7/28/09: Second St. Louis County Council meeting on smoke-free air bill

The St. Louis County Council meeting on Tuesday evening, July 28, attracted a lot more public comment than the previous week on Councilwoman Barbara Fraser’s anticipated smoke-free air bill, which still never actually materialized. Those speaking against outnumbered those in favor. The mood was quite raucous, with loud applause after each person finished speaking against the bill, and even interruptions with questions shouted from the floor of the chamber. Instead of calling members of the public to order or threatening to eject them, these individuals, all of whom were in opposition, received answers to their shouted questions. I’ve never seen such behavior tolerated before.

Marty Ginsburg (left) and Scott Coleman celebrate the defeat of the proposed county smoking ban in 2005. (Photo: Laurie Skrivan/P-D)

Marty Ginsburg (left) and Scott Coleman celebrate the defeat of the proposed county smoking ban in 2005. (Photo: Laurie Skrivan/P-D)

One such individual was Marty Ginsburg, owner of The Sports Page Bar and Grill, Chesterfield, seen in the attached 2005 Post-Dispatch photo.

I personally found it increasingly objectionable that opponents were yelling questions or comments from the floor even after they’d had an opportunity to speak and were not stopped but obtained responses. Eventually when Marty Ginsburg shouted out yet another question I lost my cool and yelled out to him: “You’re out of order!” For that, after the meeting ended, I apologized to the Chair, Councilwoman Hazel Erby.

Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Sutin

Post-Dispatch reporter Phil Sutin

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article on the council meeting by reporter Phil Sutin, No action on smoking ban, on Wednesday, July 29. Mr. Sutin wrote that “Two versions of what voters would consider — one that includes exemptions for casino floors and bars and one that does not — were unavailable in writing for council members and public until about 10 minutes after the council meeting started. …

Only drinking establishments whose sale of alcoholic beverages equals 75 percent of gross sales would receive the bar exemption.”

Mr. Sutin reported that “the public forum drew 24 speakers, many of them owners of small bars that allow smoking. These places, one owner said, “are not restaurants where somebody enjoys eating a steak. They are places where people enjoy a cigarette while drinking a beer.” ”

[mogasp: According to the posted minutes, excerpted below, there were 23 speakers, 16 opposed and 7 in favor.]

(L to R) Pat Lindsey, Jean Loemker, Michele McDonald, and Ernie Wolf outside council chamber

(L to R) Pat Lindsey, Jean Loemker, Michele McDonald, and Ernie Wolf outside council chamber

The article had a good quote, attributed to Michele McDonald of Kirkwood (see photo at left):

People have a right to smoke and get cancer, but they don’t have a right to poison the air.

The following is excerpted from the Journal of the County Council St. Louis, Missouri, for Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 6:00 P.M. It was posted on the county’s web site the day after the meeting:

Chair Erby presiding.
On roll call, the following Council Members were present:
Hazel M. Erby
Kathleen Kelly Burkett
Colleen M. Wasinger
Michael E. O’Mara
Barbara Fraser
Steven V. Stenger
Gregory F. Quinn

PUBLIC FORUM

Chair Erby called upon those persons who had signed cards to speak at the Public Forum.

The following individuals addressed the County Council and stated their opposition to a smoking ban in St. Louis County (Relates to Bill No. 189, 2009, pending on the Perfection Order of Business):

Mr. Ken Breier, 1724 Mason Knoll, Town and Country, a restaurant owner;
Ms. Robin Anderson, 2999 Haas Ave., owner of Twisters Lounge in St. Ann;
Mr. Harold H. Hendrick, 6752 Mignon Drive, proposed that casinos not be exempted from the smoking ban proposal;
Mr. Joe Toenjes, 329 Rose Lane, Kirkwood, MO, representing Choose St. Louis – Informed Health Choice Proposal;
Mr. Scott Coleman, 1500 Lemay Ferry Rd., owner of Some Other Place Bar and Grill;
Ms. Bev Ehlen, P.O. Box 274, 229 Chesterfield Business Pkwy, State Director of Concerned Women for America of MO;
Mr. Norm Farber, 13531 Cedar Bridge Road, Chesterfield, MO; questioned the urgency of placing this matter on the ballot at this time;
Mr. Marty Ginsburg, 13431 Olive St. Rd., Chesterfield, MO, owner of The Sports Page Bar and Grill;
Mr. Tom Rolfes, 858 N. Woodlawn, owner of 100 West Bar & Grill, related that his establishment is a “Membership Club” with each patron purchasing a membership whereby they acknowledge that they know his establishment is a smoking establishment;
Mr. Chris Seib, 5 Daybreak Estates, Sunset Hills, MO; owner of two facilities in Unincorporated St. Louis County named The Pink Galleon, Billiards and Games, stated he operates his businesses under an Amusement License and proposed restricting anyone under 21 from smoking establishments;
Ms. Patti Patterson, #5 Midland, Maryland Heights, MO, 63043; owner of Nuts Neighborhood Bar and Grille in Maryland Heights;
Ms. Yvonne Angieri, 7347 Myrtle Ave., Maplewood, MO; Manager of the Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood, related success using air filtration systems and suggested air filtration systems as an alternative to a smoking ban;
Mr. Bill Hannegan, 5399 Lindell Blvd., representing Keep St. Louis Free, proposed an alternative that would include an “over-21 exemption”;
Jeff Gershman, Attorney at Law, 7733 Forsyth, representing the Independent Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association of Greater St. Louis, a group comprised of about 200 bars, taverns, clubs, and lounges located throughout the metropolitan area with about 120 of these establishments located in St. Louis County;
Mr. Dan Volmert, 3333 Ridgeway Dr., founder and principal owner of the Hot Shots Sports Bar & Grills, nine locations in the Greater St. Louis area with five of the facilities located in St. Louis County, representing his “300-plus employees and numerous customers”; and
Ms. Maryann Rober, 14 Blaytonn Lane, Ladue, MO, stating she feels this proposal is very unfair and suggested, instead, that tobacco products be made illegal while questioning the motives for introducing this legislation at this time.

