The now rejected proposal to ban smoking at indoor public places has stirred up more intense feelings in Oak Park than perhaps any issue to hit the village board's table in years.
And despite the ban's defeat, we don't expect the notion of a smoke-free community to die quietly. Nor should it. In the coming months, if not weeks, we believe the ban?#34;and accompanying fervent testimony?#34;will be back. There is, after all, a new village board in place.
We also believe that, based on the persistence (and often stubbornness) on both sides, unless Oak Park can find a compromise that the business community can stomach, ordinances in various forms will continually surface, and be a source of considerable contention.
While we supported the failed ordinance, we have come to appreciate the passionate arguments from local businesses. Restaurant owners especially have invested a great deal in this community, and contributed to the revitalization of Oak Park's business districts. While we doubt that a ban will hurt the overall economy of Oak Park, we understand why?#34;especially restaurants with bars?#34;are concerned that they will suffer. They may be overstating their worry but it is genuine worry. We also wholeheartedly agree that a smoking ban on a county or statewide level would be preferable, though we don't expect that to happen soon.
We do also, however, sense that part of the business rebellion is tied to issues beyond smoking. There is a feeling that village government already sticks business owners with too much red tape and makes them jump through too many hoops.
For several restaurants in this community, a smoking ban would quite possibly simply be the last straw.
Clearly smoking is a substantial health issue. It kills you. But it's clear that the new village board (and we don't know who they are yet) will have to get businesses and activists on board with some sort of compromise.
Whether it be a phased in ban coupled with equity assurance, grandfathering, or some other idea yet to be discussed, this board and the community is going to have to find a progressive middle ground.
Thanks for 300, but give us more
Like all Oak Parkers, we regularly enjoy griping about the parking shortage downtown. But before we resume griping, we'd like to give our nod of support for an early 300-space expansion of the Holley Court garage.
More parking sooner is always better.
It's also nice to see that Corinthian College's interest in moving into the Field's building in the fall right about when first expansion of the garage may be done.
But, we'd also like to say, again, that the Holley Court garage isn't magical. Even when it's reached its full 1,200 space dimensions, it won't hold enough cars. Especially when the Bank One lot is gone?
RF off to a great 125th
One group that is clearly ahead of the game is the River Forest 125th Anniversary Celebration committee. This group has worked, hard, smart and with enthusiasm, and we expect the coming months to be a genuine community celebration.