Meatless Mondays gets symbolic nod from Oak Park village board

Staff will create proclamation, not ordinance

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Meatless Mondays won't be the law of the land, but there will be an official proclamation from the village of Oak Park encouraging its residents to be more mindful of their meat-eating practices.

Trustees didn't take much time discussing the matter Monday, which stemmed from public comment at a meeting last month, but they did unanimously agree to allow staff to write a proclamation endorsing the concept of Meatless Mondays.

No, the village won't be regulating what its residents eat, but it will encourage people to think twice when they order their meals on Mondays.

The Meatless Mondays concept, as outlined in a village report, is part of an international campaign to cut down on meat consumption — for health and environmental reasons.

The U.S. Meatless Mondays campaign was launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The goal is to encourage people to reduce their meat consumption by 15 percent to improve personal health and health of the planet, according to reports about the movement.

Cathy Yen, director of the Oak Park-River Forest Chamber of Commerce, spoke up in favor of the concept, offering her perspective on the impact of a public proclamation.

"I am personally torn as someone who supports better eating habits and healthy lifestyles but at the same time holds dear the notions of choice and free market," Yen said. "As you consider the issue later this evening, I ask you to refrain from the question: 'Are you attempting tonight to legislate or even influence consumer choice or are you hoping to raise awareness and educate people such that they will make their own healthier choices when provided with the information."

Yen said she's concerned a proclamation will raise concern that government is trying to regulate people's choices, when in fact that's not what she believes the village is trying to do.

She stressed that wording in the proclamation is critical and urged staff to choose wording that focuses on education, not regulation of the industry.

This should only be about encouraging people to make better choices, Yen said, and not about specifically declaring what local businesses should do or serve to attract customers. What Oak Parkers need most, she added, is proper marketing about eating habits.

"Convincing people to make healthy choices in their own homes is our first priority. If you convince enough consumers to order vegetarian, I assure you the market in Oak Park will respond and the restaurants will put more on the menu," Yen said. "Please do not ask the restaurants to do anything until you have first convinced their customers to go meatless on Mondays."

Trustee Peter Barber referenced Yen's points, saying he's in support of the measure if it's simply a proclamation that doesn't take up any more village time. He suggested it's not a pressing matter in Oak Park, and he doesn't want Meatless Mondays to be a big topic of discussion among the board or staff.

"I would have concern if this becomes a big issue," Barber said. "I hope we don't come down a big path where this has been a distraction for the board."

President Anan Abu-Taleb reminded the group that a proclamation is not a legislative action.

It's simply raising awareness about what people consume and how it impacts their lives and the environment. Trustee Ray Johnson backed up this point, noting the village passes proclamations about various social issues frequently to encourage awareness.

"If it's educating people, I'm all for it," Trustee Bob Tucker added. "We're not legislating anything and it's not taking a second of anyone's time to do this."

Contact:
Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

39 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 10:04 PM

And let it be noted that this "time-wasting exercise in self-congratulatory do-gooding" took all of about 10 minutes of the Board's (not including the public comments of which they have no control) time. And that I have spent more than 10 minutes reading and commenting on these WJ stories! :)

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 8:02 PM

Before we criticize Meatless Monday as a time-wasting exercise in self-congratulatory do-gooding, it's best to remember that this is the kind of bold forward thinking that made Oak Park a nuclear free zone. Need I remind you that Oak Park has not been incinerated by a nuclear warhead since that proclamation? Coincidence?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 7:22 PM

Bridgett - I thought Mr. Adams' statement at the board meeting expressed the side that had not discussed by the board. The proponents of Meatless Monday and the threat of meat to the health of humankind was incredibly overstated.and the characteristics of people who eat meat regularly was offensive.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 7:07 PM

"...that had not been vetted from both sides of the issue." What is the issue? This is a manufactured issue. The attention that this proclamation (yes, proclamation, carrying as much power as a person who has a key to the city) has gotten, because of WJ's coverage, is starting to rival that of the IDOT expansion.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 6:29 PM

Bridgett - Not sure why it is the WJ's fault that the Meatless Monday got out of hand. At the first night, the board responded positively to an Audience Participation question/presentation that had not been vetted from both sides of the issue. That is what opened the gates, not the news coverage. WJ inclusion of a satirical poll was similar to "editorial drawings." Satire never pleases everyone.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 5:27 PM

(CONT.) And are still handling this story... July 10th, page 3, "So maybe Meatless Mondays isn't off the agenda just yet." REALLY? WJ, please, just stop. You've done enough already--except owning up to your part in all this.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 5:26 PM

When I saw the rancher at the board meeting I just shook my head. He was so earnest, so nice, and I felt bad that he had to come all the way up from Sandwich, IL, thinking he had to defend himself and his industry all because of how the Wednesday Journal has handled this story (see my earlier comments on this thread). (CONT...)