Frequent points made by various aforementioned speakers included that it is a personal choice to patronize establishments that allow smoking in their facilities; people should not be mandated to follow government established regulations that will diminish the success of their businesses and harm their livelihoods; a smoking ban should be considered on a statewide basis; the effects a smoking ban would have on St. Louis County; and their concern that if a smoking ban were to be approved in St. Louis County, smokers would travel to Jefferson County, St. Charles County, Franklin County, and St. Louis City and patronize smoking establishments in these areas.

Councilman O’Mara responded to Mr. Ginsburg’s question related to what information is contained in the proposed legislation, sponsored by Councilwoman Fraser, regarding this issue. Councilman O’Mara pointed out that he just received the information today and has not had time to review the proposed changes in this regard.
Chair Erby responded to Mr. Rolfes stating that she planned to request that Bill No. 189, 2009, be held at tonight’s Council Meeting to afford each Council Member the opportunity to adequately review the proposed legislation.
Councilwoman Fraser also responded to Mr. Rolfes, relating that there is an issue with the timing for passage of this legislation. Councilwoman Fraser also discussed the two substitute bills that she had requested be prepared for tonight’s County Council Meeting.
Chair Erby referred to Pat Redington, County Counselor, and requested that Ms. Redington review the time frames involved for consideration of this legislation relative to placing this issue on the November 2009 Ballot.
Ms. Redington responded that to place this issue on the November 2009 Ballot without the need for a court order, the County Council would need to pass this legislation by August 18, 2009. She pointed out that passage of this legislation after the August 18th date would require a court order.
Chair Erby stated that there would still be adequate time for passage of this legislation even if the bill were to be held this evening. She pointed out that it was her intention to have the bill held this evening to give the Council Members time to review the additional information included in the new proposals.

The following individuals addressed the County Council and stated their support for a proposal to place a proposition to prohibit smoking in public places in St. Louis County on the November 3, 2009 Ballot (Relates to Bill No. 189, 2009, pending on the Perfection Order of Business):

Mr. Martin Pion, 6 Manor Ln., Ferguson, MO, President of Missouri GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution);
[mogasp: My complete remarks are appended below.]
Mr. Travis Wilson, 4012 Fairview Ave., St. Louis, MO;
Ms. Misty Snodgrass, Jefferson City, MO, American Cancer Society, Director of Legislation/Government Relations for the State of Missouri;
Ms. Diann Bomkamp, RDH, BSDH. Immediate Past President, American Dental Hygienists’ AssociatIon, 612 Fairways Circle, St. Louis, MO, 63141; Immediate Past-President of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association;
Mr. Ernest Wolf, 301 Tanglewood Dr., St. Louis, MO, 63124; related his added expense as a business owner for insuring smokers and smokers absenteeism affecting his business;
Mr. Charles Gatton, 647 Lemonwood, Ballwin, MO, 63021, former Alderman for the City of Ballwin; and
Ms. Michele McDonald, 1041 N. Clay Ave., Kirkwood, MO.

Frequent points made by various aforementioned speakers included citing smoking and second-hand smoke as a health issue that affects everyone; recommended that no exceptions be granted to a countywide smoking ban; and encouraged the Council Members to vote in support of bringing this issue before the voters of St.
Louis County on the November 3, 2009 Ballot.

Prior to the conclusion of the Public Forum Councilman Burkett asked to be recognized.
Chair Erby recognized Councilman Burkett.
At this time Councilman Burkett stated she recognized many of the individuals who spoke tonight, pointing out that those individuals who were here in 2005 and 2006 know that she did not support a smoking ban in St. Louis County then and does not believe she will ever be for a smoking ban, noting that she probably will not support current legislation in this regard. She related how she fought previously against this measure as a Council Member and noted her present concern over the election costs involved in placing this matter on the ballot. Councilman Burkett related that she was gone on vacation last week when this legislation was introduced but that she would have appreciated more notice regarding this legislation. She acknowledged the importance of this matter and proposed that it would have been beneficial for all Council Members to be able to partake “in the drawing up of these ordinances”.

