2011-11-15 P-D: “Bid to put smoking ban on St. Charles County ballot hits early snag”

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I presented testimony during the public portion last night in support of St. Charles County Councilman Joe Cronin’s effort to put two smoke-free air ordinances on the November 2011 ballot. Quite a few others also testified, pro and con taking turns. The testimony wasn’t what mattered though.

As often happens, it takes just one council member to change his or her mind before the public meeting even begins to determine the course of events. That apparently happened last night when Councilwoman Nancy Matheny, who had been expected to support Cronin’s bills, changed to opposition instead. Her reasoning seemed confused, on the one hand calling for a statewide ban, but also asking “Where does it stop?” and saying she is for personal choice. That may be because it was a recent decision she had made, and not thought through, the conjecture being that it was pressure from the Ameristar Casino which had changed her mind.

This is certainly a setback for this latest effort, but Cronin vowed to supporters after the meeting to keep on pushing for this legislation, saying that although he had initially not favored it, after researching the subject he now firmly believed it to be in the public interest.

P.S. Due to Adobe Photoshop not working on my new computer I cannot add photos taken during this event but hope to do so later.

Bid to put smoking ban on St. Charles County ballot hits early snag

BY MARK SCHLINKMANN • mschlinkmann@post-dispatch.com > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 12:05 am | Comments (124 as of November 17, 2011, 9:01 pm)

ST. CHARLES COUNTY • A newly revived effort to put a smoking ban up for a countywide vote next November already has run into political trouble.
         County Councilwoman Nancy Matheny, who in May had been among council members voting for an earlier version, said Monday that she wouldn’t support a ban this time around.
         That means backers are at least one vote short of the four needed on the seven-member council for approval of putting the issue to a vote.
         Matheny said she was worried that some affected businesses in St. Charles County, such as bars selling a small amount of food, would find it hard to compete against places in St. Louis County that have exemptions from a ban there. She said she now favored addressing the issue further only on a statewide basis.
         “I hate smoking … but this is America,” said Matheny, R-Weldon Spring. “People have rights to choose whether they go into an establishment where there is smoking or not.”
         Matheny spoke before and during Monday night’s County Council meeting, where two new proposed ballot issues were introduced by Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul.
         One measure would ask voters to decide whether to ban smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces in both municipalities and unincorporated areas.
         The other calls for a separate countywide vote on exempting the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles. Both would go on the ballot next November.
         Cronin’s earlier measure, approved in May on a 4-2 vote with one opponent absent, put the ban and the casino exemption in a single ballot issue.
         That measure was vetoed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann because of that and other exemptions. Last week Ehlmann said he was likely to support Cronin’s new approach because the measures involve county charter amendments, not a health ordinance.
         Cronin’s new casino measure would exempt Ameristar’s gambling floors only if current exemptions remain in effect for casinos in St. Louis County and St. Louis.
         His other new bill would eliminate exemptions for cigar bars and tobacco stores that were in the May bill that Ehlmann vetoed.

One response to “2011-11-15 P-D: “Bid to put smoking ban on St. Charles County ballot hits early snag”

  1. “That may be because it was a recent decision she had made, and not thought through, the conjecture being that it was pressure from the Ameristar Casino which had changed her mind.”

    Interesting conjecture, and I note that it was indeed just conjecture, but to use that term you must have had some thoughts as to what form such “pressure” might have taken.

    Can you provide a few — purely in the understanding that it’s all conjecture. The reason I ask is that it so closely parallels the claims of “pressure” that are so often accounted to the tobacco side of the aisle. And also because we do indeed have clear examples of such “pressure” by the antismoking side in the past: e.g. ads showing legislators with big Surgeon Generals’ warnings plastered over their images because they dared to vote “the wrong way.” or warning legislators of potential ad campaigns picturing them as voting for Big Tobacco over hospitals and cancer charities.

    – MJM

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