Give Commissioner Mark Hosty the benefit of the doubt. His primary concern is second hand smoke breathed in by employees of Forest Park restaurants which are lax in enforcing the state’s smoking ban in outdoor beer gardens. Hosty, a partner and manager of Healy’s Westside on Madison Street, cited his own health issues – an inhaler and daily meds – which he said resulted from breathing customers’ cigarette smoke during his 18 years in the bar business.
The issue came up early this month when the village council considered an ordinance to better regulate the hours of popular outdoor seating and beer gardens at local restaurants. Hosty sought to amend the ordinance to include more assertive regulation of smoking.
Now cynics, and this town has a few when it comes to Hosty, point out that Hosty’s prominent establishment dominates the corner of Madison and Circle but is landlocked and can never have lucrative outdoor seating or a beer garden. That, they suggest, is the motivation for Hosty wanting a level and smoke-free competitive landscape.
An interesting observation but not our point today.
The Review’s question is why is Commissioner Hosty discussing, proposing, voting on any issue regarding liquor service in Forest Park? There is an inherent and unavoidable conflict of interest for someone who earns income from a bar voting on the village’s liquor policies.
In neighboring Oak Park, Anan Abu-Taleb, the newly elected village president, also owns a popular restaurant and bar. Hurdles were jumped to change state law so that Abu-Taleb did not need to take on the conflicted role of liquor commissioner in Oak Park. And he has pledged that he will recuse himself from any discussion and any vote related to liquor control. That seems right to us. Commissioner Hosty should make the same pledge.
There are benefits to having an elected official such as Hosty who actually runs a business in town. But with that benefit come possible conflicts of interest and they need to acknowledged and actively avoided.