Oak Parkers elected Anan Abu-Taleb the next village president by a 16-percent landslide. And they did it knowing, possibly because of, his success as the entrepreneurial owner of Maya del Sol restaurant. Villagers clearly knew that Abu-Taleb's family holds a village-issued liquor license for Maya. And through our coverage, the debates and general buzz, many voters knew the liquor license matter presents some legal complications under both state and local law.
The obvious conclusion: Voters did not see a conflict between being a village president and holding a liquor license. And to the extent there are legal obstacles, the margin of Abu-Taleb's victory tells us that voters want those hurdles cleared away.
That process has already begun in Springfield where state Senator Don Harmon and state Rep. Camille Lilly, both Oak Park-area elected officials, have started work to amend state laws in a narrow way that would exempt Oak Park from archaic state laws that mandate which local official serves as the local liquor commissioner. That amendment has already passed the State Senate and will, we believe, shortly land on the desk of another almost local official in Gov. Pat Quinn.
That leaves the sitting Oak Park village board to resolve the local aspects of this issue. The solution, and it ought to happen quickly, before Abu-Taleb is sworn in as president in early May, is to allow another Oak Park elected official to be designated to the almost completely ceremonial role of liquor commissioner.
Truth told, in 33 years of covering Oak Park government, the Journal never knew the village president was the official liquor commissioner. Since the village clerk plays a much more active role in administering the village's complex liquor laws, we'd assumed any such responsibilities fell to the clerk.
What's important is that Oak Park's rightly strict liquor ordinance and our adherence to strong ethics policies be respected and advanced. So having the village board choose one of its members as the liquor commissioner and having Abu-Taleb recuse himself from voting on any liquor-related issue would be the right course.
An alternative is to proceed with the divestment of Maya del Sol that Abu-Taleb promised during the campaign. Trouble is that, in our opinion, such a divestment is most certainly going to have some semblance of a ruse. Shifting ownership to a son might well meet the letter of the law. But winking at our ethics laws is not a good solution.
Better that we accede to the clear expectations of voters and resolve a legal issue that has no actual meritorious purpose since voters chose a new village president and not a new liquor commissioner. And let's do it now so this issue doesn't prove a distraction in the early days of the new administration.
Answer Book 2016
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2016 Answer Book, please click here.
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