We're neither surprised nor dismayed to see Oak Park's smoking ban proponents already pressuring the new village board to rekindle debate on this important issue. As we've said before, this is largely a matter of public health, and an issue well deserving of the community's attention.
What has dismayed us, however, is the tone of the Campaign for a Smoke Free Oak Park's most recent call to arms. There doesn't appear to be enough, if any, movement toward compromise?#34;a total ban is still the only option on the table.
Highland Park's recent approval of a smoking ban is being cited as an important precedent that Oak Park should look toward. Highland Park's decision, however, won't quell the fears of Oak Park businesses, and it alone won't keep this debate from turning once again toward stubborn hostility.
What smoke-free advocates rightly recognize, however, is that they are working with a markedly different set of village board members, some of whom have expressed strong interest in finding a compromise. Village President David Pope, especially, has campaigned on a platform of finding common ground, and this issue will be a true test of this board's ability to respectfully reach out to a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
Many contentious issues over the last several years have been resolved simply by which side has the most votes. This, however, is not a simple issue. And if this board can work successfully with the community to craft a palatable compromise, it will be a tremendous accomplishment that will set the stage for more civil and productive decision-making in the years to come.
This is not an issue to be avoided. It is a great opportunity to show the community that governance doesn't have to be a combat sport. And both activists and our newly elected officials need to embrace that opportunity.
RF shouldn't turn its back on non-profits
One attitude that has also disappointed us recently is the River Forest village board's statement that it's not appropriate for government to financially support certain non-profit organizations.
River Forest may have provided less than $10,000 total to the Oak Park Area Arts Council and the Oak Park Regional Housing Authority, but every dollar is critical to the survival of these important community organizations. Keeping government expenditures under control is, of course, a worthwhile goal, and River Forest has clearly done well overall on the fiscal responsibility front.
But this is a time when?#34;due in part to the federal government's decision to cut funding for Community Development Block Grants and other shortages?#34;these organizations are struggling to survive.
Throughout Oak Park, extremely cash-strapped government bodies, such as District 97 and the park district, have still found a way to contribute dollars to valuable non-profits such as the Early Childhood Collaboration.
Cross-village cooperation right now is critical. It is wholly appropriate for government to do what it can to support organizations that improve both communities' quality of life, especially in these times.