Monthly Archives: May 2011

2011-04-08 NCADA Spring Awards Luncheon

Note: The event which is the subject of this blog took place on April 8th but I’ve been waiting for a photo of Ms. Vivian Dietemann before posting it. Vivian accompanied my wife and I as our guest. She is a single mother who is smoke-sensitive and who battled the authorities for years in the 1980s and 1990s to obtain smoke-free air for both herself and her son, Christopher, who suffered from asthma and was also affected by secondhand smoke.

The occasion was NCADA’s Spring Awards Luncheon, held at the Algonquin Country Club, Glendale. My wife and I were treated to lunch and I also received a mounted engraved glass plaque.
         I’m grateful to the NCADA for this recognition. I’ve worked with them for several years now and found them to be a reliable ally in local efforts to expand smoke-free air protections. Like MoGASP, they pushed for comprehensive local smoke-free air laws in St. Louis City and County, and testified in favor at public hearings. Those efforts led to the biggest local gains in secondhand smoke legislation we have yet seen in metro St. Louis, and have changed the landscape on this issue.
         Below are photos taken by NCADA during the event. The remarks by Howard Weissman preceding my receipt of the Community Service Award are pasted below following my notes about Ms. Vivian Dietemann.

Martin Pion accepting NCADA's Community Service Award from Howard Weissman, immediate past president. Edward F. Tasch, NCADA Executive Director, is on the right in the photo above



Martin Pion with other award recipients (L to R) Percy Menzies, Pioneer Award; Annie Schulte, Gateway Award; and Tom Quinn, Helen B. Madden Award.


         I hadn’t met Vivian yet in 1984 when GASP first got started, but obviously there were numerous others involved. The vice-president back then was Mary Jo Blackwood, who did much of the work necessary to obtain not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status for the group.
         Paul Smith provided the original inspiration for the group. He worked as an Engineering Associate in Western Electric, and was seeking donations for an appeal in a civil suit he had brought against his employer for a smoke-free work area. Instead, he was forced to wear the noisy helmet-style respirator shown in the photo. at left.

Vivian Dietemann

         Back in those days, hospitals and doctors waiting rooms still permitted smoking, and Vivian worked hard to persuade the places she needed to go with Christopher to institute smoke-free policies.
         MoGASP turned to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1993 to try and obtain smoke-free indoor air for smoke-sensitive asthmatics like Vivian, and Vivian also took the initiative in filing an ADA complaint against the Missouri state Capitol which led several years later to many public areas in the building being signed no-smoking.
         (I should also mention that over the years MoGASP has received enormous help with its ADA complaints from Billy Williams, now Executive Director of GASP of Texas.)
         MoGASP recognized Vivian for her efforts with a smoke-free air award at a dinner in Ferguson in 1997, attended by then State Sen. John Schneider.
         Below are the prepared remarks preceding the award presented to me by Howard Weissman:

Community Service Award

“I have the pleasure today to present NCADA’s Community Service Award, presented each year to an individual or entity who has provided dedicated service to the community in terms of addressing alcohol, tobacco or other drug issues. The recipient of this year’s award is Martin Pion.
         Martin Pion is a scientist who grew up in England and received a degree in Physics and Math from London University. In the U.K., Martin worked for ITT’s Telecommunications Lab doing research in the then new field of fiber optic communications. In 1977, a job transfer brought him, his lovely wife, Joyce, and 6-year-old son, Jerome, to the U.S. In 1980 he moved to St. Louis to work for McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. to help set up a semiconductor laser diode lab.
         Being subjected to a work environment that allowed smoking, in 1984 Martin decided to take this issue on as co-founder of a not- for-profit called Missouri GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution).
          Arguably ahead of his time, Martin Pion has fought for smoke-free legislation for 27 years! During these years, Martin and GASP has championed and shown up for any effort that would help create healthy, smoke-free environments. He has worked tirelessly and without compensation to make the St. Louis area a healthier place to work and live.
         One of his earliest efforts involved advocating for a smoke-free Lambert Airport. Despite years of setbacks and frustrations, Martin kept at it… and finally, due to his and other’s efforts, St. Louis finally has a smoke-free airport and, as of Jan. 1st of this year, St. Louis County and City are finally smoke-free!
         These kind of achievements don’t happen unless advocates like Martin Pion refuse to give up. Thus, it is my pleasure to present the 2010 NCADA Community Service Award to Martin Pion. Please join me in congratulating him.”

