I read with great interest the letter printed here April 6 from the Oak Park Board of Health. I quote: “Finally, when Board of Health Chairperson Lois Halstead requested at the March 7 meeting that the trustees table the smoke-free ordinance because productive discussions between health advocates and restaurant owners were underway, Trustees Carpenter, Kostopulos and Johnson once again turned their back on productive dialog and pushed ahead to vote the ordinance down.”

Horse Hockey. The individuals who’ve invested their time and passion into this campaign have done so for the better part of two years. They would have you believe they actually have validly sought the opinion of the business community in that time. There was one meeting?#34;one meeting?#34;with the leaders of A Smoke Free Oak Park three weeks before the final vote took place.

We were all dazzled that such advocates for clean air owned, on average, 2-4 SUVs that they drove around regularly in Oak Park. We were all surprised when condo associations were not asked their opinion of having a new view of 15-20 people at a time outside their building view smoking. It was contentious, but it was one meeting. In two years.

Oh, I’m sorry there was one other meeting held by the Board of Health to get the input from the business community in February, which at the outset looked promising. However, what Ms. Halstead failed to mention to the business owners and community, who took time out of their days and running of their restaurants and businesses to attend the hearing, was that the Board of Health had met privately prior to that meeting and voted to recommend the decision for a smoke-free Oak Park to the board of trustees, making the “hearing” ironically nothing more than smoke.

Anyone who attended the meeting in March for the final vote without their boots like me could see the uncomfortableness with which Ms. Halstead took the podium to request the “table” of the ban. She knew she wasn’t going to get the votes and to sit there in front of the board of trustees and the community of Oak Park, both business and residential, and try to claim they’ve been actively soliciting the opinion of the business community in an open and honest manner is being dishonest. I’m a little disturbed to see the board comment on other commissions going astray, yet this one seemingly has carte blanche to mislead the public.

Moreover, they all seem to gloss over the badgering of the business community, both restaurants and other businesses during business hours that members of the Smoke Free Oak Park campaign did, bullying the owners with negative ad campaigns and pressuring them to sign petitions. Yes, that did happen, as did the bullying for whom to vote for to get their way.

People are willing to talk. They’re not willing to get bullied. The next time the Board of Health decides to solicit input from the business community, I hope it’s in a far more honest and forthright manner than they would have you believe they’ve had in the past.

Rich Carollo
director, Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

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