Several weeks ago on this page, we took the side of the owners of Austin Pantry. That was the longtime convenience store on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Austin Boulevard. It had been temporarily shut down by Oak Park's village government after police arrested the long-employed manager of the store on charges he was selling heroin out the front door.
After a private hearing — more on that soon — Village Manager Cara Pavlicek made the closure permanent. And last week after the shop's owners appealed that ruling to an ad hoc hearing body made up of three village trustees, the original decision was affirmed.
Austin Pantry is closed for good.
Based on our further reporting and the testimony delivered publicly by business and residential neighbors last week, our original editorial was premature. The evidence is clear that this store had become an active nuisance of the sort we can never tolerate in Oak Park: an ongoing assemblage of young men loitering in front of the store and likely selling drugs themselves, plus repeated calls to the Oak Park police.
Good for residents for going on the record with the Journal with their strong concerns and for turning out in public to testify.
We acknowledge that the Journal's initial editorial position was hasty.
However, we don't understand why the initial hearing before the village manager was entirely behind closed doors. This was not a personnel issue, no property was changing hands, no lawsuits were pending. So why a need to keep the public and the press out? Even last week, while the testimony was in public, the deliberations of the three trustees were private. Again, why?
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
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