2011-05-17 P-D: “Anti-smoking summit missing a couple of invitees”

I missed the meeting which I’d planned to attend, but it seems I wasn’t the only one. Several principles were also no-shows and the meeting was rather brief. It’s good that there was a representative contingent from St. Charles County but the absence of some important players is disappointing.

  • Anti-smoking summit missing a couple of invitees

    BY PAUL HAMPEL • phampel@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8153 | Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 4:45 pm | Comments (63 as of May 17, 2011, 11:29 pm)

    CLAYTON • A summit of area leaders on Tuesday to discuss unifying the region’s smoking bans did not quite materialize as planned, as representatives from the city of St. Louis and Jefferson County did not show up.
             But those officials who did turn up, from St. Louis and St. Charles counties, pronounced the meeting as promising and vowed to get together again soon.
             “It was a good start,” St. Louis County Council Chairman Steve Stenger said after the 15-minute meeting ended at county government headquarters in Clayton.
             “Hopefully, the next time we meet the city of St. Louis will attend,” Stenger said.
             He said his office had invited St. Louis Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and officials from Jefferson County.
             “We’ll get back in touch with them and see what the hangup was. I’m sure we’ll find a mutually agreeable time and date in the near future,” said Stenger, D-Affton.
             St. Charles County was represented by three members of its County Council — Chairman Joe Brazil, R-Defiance; Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul; and John White, R-St. Charles County.
             White said that the public health should be the primary motivation behind a uniform ban for the region. He said that included casinos, which currently have exemptions from ban in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.
             “Trying to protect the public’s and employees health should not be a matter of competition with other casinos,” White said.
             Stenger has said that he intends to try to persuade other counties in the region to remove all exemptions from smoking bans “as quickly as possible.”
    In both the city and the county, establishments can continue to allow smoking if their revenue from food does not exceed 25 percent of their combined food-alcohol revenue. The city has an added requirement: A bar must be no larger than 2,000 square feet. The city ordinance ends all exemptions in 2016; the county does not have such a sunset clause.
             As of March, 185 bars in St. Louis had applied for exemptions, with 116 granted, 41 denied and 28 pending.
             St. Louis County has granted 150 exemptions. Eight have been denied, and five are pending.
             A proposal was introduced last week in the St. Charles County Council to set an August 2012 election on a countywide smoking ban that would apply to all restaurants and bars but would exempt the gaming floors at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles.

  • 2011-05-11 P-D: “Area leaders plan summit meeting on smoking bans”

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    STOP PRESS: I’ve been advised that while public comments will not be allowed the public may attend this event. It will be at 4 pm today, May 17th, in the conference room adjoining the council chamber, or move to the council chamber itself, depending on how many members of the public attend. The media is expected to cover it.

    Address: Administration Building, 41 South Central, Clayton (1st Floor), MO 63105. (Get directions from mapquest.com)
    Metered parking opposite and on-street.

    One must view this potentially important development with caution, since there are significant differences between politicians in the area on the subject of smoke-free air and government action to promote it. However, it’s a welcome sign of the importance of this public health issue and the recognition by some local politicians of the need for comprehensive action.

    Area leaders plan summit meeting on smoking bans

    BY PAUL HAMPEL • phampel@post-dispatch.com > 314-727-6234 and MARK SCHLINKMANN • mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 8:00 am. Comments (139 as of May 11, 2011, 8:41 pm)

    Related Stories

    St. Charles County Council rejects alternatives to smoking ban election
    Smoke-free possible in St. Charles County
    Illinois, other states consider smoking exemptions for casinos

    Leaders from the city of St. Louis and four counties on the Missouri side of the region have agreed to meet to discuss unifying smoking bans.

