I would like to offer a perspective on the liquor commissioner question that you raised in your April 24 edition [New prez still faces liquor, ethics issue, News]. In this issue, two foundational values of our society are in tension with one another (democracy vs. the rule of law). While some may see this conflict as irreconcilable, I believe a relatively simple adjustment to our local ordinance can help us move forward. Doing so quickly will allow our new village president and our village trustees to focus their considerable skills, talents, and energies on the many significant opportunities that we all see ahead for Oak Park.
On April 9, Anan Abu-Taleb was elected by the people of Oak Park to become our next village president. Most folks didn't know, or particularly care, that the election outcome would also make him the village's liquor commissioner. Since Anan's restaurant (Maya del Sol) has a liquor license, there's an obvious conflict of interest in having him serve as liquor commissioner while he (or a member of his family) continues to own Maya. Anan agrees with this. He is in favor of a change that is being advanced at the state level that would allow the liquor commissioner to instead be appointed by the other members of the village board.
Our own Oak Park Municipal Code also currently prohibits the village president, or any trustee, from possessing a liquor license. This limitation stems from both our history as a "dry" community (until a few decades ago), and the Illinois state law requirement (dating back to the 1930s) that the village president/mayor automatically be designated as the local liquor commissioner. Oak Park's primary interest in preventing our village president from having a liquor license was to eliminate any possibility of a conflict of interest in light of this state-imposed requirement that the village president also serve as liquor commissioner.
However, with state law now evolving to eliminate this requirement, I can't think of any other compelling reason to prevent a village president from having a liquor license. In turn, it seems that a simple modification to our own local ordinance (with language essentially mirroring the proposed state law) would allow us to provide for the objective and responsible enforcement of our liquor ordinances while enabling Anan, as the voters' choice for village president, to move forward with the other 99.999% of the critical elements of the job that have nothing to do with being the liquor commissioner.
Our current village board is now reviewing the possibility of taking up just such a change. I believe that initiating such an action now will best help our community to move forward and will enable our future board to best serve the interests of all of us.
David Pope has served as village president (and liquor commissioner) since 2005.
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