Thanks for posting, JBM!  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 12:49 PM

Well done, Mr. Adams. That was quite the defense of IL farmers! Please know there are those in Oak Park who love to support ALL the agriculture in our state. You have our respect.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: July 12th, 2013 12:37 PM

The WJ headline read, "Meatless Mondays gets symbolic nod from Oak Park village board." I am not sure that symbolic was the right word -- A casual nod would probably be more precise. The OP discussion was one sided. At the board meeting this week, a rancher from Sandwich, Illinois took the board to task for its resolution. You can hear the ranchers words on the OP Video at http://oak-park.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=331

4 Freedom  

Posted: June 23rd, 2013 1:32 AM

Be careful, Jim doesn't like it when commenters speak in hyperbole and doesn't like generalities. But, he has no problem doing it as long as it supports his agenda. His favorite past-times on WJ are arrogance, telling people what to do, and hypocracy. Saying he's righteous might be an understatement.

4 Freedom  

Posted: June 23rd, 2013 1:08 AM

"I am aware of the failing of government at every level to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of society and how corporate interests now come first." That's touching, Jim. Is possible for you to post a comment without a steaming pile of hypocracy?

Pigeons are good food  

Posted: June 22nd, 2013 10:11 PM

Being a very open minded community, shouldn't we give the other extreme view a day too? How about Concealed Carry Thursdays since it's simply raising awareness about a recently affirmed legal right, not actual legislation? Gun freaks , why not head for the next Board meeting and push for your day in the spotlight during public comments?

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 22nd, 2013 2:42 PM

I for one cringe at the thought of the Village of Oak Park board sending a nod or anything else on the issue of meatless Mondays. They are not in the least educated to exercise more than a consumer's outlook on the subject. This issue needs to have a response from the medical community not the board.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 22nd, 2013 3:50 AM

Meat consumption is not the biggest threat to public health. The air, water and soil are being poisoned. There's much handwringing about not burdening future generations with a crushing national debt but very little action to protect the planet for them, National and local efforts to live "green" have been ridiculed by some posting on this forum. There's a well funded effort to misinform people about the real dangers we all will face as the earth continues to warm. You pointed it out and I am aware of the failing of government at every level to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of society and how corporate interests now come first. If all someone can do to help is pass on having a steak or chop once a day; do it. Or protest and order the largest cut as a declaration to personal freedoms. Symbolic gestures aren't the answer.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 22nd, 2013 12:59 AM

Jim, Anyone unaware at that some people risk severe health problems is on the moon or totally dim. Remember the informational messages in the 70's about the danger of smoking. It took no time for the government to shift from warnings to penalties. The penalty was higher taxes on smokers. Quickly smoke cessation became a secondary cause. Raising tax revenues, Fed, States, and Local, from cigarette smokers became the primary cause. Tax increases were claimed to be a way to stop people from smoking. Higher prices would end addiction. It was not the cancer doctors who came up with the price ceiling cure. It was legislators. Cigarettes now cost 40 times what they cost in the 1970's and 75% of the cigarette revenue goes to the government. Do you remember when the government won billions in the cigarette manufacturers' settlement, shared it with all levels of government for sports, cultural programs, and civic building, etc. and spent pennies for the addicted or for the cigarette addiction cure. What will be the next step of the meat-haters when the Meatless Monday ends it usefulness? Will they seek higher taxes on meat to save all our lives? Will they seek subsidies for fruits and vegetables so we all can live forever? Do you realize that our legislators have done little or nothing to help the poor, indigent, homeless and mentally ill who still smoke, and that no inexpensive solution exists? Do you realize that most of those people start their day seeking a butt . Do you realize the pain of mental and physical pain of needing a smoke? I am not saying that Meatless Monday is comparable to smoke addiction. I am saying that before using advertising campaigns as the drum for change, We should be able to discuss the risks. Can we feed our country without meat? Can we abandon meat for poor countries with protein deficiency? Can we prove that meat is not a factor in the amazing increase in human longevity? Did we think enough?

Pigeons are good food  

Posted: June 21st, 2013 9:46 PM

I'm connecting the dots here and now plan to have roasted squab every Monday.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 21st, 2013 6:21 PM

Isn't it a good thing to bring attention to the public regarding new medical advice that we as a nation do need to reduce our meat consumption. It's better for your health and will reduce waste. The board's proclamation is symbolic but might get some people thinking about making some better diet choices.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 21st, 2013 6:06 PM

Bridgett ?" Seems to me you have missed the charm of WJ Comments ?" Ad Nauseum comments amongst unknown best friends. I don't see how you can blame the WJ for the coverage of the Meatless Monday. It was the board that made it a local joke by being so anxious to talk about it that they were hyperactive in their response to the board meeting public comment. They were so geeked that I thought they were going to design the sign at the board table. As far as the board not getting as much WJ face time compared to the Meatless Monday Monologue, they should be happy. If lucky, they won't be tagged as the Meatless Monday Board.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 21st, 2013 2:20 PM

@JBM, I don't think I suggested ignoring anything. And I do think it's worth reporting. The observation I made was that people are confusing the attention/weight/time this newspaper has given to the issue, with that given by the members of the Village Board. It's an easy topic for some OPers to do what some OPers do best, which is to identify our "differences" and then talk ad nauseum about them. I'm sure it's great entertainment for some folks. {{shrug}} :-)

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 2:54 PM

Anna - Congratulations for your 1st Place award for the Pigeon coverage. It was an important story and you did a great job of covering it. Your OP coverage is consistently awesome.