    Joe Brazil

    “What we’re hoping we can do is be more consistent,” said St. Charles County Council Chairman Joe Brazil, who initiated the meeting.
             Officials from his county, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis, Franklin and Jefferson counties have agreed to meet on the matter.
             The officials are concerned that the spreading patchwork of smoking bans across the region has left some businesses unable to compete with businesses that have received exemptions.

    Steve Stenger

    “I would like to see us as a region move quickly toward removing all exemptions from the smoking ban,” said Steve Stenger, chairman of the St. Louis County Council. “I think that as we become more sophisticated in our knowledge about the dangers of secondhand smoke we have no choice but to move toward being a county and a region that promotes health.”
             Stenger, D-Affton, said he would like to see a regionwide ban similar to those already in effect in Brentwood, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Ballwin, Lake Saint Louis and Kirkwood. They do not allow exemptions for any bars and restaurants.
             Stenger said Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer had also agreed to meet on the matter. Jefferson County Council Chairwoman Renee Reuter said she and other officials from her county planned to attend the meeting.
             Stenger said he also wanted to remove the exemptions for gambling floors at casinos.
             Brazil, a Defiance Republican, said he called for a joint meeting to make it less likely that eating and drinking spots in one area would have an unfair advantage over those in other locales.
             Brazil has been an outspoken opponent of a pending council bill setting an August 2012 election on a countywide smoking ban in St. Charles County. The proposal, introduced Monday night, would apply to all restaurants and bars but would exempt the gaming floors at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles.
             A nonsmoker himself, Brazil said he was philosophically opposed to taking away the decision from business owners. But he said he’d rather have a common approach regionally than disparate versions of a ban in effect.
             “I would prefer nothing, but my point is, if we’re going to do it we should all stick together and do the same thing,” Brazil said.
             The sponsor of the St. Charles County bill — Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul — said he supported Brazil’s approach. But he said he would still seek passage of his bill at the council’s next meeting May 31. He said that if a regional deal was worked out later, there would be plenty of time to amend the St. Charles County proposal.
             The St. Louis County ban was passed by 65 percent of the voters in November 2009. In the city, the Board of Aldermen had approved a similar measure, contingent on county passage.

    Lewis Reed

    Lewis Reed, the city’s aldermanic president, said he supported Stenger’s call to remove all exemptions.
             However, Reed, a Democrat, said he would like to get the perspective of some of the city’s bar owners who now have exemptions.
             “Some establishments spent some money in order to comply with the exemptions, so I’d like to get their input,” Reed said. “But my personal opinion is that we need to move forward and try to remove these exemptions very soon, if not immediately.”
             In both the city and the county, establishments can continue to allow smoking if their revenue from food does not exceed 25 percent of their combined food-alcohol revenue. The city has an added requirement: A bar must be no larger than 2,000 square feet. The city ordinance ends all exemptions in 2016; the county does not have such a sunset clause.
             As of March, 185 bars in St. Louis had applied for exemptions, with 116 granted, 41 denied and 28 pending.
             St. Louis County has granted 150 exemptions. Eight have been denied, and five are pending.

    Charlie Dooley

    In January, St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley blasted the exemptions, calling them “unacceptable.”
             “The county executive wants no exemptions,” Dooley’s spokesman, Mac Scott, said Tuesday. “In fact, he’d like to see a smoking ban with no exemptions statewide.”

    CASINO EXEMPTIONS

             The city and St. Louis County also exempt gambling floors at casinos.
    Stenger said casinos had argued that they would lose business to casinos where smoking was still allowed.
             “But if we were to level that playing field, that argument would become moot,” he said.
             However, Mike Winter, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, said casinos needed to be concerned with competition in Illinois, where smoking is banned in casinos and in all public places.
             “When Illinois went completely smoke-free, people came to our properties at Illinois’ loss,” he said. “If Illinois were to reconsider its smoking ban, that would put our casinos at a disadvantage.”

