On May 24, I shared my reasons for voting against the Styrofoam ban ordinance in an article titled, “Why I voted against the Styrofoam ban” [Viewpoints]. This ill-conceived local ordinance passed 6-1 at our village board meeting that week, with mine being the only dissenting vote. Today I am happy to report that since then I have worked with staff on an amended ordinance that rectifies the concerns I raised. In doing so, we

•      validated our community engagement process that hinged on Jan. 1, 2025 by aligning enforcement to that date instead of Jan. 1, 2024

•      avoided premature and punitive enforcement of our willing local restaurants.

This week, the board approved this amended ordinance.

In my previous article, I had proposed, “If we instituted the ban in 2024 but delayed the enforcement to 2025, we could have maintained the integrity of our community engagement process while leading other communities on this topic and bringing more people along willingly. We could have managed this transition at a lower cost to local businesses and residents alike.” 

This is where we landed with the amended ordinance. Citations for violations will start in January 2025 after warnings and a cure period. I want to acknowledge Trustee Lucia Robinson’s support in getting this back on the agenda quickly, the staff’s work to modify the ordinance, and other board members for changing their vote to support this effort.

As a long-term advocate for reducing plastic and Styrofoam use in society, I am proud to be able to help usher in these changes to our community. I am also relieved that, while we are able to lead other communities on this topic, we managed to do that in a balanced way. We now have the opportunity to bring our small businesses and community members along on the journey willingly. Let us do this with our people rather than to them.

This week we also approved a practical building code in favor of electricity over gas for new constructions/developments. The code we agreed on is made practical by specific exceptions for the option to use gas-powered generators (for example, for emergency health and safety requirements). It is a small but significant step in our energy transition.

Much support and education will still be required to make this transition as pain- and anxiety-free as feasible for our residents. I want to remind my fellow electrification advocates that we will enable this important transition, but that we have to be patient. This area needs thoughtful and balanced leadership and action. I want to acknowledge the work of village staff and the Building Codes Advisory Commission (I’m the trustee liaison to this commission) for their diligent work on this over the past two years.

Overall, the board decisions this week represent a big win for our community, and I’m happy that these wins prioritize the benefits of many over the demands of a few.

Ravi Parakkat is an Oak Park village trustee.

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