Archie Bunker from Queens, New Yawk  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 2:09 PM

dey oughta call it "Meathead Mondays"!

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 12:36 PM

Thoughtful: thank you. Empty agenda driven by empty public paid employees reinforced by empty elected officials, who promised us better.

Thoughtful omnivore  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 11:49 AM

I'll bite, Brian. Why? Because rather than asking people to really think carefully about food sources and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, we're going to listen to the vegetarians tell us meat is the problem. Next time, bring all the parties to the table if you really want a discourse on the topic.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: June 20th, 2013 11:17 AM

Anna just won a first place news reporting prize from IPA for that pigeon coverage. You can't just write sewers and audits out of village hall! Both readers and reporters would go AWOL.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 10:20 AM

Bridget - Hope you are not saying that the WJ should ignore issue that are of interest and concern to resident. Remember the pigeons of 2012.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 10:17 AM

Why doesnt the health department hand out brochures about healthy eating at the doughnut line at farmers market?How come the health department doesnt stand outside tasty dog after school and hand out brochures about healthy eating to high school kids?why doesnt the health department come out to under age drinking parties w/the police and talk to the kids about drinking? Why this, why now.

Thoughtful omnivore  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 9:05 AM

Bridgett, why couldn't the proclamation recognize the contributions of vegetarians to our community and leave it at that? Got no problem with those boring awards every meeting. But village needs to put a little more thought into all this before taking it further. What about all the people in the community who support sustainable and ethical animal farming practices? Or those of us who encourage farming at-risk breeds of animals who would otherwise go extinct if we didn't keep them for food?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 8:42 AM

We can all think of hundreds of issues that may deserve a village Proclamation, based on the rationale being used for approving the Meatless Mondays. The problem is that when Proclamations are issued so readily, it devalues Proclamations that address issues of greater concern, that are directly connected to village policy / legislation (crime, diversity, etc.). I believe we elect officials to legislate and pay taxes to support that legislation, and not to issue Proclamations that do neither

Brian Slowiak from oak park  

Posted: June 20th, 2013 7:42 AM

how much time did the public health department put in on this?meetings, making copies. If the public health department were serious, shouldnt thet be standing outside mcdonalds passing out brochures on healthy eating? to much work.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 9:46 PM

Some are confusing the issue with the WJ's coverage of the issue.The Board itself has spent less than 10 minutes, at two meetings, on this topic. It's the WJ that has devoted time, energy, and $$, to have someone write a *front* page story (????), a follow up story (this one), and a story about the 50 comments online from the first story. It's this newspaper that is driving this ridiculousness, not the Village Board. But given the # of comments, WJ seems to be giving people what they want.

OP Resident 674 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 7:27 PM

Let's raise consciousness about real issues with direct and immediate need in the community. How about "Get off your fat butt and exercise Mondays" or "Stop texting while you're driving Mondays", or maybe "No heroin at McDonalds on Madison Mondays?" I will eat meat at every meal on Mondays as a protest to this asinine proclamation.

Greener than thou  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 5:43 PM

I agree that this is better hashed out between PETA, etc. and the Chamber of Commerce, not the Village Board. Granted however, the village public heatlh board that sponsored it is a volunteer organization. The upside is that it encourages those annoying vegetarians to dine out on Mondays, an evening when the rest of us will normally be home enjoying our sirloins and pork chops anyway. It also forces the veggies to put their money where their (big) mouths are to support the program.

Thoughtful omnivore  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 5:08 PM

Violet, I know many meat eaters who are healthier and more environmental/animal friendly than many vegetarians. Eating veggie isn't necessarily a promise of a longer life or a better planet. And it's not a free pass to convert & belittle others.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 4:00 PM

@545: completely serious and I agree that this is an empty symbolic gesture. and a waste of government time. Yet the village president does not wish to have his business go cocktail free. Why meat and not alcohol free? This is a lack of leadership on the part of the village president whom i voted for. I expected better.

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 3:30 PM

@Thoughtful: Your name is an oxyMORON. :/

Thoughtful omnivore  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 2:10 PM

This is why people hate vegetarians...not eating meat doesn't automatically make one's diet more healthy or better for the environment. How about we promote a generic balanced diet, regular exercise, and food supply awareness if we're so interested in public health? Quit giving vegetarians a soapbox for their superiority complex!

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 1:02 PM

Brian, assuming you're being serious, please grow up...what is your point? My own feeling is this entire discussion is a waste of staff & trustee time. If there is a need to promote this issue, do it outside the realm of govt. There are plenty of non-profits & universities who can be the promoters. "Public Health" issues at this level should be focused and limited.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 8:09 AM

Why isnt the Village President going ahead with alcohol free nights at his restaurant. Consumption causes obesity, alcoholism and heart disease. Profit margin, anyone. Hypocrisy? Or just a pandering empty poltical hack? More of the same from an elected official.

GizmodDog  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 6:19 AM

To be read from the parapets, "Hear ye, hear ye..."

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