    Pat Lindsey

    Pat Lindsey, with the anti-smoking group Tobacco-Free St. Louis, said the current smoking ban was unfair to bars that did not have exemptions.
             “Our organization has been conducting surveys of bars, and we are finding that those that do not have exemptions are suffering because they’re losing business to the bars where smoking is still being allowed,” Lindsey said.

    Bill Hannegan

    Bill Hannegan, a longtime opponent of the smoking ban, assailed any effort to strengthen the smoking ban.
             “I would hope that if we unify the ban, we do it not in the direction of more strictness but on a more rational basis, such as letting owners of restaurants decide whether they want to allow smoking, but limiting access to those venues to people who are over 18,” Hannegan said. “I do think there’s a basis in reason to limiting smoking around children.”
             Stenger said a consensus among the various counties would be key to strengthening the ban in St. Louis County.
             If it chose, the County Council could change the ordinance on its own without submitting it to public vote again.
             Said Stenger, “I would be optimistic that a bill could be passed without exemptions (in St. Louis County) if all the counties in the region were on the same page with the issue of removing exemptions in their jurisdictions.”

    David Hunn of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed to this report.

    2011-05-11 AP: “Illinois, other states consider smoking exemptions for casinos”

    There are fresh efforts underway in Illinois to seriously weaken its present comprehensive statewide smoke-free air law by allowing smoking back into casinos. It’s reassuring to know that it faces stiff opposition, and not just from Kathy Drea of the ALA of Illinois, who has been a staunch defender of the present law. The following report notes that Gov. Pat Quinn, for one, is also opposed to such an exemption.

    Illinois, other states consider smoking exemptions for casinos

    ASSOCIATED PRESS | Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 12:15 am | Comments (3 as of May 11, 2011, 8:18 am)

    HAMMOND, Ind. • Clutching his Marlboro, Clifford Hutchison works a slot machine unaware of his role in a desperate competition to balance state budgets.
             The retired maintenance worker from Chicago could have sought his fortune at any of the casinos in northeastern Illinois. But he decided to drop his quarters at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind., partly because that state allows gamblers to light up unhindered — something Illinois has banned since January 2008.
             “It relaxes me,” he said of smoking.
             Some legislators would like to lure Hutchison and his cigarettes back to Illinois. As cash-strapped governments grasp for every quarter, the state is among several contemplating loopholes in smoking bans to keep more gamblers — and their money — from slipping across the border.
             An Illinois Senate committee could deliberate today on a bill to allow smoking in casinos so gamblers don’t escape to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri.
             Casino owners blame the bans for the loss of millions of dollars in revenue and the subsequent fall in tax receipts. The American Gaming Association estimates that 20 percent of casino patrons smoke.
             But smoking opponents say the loss claims are exaggerated and the loopholes are bad health policy. The Illinois bill passed the House 62-52, but faces stiff opposition from key senators and Gov. Pat Quinn.
             “It’s discrimination against the people who work in casinos,” said Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Illinois.
             The Illinois bill tweaks the 2008 ban by permitting smoking in casinos as long as it’s allowed in neighboring states. State Rep. Dan Burke, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the bill, voted for the smoking ban, but said “unintended consequences” warrant an amendment.
             Casino operators and other backers of the bill point to studies from 2008 and 2009 showing what they purport to be the ban’s negative effect on business. While also noting the overall economic slump, the American Gaming Association, the Illinois Gaming Board and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis each reported that casino receipts in Illinois fell by about 20 percent in 2008 — the year the ban was passed. The Illinois Casino Gaming Association’s Tom Swoik estimates that the state taxes casinos would have paid are down $771 million over three years. He said casinos would accept an exemption that allows smoking on the gambling floor but keeps restaurants and bars smoke-free.
             In the St. Louis area, a half dozen casinos compete for business, including the Casino Queen in East. St. Louis, and another upriver in Alton. The Casino Queen’s operators say they’ve lost about 20 percent of revenue since the Illinois ban took effect. They also weren’t helped by the opening of the Lumière Place casino in St. Louis, as well as another Missouri casino where smoking is allowed.

