Cannabis ruckus is deja vu all over again

Opinion: Letters to the editor

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Watching the Sept. 5 Riverside Village Board meeting reminded me the old adage about the fate of those who don't study history. It truly was like deja vu all over again.

It's been almost 20 years since Petunia Wars – when a vocal, adamant group argued that flowers visible from the street would ruin our community – that their inherent narcissism would be corrupting. Seems silly now, but the proponents were as sincere as the citizens that spoke here two weeks ago.

Before Petunia Wars, there was the great battle over Turtle Park and how the playing of children would destroy the beauty of the Long Common and all we hold sacred.

Ten years ago it was those rascally twins TIF and TOD – the mere mention of their names was a blasphemy. An angry group savaged the board and persuaded the electorate to launch a Tea Party experiment – that failed utterly. There never was going to be a TIF, but that didn't matter. The lesson taught was invaluable. Government by non-believers in government doesn't fly. You need to respect our institutions and the individuals that try to make things better for us all.

On the current topic of cannabis I'm somewhat agnostic. I really don't like "sin" taxes. But sin sells in a way that virtue doesn't. I've seen too many frustrated attempts at business development here to not know that no viable revenue stream should go un-explored. When opportunity knocks, open the door – don't wait to see if it knocks again.

While referenda have a place, this isn't it. Last year's referendum should provide sufficient guidance. If you're waiting to see which way the wind is blowing today, you're not leading. A logical corollary to legalization is sale; 38 emails from the potential pool of 11,000 registered voters is hardly a groundswell.

Likewise, the time for a Town Hall has past. It would only foment acrimony within our community. Those who would show up now would be but angry voices to commit kabuki.

What I saw at the last meeting was two groups – those unwilling to accept legalization and those who don't want it in their backyards. I understand the latter. Ages ago I lost a similar argument over Deep Tunnel to the interests of a tree -- the tree died; life went on.

Of the curious arguments put forward, never in my 40 years here have I seen such concern for the institutions of Berwyn expressed. The hollowness was amplified by the fact that no residents of Berwyn voiced objections. No representatives from the library or Morton High School stepped up to the podium.

This board has shown remarkable fortitude and patience. I commend you, but the citizenry should, too. No one likes to get yelled at by their neighbors, but it's your job  and you did it well.

Kevin Smith

Riverside

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