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Not altogether surprising, but with this result St. Charles County’s elected representatives have again failed to fulfill their obligation to protect the public health and welfare of the people they claim to represent. It’s wealth trumping health again, a concern over potential loss of smoking customers being the issue for Councilwoman Nancy Matheny who had formerly been a supporter of smoke-free air.
Randomly reading comments from readers on the Post-Dispatch web site I came across a gem from “harleyrider1978” suggesting that secondhand smoke is no worse than “a hearty thanksgiving dinner.”
I didn’t attend this time but it sounds like Bill Hannegan did. His was the second St. Louis Post-Dispatch comment on this story:
Bill Hannegan said on: November 29, 2011, 2:53 am
Nancy Matheny really made her point when she read from a list of VFW and American Legion Halls exempt in St. Louis County. How could she then put a smoking ban on her own veterans groups?
Following is reporter Mark Schlinkmann’s story of last night’s event”
BY MARK SCHLINKMANN – firstname.lastname@example.org > 636-255-7203 | Posted: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 12:05 am | Comments (71 as of November 29, 2011, 7:50 pm)
ST. CHARLES COUNTY • The latest push to let voters decide on a countywide smoking ban was extinguished Monday night by the St. Charles County Council.Councilman Joe Cronin, R-St. Paul, said the rejection on a 3-3 vote of the election bill he sponsored probably will spur an anti-smoking coalition to launch a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot next November.
“I want to give them notice so they can get that organization rolling,” Cronin said, explaining why he pushed for a council vote at this time.
However, coalition members said no decision has been made yet on a petition effort.
“Everything’s on the table at this point,” said Stacy Reliford, an American Cancer Society official active in the group. The county charter requires signatures from at least 9,260 registered voters to qualify for the ballot.
The measure rejected Monday would have banned smoking in most indoor public places and workplaces in municipalities and unincorporated areas. The measure had a few exemptions but none for bars or tobacco stores.
Cronin withdrew his separate bill calling for a second ballot issue on exempting the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles from a ban.
In May, the council had approved an earlier Cronin measure that put the ban and the casino exemption in a single ballot issue. But that measure was vetoed by County Executive Steve Ehlmann, who objected to exemptions in a health law.
Ehlmann had said he would likely go along with Cronin’s new, two-pronged approach because they involved county charter amendments, not a health ordinance.
But then Councilwoman Nancy Matheny – who voted for the May bill – said earlier this month that she wouldn’t support a ban this time around.
She said she worried that affected businesses, such as bars, would be at a competitive disadvantage with places in St. Louis County exempted from an existing ban there.
“This bill does pick winners and losers,” Matheny, R-Weldon Spring, said Monday. She said the council still has time to devise a better bill to put before voters next year, but Cronin says that’s unlikely.
Cronin said he pushed for his measure because secondhand smoke “is a public health threat.”
Joining Cronin in favor were Councilmen Terry Hollander, R-St. Charles, and John White, R-St. Charles County. Voting “no” with Matheny were Joe Brazil, R-Defiance, and Jerry Daugherty, D-Portage des Sioux. Another opponent, Paul Wynn, R-O’Fallon, was absent.
The council heard from a string of speakers. Carol Gold, owner of South 94 Bistro, and other opponents said the measure infringed on business rights.
Supporters included Kay Young, an anti-smoking activist from St. Charles, who said the council could make the county a health leader.