Councilwoman Fraser asked to be recognized.
Chair Erby recognized Councilwoman Fraser.
At this time Councilwoman Fraser stated, “It is, and has been, for a very long time, a very strong passion of mine that smoke-free laws in fact, are in fact, protecting health, protecting workers and in fact are good for business”. She stated that smoke issues are highly passionate issues and responded to the questions tonight concerning why the hurry. Councilwoman Fraser stated that she realized about three weeks ago during her discussions with other Council Members that there was a chance to pass this legislation in order to give the public the opportunity to vote on it, stating this is a public opportunity.
Councilwoman Fraser stated she agreed with the concerns related at tonight’s Council Meeting questioning why the legislation was not available for review when the public arrived this evening, noting that, “as often happens in legislation, we were working on that legislation at the very last minute”. She further stated that
she agrees with Chair Erby that we should hold the bill this week, noting that she would be happy to do that. However, Councilwoman Fraser related, “This is an issue that has a specific time definite point”. She reiterated the time frame involved in meeting the deadline to place this issue on the November 2009 Ballot and encouraged the Council Members to review the proposed legislation this week so the Council can move forward with voting on this matter at next week’s County Council Meeting.
Councilwoman Fraser expressed her appreciation to those who attended tonight’s meeting but noted that there are many others who could not attend tonight’s meeting who have a say on a “clean air act” in St. Louis County. She stated her belief in the importance of bringing this matter to the entire public for an opportunity to
vote on it and hearing from everybody.
Chair Erby clarified that this legislation was first introduced last week.
There being no other persons who wished to speak at the Public Forum, Chair Erby ordered the Public Forum closed and the Council to proceed with the next item on the Order of Business.

Testimony during Public Comments of St. Louis County Council Meeting
Tuesday, July 28, 2009, by Martin Pion, President

Madam Chairman, Members of the County Council, and County Executive:

Last week I provided a short history of secondhand smoke (SHS) legislation in Missouri over the 25 years during which Missouri GASP and I have been actively engaged in promoting smoke-free air. I concluded by saying that the tobacco lobby has a stranglehold on SHS at the state level. So while a weak state law which doesn’t preempt stronger local ordinances was enacted in 1992, almost all the significant progress has been made locally.

The City of Clayton, which has just enacted what will be the strongest and most comprehensive ordinance in metro St. Louis after it goes into full effect next year, is a notable example of recent local achievements, following the lead of Arnold and Ballwin.

Here are the facts: SHS is a major health hazard which causes disease and death among exposed nonsmokers. The risks cannot be eliminated by ventilation or filtration systems but only by requiring smoke-free indoor work environments. The solution can be effected very simply: Require “No Smoking” signs, ashtray removal, and reasonable penalties for violation.

Should certain classes of employees be covered and others left out? Is it acceptable to pick and choose? I don’t think so. Once one has concluded that this is a health issue requiring county government action, ALL affected individuals deserve to be protected.

One cannot in fairness say that office employees should be protected but not casino workers. One cannot include restaurant workers but exclude those who work in bars. Protection must be comprehensive.

James Repace, a leading international secondhand smoke scientist, came to St. Louis at Missouri GASP’s invitation in 2005. At the time, St. Louis County Council was considering smoke-free air legislation. On March 22 he kicked off the public hearing for organizations and representatives of local government before the county council’s Justice & Health Committee and gave a comprehensive half-hour PowerPoint presentation. I recall your attending it, Madam Chairman.

Repace has just sent me a preprint of a peer-reviewed paper he wrote due to be published next month in the American Journal of Public Health titled:

“Secondhand Smoke in Pennsylvania Casinos: A Study of Nonsmokers’ Exposure, Dose, and Risk”

His study concluded: “SHS-induced heart disease and lung cancer will cause an estimated 6 Pennsylvania casino workers’ deaths annually per 10,000 at risk, 5-fold the death rate from Pennsylvania mining disasters. Casinos should not be exempt from smoke-free workplace laws.”

Don’t gamble with the health of employees in St. Louis County.
Please pass comprehensive legislation covering ALL employees.
It’s time.

2 responses to “7/28/09: Second St. Louis County Council meeting on smoke-free air bill

  1. Comment from Hans Levi:

    The rude, disruptive tactics of the opponents of smoke-free air ordinances at the St. Louis County Council meeting described in the blog is a newly designed tactic that have been encountered at other political gatherings. It is is being taught by political operatives as an effective means of getting the upper hand in town meetings.

    New stratagies will have to be devised to combat this vile behavior. I suggest wiring seats to deliver an electric shock to the perpetrators.

  2. Does the smoking ban apply to restaurants in st louis county unincorporated? If so That One Place off of 141 and 44 is in violation.

    mogasp reply: To report a violation either go to http://www.stlouisco.com/doh/605/Complaint.html
    or, during working hours – (314) 615-8900. Please let us know what response you get.

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