Property Rights: MO St. Charles Cussing Ban

Missouri Cussing Ban Update

St. Charles unlikely to adopt smoking ban

03/10/2008
By Mark Schlinkmann, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

ST. CHARLES — A renewed effort to convince the City Council to ban smoking in public places seems destined to be snuffed out — at least for the foreseeable future.

Six members of the 10-person council and Mayor Patti York have declared their opposition to such an ordinance, which was recommended in January by an advisory panel on health issues called the St. Charles Wellness Commission.

One opponent is the council’s liaison to the commission, Larry Muench, 2nd Ward, who happens to run a tobacco shop.

The only councilman to voice any support so far is Erv Ermeling of the 10th Ward — and he said he would back the restriction only if it was limited to restaurants.

The wellness commission supports a ban as a logical extension of city efforts to limit health hazards, said one member, Louise Cheli.

“We compare it to any other toxic or poisonous substance,” Cheli said. “It’s a safety precaution. If it was something else (hazardous), there would be no tolerance for it.”

The commission, made up of York appointees, has yet to make a presentation at a council meeting. But critics on the council in interviews last week offered varying reasons for their opposition.

Councilman Laurie Feldman, 3rd Ward, said a ban would limit the personal freedom of St. Charles residents.

“They can frequent places that allow smoking if they choose to, or they can not frequent them,” Feldman said. “To me, it’s all about choice.”

Some opponents said the city’s business tax base could be hurt by a ban if neighboring communities didn’t adopt one at the same time.

Councilman Michael Weller, 5th Ward, said a prohibition would hurt both owners of small eateries in the Main Street historic district and the big Ameristar Casino nearby. City coffers are “largely dependent” on taxes from the casino, Weller pointed out.

Ameristar officials couldn’t be reached for comment on the St. Charles proposal. The company, which also runs a casino in Kansas City, has criticized a proposed smoking ban in that city.

York said she opposed St. Charles acting on its own and wants the Missouri Legislature to pass a state ban. “If we do it, it should be statewide,” York said.

That’s unlikely to happen this year, said state Sen. Joan Bray, D-University City, the sponsor of a statewide proposal that is stuck in committee. A statewide Illinois ban went into effect Jan. 1.

Also opposed to the St. Charles measure are Richard Veit, 1st Ward, Council President Bob Kneemiller, 4th Ward, and Jerry Reese, 6th Ward. Reese suggested letting voters across St. Charles County decide the issue in a countywide election.

Michael Klinghammer, 8th Ward, was undecided, and Ron Stivison, 9th Ward, said he would consider supporting only a restaurant ban but was undecided on that. Dave Beckering, 7th Ward, could not be reached for comment.

The last time St. Charles officials discussed a smoking ban was in 2004, when then-Councilman Bob Hoepfner proposed applying one only to restaurants. Hoepfner’s plan never came up for a vote.

Smoking bans also have been discussed but not passed by elected officials in O’Fallon, Wentzville and St. Peters. The main advocate in St. Peters has been Mayor Len Pagano, who said last week that he hoped to raise the issue again but didn’t know when.

Last year, the Lake Saint Louis Board of Aldermen passed a bill requiring restaurants which choose to restrict smoking to certain rooms to filter smoke-contaminated air through an air purifier system.

In other parts of the Missouri side of the metro area, only Ballwin and Arnold have imposed smoking bans.

Two anti-smoking advocates — Pat Lindsey of Tobacco-Free Missouri and Rochelle Nobs of SmokeFree St. Charles County — said the St. Charles wellness group’s request was premature. More public education on secondhand smoke is needed to build political support for smoking bans, they said.


Councilman Proposes Cussing Ban In St. Charles Bars
1/7/2008
By Ann Rubin
(KSDK) – No drinking contests, no table-dancing, and no obscenity: In St. Charles, a proposed bill would make some strict new rules for bars to follow. But does it go too far?
Some bar owners are worried that the bill is both too vague and too restrictive. But city officials say it’s needed to keep rowdy crowds under control. They say the revitalized St. Charles Main Street may be getting a little too lively for some.
City Councilman Richard Veit says, “We have people complain from time to time especially about establishments on Main Street getting out of control.”
And so Veit has taken action with a proposed bill. It promises to control rowdiness, curb underage drinking and give police some real rules to enforce at area bars.
Veit says, “It’s not necessarily that everything is out of control. But if we have these rules and everybody knows what they are, then we won’t ever get to that point.”
Among the rules: no open bar, no drinking games or contests, no dancing on tables, and no indecent, profane or obscene language, songs, entertainment and literature.
It’s this last item that has some bar owners concerned. At R.T. Weilers, management considers this a violation of civil rights.
Owner Marc Rousseau says, “We’re dealing with adults here once again and I don’t think it’s the city’s job or the government’s job to determine what we can and cannot play in our restaurant.”
How would they define profanity? And how big a problem is table dancing? Rousseau believes this bill needs revision. He says business owners should have a say in the new rules.
He says, “It didn’t seem to make sense. And that’s why we brought it to the attention to the city council that we really want to be involved and we want to be a part of the law making process.”
City officials have agreed to a meeting and a work session. Councilman Veit says this is meant to be constructive, not controversial.
He says, “I actually think there are things that people wish I was doing that I’m not going to do like shutting down the bars and stuff and that would be being the fun police.”
Still on Main Street, they’re hoping there’s some compromise down the road. Rousseau says, “I think we’ve gone way too far to one side and need to find a happy medium.”
There will be a meeting to discuss amendments to the bill. It’s set for Monday, January 14th at 4 p.m. at St. Charles City Hall.

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