me, this is a health issue. But there are valid points on both sides. We need to have a strong balancing act."

Trustee Ray Johnson remained opposed to an outright ban, citing concern that it would hinder the village's ability to attract and retain businesses. Neither Trustee Diana Carpenter nor Johnson voiced support for a compromise.

Trustee Galen Gockel said he was looking to "ban not damage" and suggested a "smoking board of appeals," a system requiring businesses make a case for the need to allow smoking.

"We do have to look for a compromise. This can't be a win-lose situation; it's not good for the community," Gockel said.

Trustee Gus Kostopulos, who previously voiced strong opposition to any ban, and Village President Joanne Trapani were absent from Wednesday's meeting.

All present board members did support increasing efforts to educate the public on the health risks associated with smoking, as well as requiring businesses to post highly visible signage stating whether they allow smoking.

Board of Health Chair Lois Halstead said the village would require roughly $300,000 to wage a major campaign against tobacco use in Oak Park.

 

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