Oak Park: It's a small village after all

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Connections. In Oak Park there are always connections.

At Monday's meeting of the Oak Park village board the topic was changing the village's liquor ordinance to avoid a conflict with incoming President-elect Anan Abu-Taleb whose family holds an Oak Park liquor license for its Maya del Sol restaurant.

The board voted to table the topic and delay it until next Monday's final board meeting because they were short a vote to pass it. But the board did take a few public comments and that's where the connections came clear.
John Gearen Jr. spoke up for Abu-Taleb saying the board should "get past this issue" and that the prohibition on a village official holding a liquor license was written into the law "40 years ago."

Gearen knows that because it was his dad, John Sr., who was village president 40 years back when Oak Park finally began to allow liquor sales after having been dry for many decades. Opening up liquor sales was part of a broader effort in the early 1970s to spur economic development in the village. And that focus was paired with Oak Park's early efforts at racial integration. Gearen Sr. was instrumental as president when Oak Park passed its landmark Open Housing law.

Also testifying Monday was Gene Armstrong, a VMA stalwart and longtime civic volunteer. Armstrong's position was that the board should find a temporary fix for the liquor conflict and then ask the Liquor Control Review Board to consider options for a permanent solution.

Gearen said it was Armstrong as a young attorney who helped write Oak Park's first liquor laws and that it was his dad who insisted on the ban on officials holding liquor licenses. "But that was 40 years ago" and "this is a fairness issue now. You can't make second class citizens out of restaurant owners."

And did we mention that Abu-Taleb is married to Gearen's cousin? Or that the Abu-Taleb's bought John Gearen Sr.'s house and have long lived in it? Or that Abu-Taleb was elected village president on the 20th anniversary of Gearen Sr.'s death?

That's all we've got in the reporter's notebook.

Email: dhaley@wjinc.com Twitter: @OPEditor

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Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 2nd, 2013 5:32 PM

Cronyism - No, Respect Maybe, Fear that he might be lynched by the large audience of Anan supporter - More Likely.


Posted: May 2nd, 2013 5:22 PM

@RTW - David Pope's gesture was one of respect, not cronyism. Yes, Village Hall politics make it far too easy to play the "old boys' network" card, but this is one situation where I'm thankful some civility was shown. David did the right thing.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 2nd, 2013 5:05 PM

Yup, Mr. Gearan got the special treatment and that't good. I have gone to the podium a few times and every time, Pope was whipping two fingers in a circle telling me to hurry. The fingers always got circling at the two minute mark.

RTW from oak park  

Posted: May 2nd, 2013 4:39 PM

Ah...5-1/2 minutes for Gearen's speech. Mr. Pope must have been afraid to interrupt, given Gearen's standing (or rather his father's) in Oak Park. Same old cronyism, Mr. Pope


Posted: May 2nd, 2013 12:23 AM

Come on Mr. Haley, open that notebook and fill us in on other interesting tidbits you know about our other elected officials.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 6:26 PM

I enjoyed listening to John Gearen Jr.'s words on Monday. He appears to be a gracious, thoughtful, intelligent man. And I appreciate the Board allowing him five and a half minutes to speak (rather than the three-minute limit) . What he has to say is worth a listen...starts at the 14:45 mark http://oak-park.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=311

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