    Tornado hits Ferguson, North St. Louis County, at 8 pm on Friday, April 22, 2011.

    This is unrelated to mogasp’s normal topics but is an event worth recording, since it (fortunately) doesn’t come along every day. The tornado which hit Ferguson where I live was an EF1 or an EF2, according to a detailed federal NOAA report on-line, Good Friday Tornado Event April 22 2011. and affected a number of people that I know personally.

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also had extensive coverage, including a story about the five tornadoes which touched down that day, changing people’s lives permanently but causing no reported fatalities or serious injuries: National Weather Service confirms five tornadoes in Good Friday storms

    My closest encounter to a similar weather-related event was in September 2005 when something I’d never heard of before – a “straight line wind” – hopscotched down the road where I live, fortunately doing no damage in my yard but taking down two mature oaks just six houses down which demolished part of the neighboring house, rendering it unlivable for several months. Below are some photos I took of one of those downed oaks and the tree’s owner surveying the damage to his neighbor’s home. The photos below were taken the day after the storm.

    The tree owner (foreground) surveying the damage to his neighbor's house after his tree was felled in a violent storm September 19, 2005.

    Downed oak embedded in neighboring house in Ferguson, after a straight-line windstorm

    Another tree fell onto a house where it knocked the resident out of his chair and sent him to the hospital. On that occasion we were without power for four days.

    Turning to the recent storms, the sirens started wailing shortly before 8 pm on Friday, April 22, 2011, and the local TV weather reporter urged viewers in our area to take shelter. My wife and I responded by heading to a small windowless corridor in my case, and a bedroom closet in my wife’s case where we stayed until it appeared safe. (Our house is built on a slab so basement shelter wasn’t an option.)

    In fact, our subdivision was spared from any damage except for one tree nearby being uprooted, due to a combination of the rain-saturated ground and the wind, (plus, perhaps, that it had been struck by lightening some years earlier!).

    Storm-felled oak

    In addition, although we lost electricity it was restored surprisingly quickly: by about 10 am the following morning.

    What we didn’t know was that an EF2 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita Scale had roared through Ferguson less than a mile further south, cutting a destructive path through a mainly residential area bordering downtown. The map below shows the approximate path of the tornado. This was actually part of a 21 mile long tornado touchdown which had been an EF3 or EF4 in Bridgeton (EF3 wind gust = 136-165 mph; EF4 wind gust = 166-200 mph), about 6 miles to the west, where many homes on Beaverton Drive, Bridgeton, MO 63044, were completely destroyed. Amazingly, no deaths or serious injuries were reported. (Please see photos and stories published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

    Approximate path of tornado in Ferguson and some damaged locations
    Click to enlarge

    Storm-damaged Little Caesars Pizza, 220 N Florissant Rd., Ferguson

    My wife ventured out the next day (Saturday, April 23) and walked down to where the tornado had struck. She reported that the sidewalks were impassable in places due to so many downed trees. Plus, there were lots of gawking motorists who had come to see the destruction, hampering cleanup efforts. A photo she took that day shows the Little Caesars Pizza place less than a mile away: the roof had been ripped off and pieces of it were wrapped around nearby splintered trees. Someone was busily salvaging contents when my wife arrived. (I explored the area two days later and took additional photos which I’ve pasted below.)

    Ferguson Christian Church: long shot from helicopter shown on News 4. Please click to enlarge

    Featured in media reports was the Ferguson Christian Church, 303 N Elizabeth Ave., also on the tornado’s path and a little east of Little Caesars.

    At left are aerial TV shots from the KMOV Channel 4 story, Widespread damage in Ferguson, Missouri, by reporter Bryce Moore, broadcast the day after the storm. The rows of brown wooden pews can be seen in the close-up below.

