Highland Park, News

Embattled Councilmember Jeff Hoobler joins supporters in rally outside Highland Park City Hall

A fierce showing of support for Jeff Hoobler from a segment of Highland Park residents has echoed through the City Council’s chambers for months now. But advocacy for the first-term elected official made its way to a new forum Wednesday evening.

Dozens of Highland Park residents rallied outside City Hall prior to the council’s Wednesday, April 24 meeting to champion Hoobler and urge his fellow councilmembers to reconsider their stance on a provision in the town’s liquor code that restricts an elected official from holding a liquor license. 

Inside City Hall, Mayor Nancy Rotering and councilmembers responded to the ongoing conflict, which was not up for consideration on the council’s agenda.


Supports of Councilmember Jeff Hoobler outside of Highland Park City Hall.

The provision in question has been at the forefront of council proceedings since late January, and the City Council voted against altering the provision in mid-February when a proposed motion failed to obtain a majority of the council’s support.

Hoobler, who is the co-owner of Highland Park’s Ravinia Brewing Company, has since faced a decision between his status on the council and the fate of his business’s liquor license, pending a change to the liquor code provision.

Hoobler later announced in mid-March his intent to resign from office at the end of April. In his self-titled resignation letter, which he posted to Facebook on March 18, he says he spoke with an agent with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission on Feb. 29 and had since been taking a leave of absence from the council that will last until his resignation date of April 30.

In the post, Hoobler says advice from his attorneys prompted his resignation. He also stated that his resignation is effective subsequent to the council’s April 24 meeting, where he said “there could be an opportunity for the City Council to vote to amend Highland Park’s local ordinance Section 119.320 to permit liquor license holders to hold elected office and to sit on the city council.”

During the April 24 rally, Hoobler reiterated his intent to “officially be resigned from office at the end of the month” while speaking to the group of upward of 60 supporters who gathered near the entrance of City Hall. 

Hoobler told supporters that an attempt from Councilmembers Annette Lidawer and Andrés Tapia to move forward with a discussion and second vote on amending the provision “was blocked by four members of the City Council.”

“We all know what is being done here — it’s politics at its dirtiest,” Hoobler told the crowd, implying a coup against him. “None of us would have expected it in Highland Park, but here we are. Three career politicians are doing everything they can to remain in power for just a little bit longer. They have not listened to the public for the last 13 years and they will not listen to the public now.”

Hoobler continued to describe the situation as a “personal vendetta” against him, adding that proceedings have not been about the actual ordinance itself.  

Near the conclusion of his speech, Hoobler said that he will be helping to start a political action committee that has two main objectives: changing what he described as the “archaic law” and preparing a slate of four candidates to get elected in the April 2025 election.   

While restating his plans to resign, Hoobler said that “does not mean he is going away” while noting that he hopes his supporters will continue to advocate to “move Highland Park forward.”

“Today is not the end, it is just the beginning,” Hoobler said as he concluded his speech. 

Noting his preference to first speak with his supporters who had gathered, Hoobler declined a brief interview request from The Record at the rally. 

Residents in attendance largely focused their intent on urging the council to call a special meeting within the coming 48 hours to reconsider amending the provision. 

Inside council chambers

Nancy Rotering listens to public comment during the April 24 council session.

The familiar scene that has played out over the past several City Council meetings was center stage once again Wednesday night. 

Prior to the public-comment portion of the meeting, both Tapia and Lidawer again highlighted their desire for the council to reconsider amending the contentious ordinance.

Tapia opened by saying that he is proud of the many decisions the council has collectively made over the past year but that he feels the board has not “risen to the challenge of the moment” for its inability to solve this situation. 

“This moment requires Solomonic wisdom to open up possibilities and not unwavering legalism that limits them,” he said. “It requires empathy and imagination to find a way out.” 

Tapia’s remarks finished with a call to bring resolve to the issue.

“Our community is hurting, and we, in the City Council, the ones with the shadow of our leadership, are the only ones with the power to offer the balm our city needs.” 

Lidawer expressed her belief that the council has had adequate time to review the public policy issues associated with amending the provision. 

“What we learned over the two month time of research and assessment since this last vote is that there is no compelling interest to keep this law,” she said. 

Lidawer continued to say that it is “incomprehensible” that the council is refusing to further consider the amendment. She also again highlighted her basis for supporting the amendment that is rooted in honoring the votes of thousands of residents who cast their support for Hoobler. 

Following public comment, Mayor Nancy Rotering and Councilmembers Anthony Blumberg and Kim Stone all also took opportunities to share their stances. The three members of City Council were the dissenters in the February vote in which the council opted to not move forward with amending the provision. 

Rotering thanked all the residents who have reached out to share their opinions on the matter. Her remarks on April 26 mirrored the comments she shared when she first expressed her disapproval of amending the provision earlier this year. 

“If we change a law for a sitting councilmember, then what’s the point of having laws?”, Rotering said. “By not amending the law, we show that laws apply equally to all residents, including elected officials. And I cannot support an effort by elected officials who simply want to change the law for their personal benefit.”

Stone also opened by saying that she appreciated the passion that residents have shown. She expressed her position that she “believes that it is improper to change any law to bring a sitting elected official into compliance with that law.”

“The particular law at issue, which prohibits any members of the City Council or any law-enforcing public official from being issued a liquor license, while unknown to most of us until January, has value in that it helps avoid conflicts of interest,” she said. 

Stone later rebuked the idea that members of the council are conspiring against Hoobler, saying “that is definitely not true.” 

“The city discovered this provision of the law after discussion of new liquor license categories and were following the laws of the state of Illinois and the city of Highland Park,” she said. “Changes to any law should be made only through a deliberate process and after a review, which thoroughly considers the consequences and future impacts of the proposed change.” 

Public comment

Resident Levi Kane holds a stack of documents addresses the City Council April 24. 

Nineteen members of the public addressed the council during the public-comment portion of the meeting, all but three of whom expressed support for amending the provision. 

Highland Park resident Linda Feinstein argued that voters “were fully informed” of Hoobler’s status as a liquor license holder when they elected him to office. 

“The unmistakable lesson of the election is that the voters of Highland Park do not think a liquor license is an impediment to ethical or effective council service,” she said. 

Feinstein also stated that she believes the current ordinance is “terrible public policy” because it “brazenly negates the wishes of the voters who made it crystal clear that they want someone with a liquor license to be able to represent them on the council.”

Athena Hoobler, Jeff’s spouse, was also one of the speakers, saying she was “saddened and disappointed” by the actions of members of the council who did not support amending the provision. 

“My husband has been treated in ways that are counter to our community principles of integrity and kindness and the actions to oust him are undemocratic,” she said. Athena later added, “the actions to force him out rather than amend an outdated ordinance make no sense and are counter to the will of the community.” 

Resident Keith Medansky was one of the commenters who did not directly share support for amending the ordinance. As part of his comment, he said it’s “out of bounds to dismiss the law because of its age.

“That is the law as we sit here today and to change it you need a pretty good reason and an expressed will of the people and a discussion and (it shouldn’t be done) in the context of a City Council situation where you already have a sitting councilmember,” he said.

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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