Many years, Wednesday Journal forgets to publish Oak Park’s Halloween trick-or-treating hours at all. Last week, the intense village board discussion of shifting those hours made our front page. 

So to be clear, the designated trick-or-treat hours for this year are 4 to 8 p.m., an hour later than in the past.

Owing to the moment we’re in, though, the Halloween debate became a notable discussion, eclipsed only after Trustee Susan Buchanan lost her temper and laid out the white male trustees during a still more intense debate over the village’s diversity statement. 

Here’s what was good about the discussion over Halloween: With input from citizens and from Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla, the board focused on how the traditional 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. hours were hard on working parents, especially single parents, trying to get home from work in time to get their kids out collecting treats. That’s a worthy observation. 

Worrying though, and an argument in favor of bringing an equity lens to each issue coming to the board, was that the village staff created a first-time ordinance intended to write trick-or-treating into the village’s official legal code so this topic isn’t raised every single year.

In making a simple matter fully legal, the proposed ordinance implied that there would now be legal/policing consequences for children and teens trick-or-treating beyond the set hours. That led to concerns that Oak Park cops would be ticketing young people. That was extrapolated into targeting young black people who frequently come into Oak Park from the West Side and other communities because the candy is pretty good here. 

We’d never seen Oak Park police do anything on Halloween other than stepped-up patrols to keep kids safe as evening darkness came on. When we asked the police department if any such citations had been issued on Halloween’s past, we were oddly told to file a FOIA request. The answer, five days later, was no, Oak Park police have never ticketed late-arriving trick-or-treaters. Why that wasn’t sorted out the evening of the debate is uncertain. 

Ultimately the ordinance was shelved, the traditional resolution was approved unanimously. But in not anticipating that the ordinance language could be read as an opening to harass visiting teens, we created unnecessary palpitations. 

We can do better and we will do better when we consider issues early and with equity in mind.

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