Farmers Market friction

Opinion: Editorials

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Sooner or later, tensions were going to surface in Oak Park over the extended COVID-19 restrictions. It hasn't been over schools closing for the year, though that has been a difficult challenge for teachers, parents and students. Didn't happen over the park district closing playgrounds, though there are, on our random nice days, certainly antsy kids who want to swing and climb. Didn't happen over the prolonged closing of restaurant dining rooms because, well, it just makes sense.

But over the past two weeks as we've tried to read the tea leaves over just how "essential" the Oak Park Farmers Market really is during a pandemic, it has seemed clear that the market was a point of friction. That became clearer Monday night at the virtual village board meeting.

A raft of local events have been cancelled in April, May and through June under the rightful orders of the administration of village government. Plainly, from the village manager on down, people are working hard in this pandemic. But they are doing it, partly by necessity and partly by choice, with limited input from the elected village board, from appointed commissioners whose meetings were all cancelled in April — and without the usual transparency which is reflected in local reporting. 

So while almost all events have been deep-sixed, village officials were reluctant to put the kibosh on the Farmers Market while also being tight-lipped about their plans for fresh food in hard times.

Finally on Monday the word came down through the new chain of command that the market would open May 30, would be radically altered to build in essential safety measures, and that, starting this week with the basic structure already locked down, staff would again talk to the volunteer Farmers Market commissioners.

Multiple village trustees — Boutet, Walker-Peddakotla, Andrews — chided village officials for the lack of communication to this point. In turn they were chided by Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb who stood up for the hard-working village manager, Cara Pavlicek.

We appreciate the hard work, too. But listening and adapting during a crisis is also part of leadership. 

And we'd urge the manager to ease up some on the locked-down communications strategy. It's starting to chafe.

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