Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association April 27 meeting
by BRIAN NADIG
A proposal to raise the state’s minimum smoking age and a plan to construct a two-story condominium building near Higgins and Central avenues were discussed at the April 27 meeting of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association.
State Senator John Mulroe (D-10) said at the meeting that he has sponsored Senate Bill 3011, which would raise the minimum age to 21 for purchasing and possessing tobacco, in an effort to reduce the chance of teenagers from becoming addicted to tobacco. Mulroe said that the law would make it more difficult for younger teens to find an adult to buy them cigarettes because they would have less interaction with 21-year-olds than with 18-year-olds.
The Senate Public Health Committee approved the legislation last month, but it would fall seven votes short of passage if the full Senate voted on it during the current legislative session, Mulroe said. "I think it’s a good bill, and I’ll keep going at it," he said.
Mulroe said that one senator told him that he would not vote for the bill because it would not ban all tobacco sales and that another senator expressed concern that the law would violate libertarian principles. The Illinois House has not taken action on the legislation.
The legislation would apply to all tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, and retailers who violate the law could have their license to sell tobacco suspended. Anyone younger that age 21 who attempts to buy tobacco products using false identification would be subject to a misdemeanor charge.
Mulroe said that while the state receives $350 million in cigarette tax revenue a year, it spends about $2 billion in Medicaid costs for smoking-related illnesses. He said that he considered exempting members of the military from the age requirement but that he decided to include them at the urging of several retired military officers.
Several association members said that they support the legislation. The City Council voted to raise the minimum smoking age to 21 in the city in March.
Also at the meeting, it was reported that association president Robert Bank and Zoning Committee chairman Ron Ernst testified at a recent City Council hearing against a proposal to rezone a 5,000-square-foot parcel at 5629 W. Higgins Ave. At the urging of Alderman John Arena (45th), the council Zoning Committee approved rezoning the site from RS-3, which allows a single-family home or a two-flat on the site, to the less restrictive RT-4.
Plans call for a single-family home on the property to be demolished and for a five-unit residential building to be constructed. Several residents said at a community meeting in January that they oppose the project because it would be too dense and would increase parking congestion.
Arena has said that he supports modest density increases along arterial streets and near transit centers to increase the customer base for local businesses. The association has a policy that opposes upzoning, and it has recommended that the property be redeveloped under the existing zoning.
Ernst said that while it is important to get opposition recorded in the minutes of a City Council hearing, it is virtually certain that a zoning ordinance will be approved if it has the support of the local alderman due to the council’s practice of aldermanic prerogative.
"It’s completely fixed," Ernst said. "You have no chance of winning."
It also was reported that the first "Jefferson Park Sunday Market" of the season will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 12, at Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave. Items scheduled to be sold include produce, honey, meats, eggs, cheese, baked goods, coffee, tamales, crepes, children’s books, pet treats and specialty soaps.
The next association meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St. The association has 204 paid members.