By Anna Lothson
The liquor law bill passed by the Illinois Senate April 18 that alleviates a potential conflict of interest for Oak Park's President-elect Anan Abu-Taleb moved through the House of Representatives Thursday by a 65-50 vote.
The bill, which awaits the governor's signature, is an amendment to the Liquor Control Act of 1934 — a bill that established that suburban village presidents would serve as local liquor commissioner but could not hold liquor licenses.
The law was amended last year to exempt communities of 50,000 or less, but the new law bumps that population level up to 55,000. The change also provides for delegation of liquor commissioner duties to an attorney with an active license to practice law in the State of Illinois.
According to the law change, it also states that the person shall not legally represent liquor license applicants or holders before the Village Board or before the Liquor Control Review Board, or before an adjacent jurisdiction. The appointee shall also not have an interest in the manufacture, sale, or distribution of alcoholic liquor and shall not be appointed to a term to exceed the term of the village president, or members of the village board, according to the terms of the law.
If signed into law, Abu-Taleb avoids any conflict at the state level, but at home in Oak Park there would still need to be a local ordinance change to avoid the conflict issue.
At last Monday's village board meeting, the decision to pass a liquor ordinance amendment to sync the local ordinance with the state changes was tabled. The issue, supported by outgoing Village President David Pope, would allow Oak Park to appoint an elected official other than the village president to serve as liquor commissioner.
In a Wednesday Journal One View written by Pope, he said the village law dates back to Oak Park's history as a "dry community," which lasted until a few decades ago. He said simple modifications updating this law should be approved.
"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," Pope wrote. "…(A change) would allow us to provide for the objective and responsible enforcement of our liquor ordinances while enabling Anan, the voters' choice for village president to move forward with the 99.999 percent of the critical elements of the job that have nothing to do with being the liquor commissioner."
Pope's letter focused on the need to move the issue forward, which he wrote "will enable our future board to best serve the interests of all of us."
The ordinance change will be on the village board's agenda at its meeting on Monday, May 6.