    Ferguson Christian Church close-up of storm damaged roof. Please click to enlarge


    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried detailed stories on Sunday, April 24, two days after the storm. The following photo appeared on page A7 of the printed newspaper:

    Larry Doggett, left, and his daughter Joni Bellinger salvage a bible from the debris in the sanctuary of the Ferguson Christian Church. (The bible appears to have water dripping from it.) David Carson dcarson@post-dispatch.com





    The photo accompanied an article by reporter Jesse Bogan titled
    Believers see lessons in storm still available on-line. The above photo had this caption:

    Saturday April 23, 2011–Larry Doggett, left, and his daughter Joni Bellinger salvage a bible from the debris in the sanctuary of the Ferguson Christian Church after a tornado ripped the roof off the church on Friday night. “We had plans for Easter and God had other plans” said Bellinger. Thirty-one people who were watching Passion of the Christ at the church took shelter in the basement, hiding under tables and in the bathrooms, as the tornado slammed into the church. No one was seriously hurt in the incident.

    A St. Louis Post-Dispatch video interview with Joni Bellinger is posted on YouTube: Joni Bellinger talks about how tornado ripped church apart

    Below are selections from photos I took on Monday, April 25, 2011, after some clean-up had occurred and the roads were clear of gawking motorists.

    Robert with car totaled by tornado in his driveway. Please click to enlarge

    Robert posing in front of his lightly-scathed house. The pieces of red aluminum were blown into his front yard from Little Caeser's destroyed roof. Please click to enlarge

    My first visit was to Robert living directly in the tornado’s track. Amazingly, despite his car in the driveway being totaled by a neighbor’s tree limb, his house suffered relatively little damage, mainly a small hole in the roof and the loss of part of his gutter on the front.

    Tornado-toppled tree on Nick's wife's car

    That was in contrast to both his immediate neighbors, whose homes suffered so much storm damage that Robert said they had been condemned.



    At 125 Royal Ave., Nick Kasoff and his family suffered a mixed fate.

    Their home was spared when a large tree was blown down in their front yard, although the storm knocked out power for three days.

    Correction from Nick Kasoff: “We were without power for two days, not three. I was very impressed at the speedy response by Ameren to this disaster.”

    However, the tree landed across his wife’s car parked in the driveway, totaling it, and also on his detached garage roof, badly damaging it and coming within inches of Nick’s prized BMW Mini.

    Gamma at work while large tree still rests on garage roof

    Nick said he wasn’t sure that Gamma Tree Service would be able to prevent the tree from collapsing onto his car during their efforts to remove it. (See photo at the end of this blog for a postscript .)

    I also went to Little Caesars and took additional photos showing the serious damage the building had suffered.

    Contrast a photo of the building taken a few years earlier with the mangled remains of the roof after the tornado ripped most of it off, scattering it into adjoining trees and neighborhood yards.

    Little Caesars Pizza, Ferguson, before tornado damage

    Little Caesars, April 25, 2011, looking south

    Little Caesars: view looking north

    On Tuesday, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story by reporter Kavita Kumar featured a photo of owners Doyle and Joy Beck surveying the damage to their Little Caesars on Florissant Rd. near the major Airport Rd./Hereford Rd. junction. The photo caption accompanying the story noted that thieves had already stolen the copper from the air conditioner.

    Please click the headline Businesses scramble to save stock, income to read the online story from which the following is excerpted.

    4/25/11 Monday Ferguson Doyle and Joy Beck check out the damage to their building in Ferguson that was heavily damaged by the tornado Friday. One half of the building they rent to an insurance agent and the other half is their Little Ceasar’s Pizza business. The tornado blew the roof and the air conditioning unit off the building. Thieves have already stolen the copper from the air conditioner.

    Little Caesars owners, Doyle and Joy Beck, survey the damage
    J.B. Forbes jforbes@post-dispatch.com


    Postscript: I stopped by and visited Nick Kasoff while bicycling home on Tuesday, May 3. The tree had been successfully removed without it collapsing onto his BMW Mini inside his garage but when we peered inside to see the damage large roof timbers were resting on the car and it was clear that the building would have to be dismantled with great care if the car was to avoid being seriously damaged or even totaled.

    Nick Kasoff standing outside his wrecked garage