St. Clair Mayor Ron Blum is hoping Monday’s board of aldermen meeting will have to be moved to the city gymnasium in order to accommodate the number of people attending.
Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting in city hall is expected to include another discussion and possibly a vote on the proposed no smoking ordinance that has been drafted. The ordinance was tailored after the one the city of Washington passed last year. Basically, it does not allow smoking in any indoor public facility within the city limits.
Prior to the board meeting, a public hearing on the ordinance has been scheduled for 6 p.m. to give residents a chance to speak up and let their feelings be known about the issue. Some people attended the aldermen’s last meeting on June 16 when the ordinance came up for board discussion and offered their opinions.
Statements were made that were both for and against not allowing smoking in public places within the city limits.
“I have made a commitment from Day One to not push things through,” Blum told The Missourian this week. “We need to take our time and let people give their input so we can make an informed decision.”
During the June 16 meeting, the aldermen were in agreement that a hearing would be the best way to allow and gather that public opinion.
“I would like to get more public opinion on this,” Ward 2 Alderman Barb McGlenn said during that June meeting.
All four aldermen also have said they would not be opposed to having voters decide the smoking outcome through a ballot issue.
However, both the mayor and the aldermen have cautioned about the low voter turnout St. Clair usually draws to the polls on an election day.
“St. Clair has a dismal voting record,” Ward 2 Alderman Greg Talleur said. “This should be put on the ballot, but people will have to step up and make a decision.”
When Talleur was elected to his position in April, only about 8 percent of registered voters cast ballots. He won by receiving 75 votes.
“People need to know about the issues and be a part of what’s going on,” Blum said. “The way for them to be a part of this smoking issue is to show up on Monday and let their feelings be known.
“People like to complain,” the mayor said. “But they don’t want to come up with a way to fix it. We don’t want that to happen with this.”
Blum has gone on record stating he is for the public smoking ban. He introduced it as a discussion item in April after he said several people approached him about discussing it with the aldermen.
On June 16, after the aldermen gave their viewpoints, Blum asked a question.
“The Surgeon General has confirmed that second-hand smoke can cause cancer,” he said. “Where is it in the Constitution that says one person can cause harm to another? I’d like someone to point that out to me.”
No one on the board, or in the packed city hall meeting room, offered a response.
During that June meeting, the aldermen were split on the issue. Ward 1 Alderman Zach Fuchs and Talleur made comments that suggested they were opposed to a smoking ban. Ward 1 Alderman Nathan Tate indicated he was for the ordinance establishing the ban.
McGlenn was undecided.
If there is a 2-2 tie in the voting process, Blum would cast the deciding vote.
“This is not a big government decision,” the mayor said. “This is a local issue that needs to be addressed.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there, and the public as well as the board of aldermen need to be informed.
“The only way we can make an intelligent and informed decision is to gather opinion and information and know the facts. It’s important to be informed and not speculate.”
And, Blum also said the only way to know what residents are thinking is have them speak up.
“That’s why we’re having this hearing,” he said. We need a true reflection of what the entire community thinks. There are two sides to every story, and we need to get people to listen, including listening to each other.”
Language in the proposed ordinance states that, if passed as written, individuals will not be allowed to light up in any enclosed public place within the city limits.
City Attorney Kurt Voss put together the ordinance based on what the Washington City Council adopted last year.
The ordinance would be known as “The St. Clair Smoke-Free Air Act of 2014.”
It specifically lists the types of no-smoking facilities: bars; bingo facilities; child care and adult day care facilities; convention facilities; public and private educational facilities; elevators; gaming facilities; health care facilities; hotels and motels except in designated private rooms allowed for smoking and rented to guests; lobbies, hallways and other enclosed common areas in apartment buildings, condominiums, trailer parks, retirement facilities, nursing homes and other multiple-rent residential facilities; public transportation vehicles; restaurants; restrooms, lobbies, reception areas, hallways and other common-use areas; retail stores; rooms, chambers and places of meeting or public assembly; shopping malls; sports arenas; and theaters and other similar entertainment facilities.
In addition, smoking will be prohibited in enclosed places of employment, enclosed residential facilities and in membership clubs.
Under the enforcement section of the ordinance, language states that “an owner, manager, operator or employee of an area regulated by this ordinance shall direct a person who is smoking in violation of this ordinance to extinguish the product being smoked. If the person does not stop smoking, the owner, manager, operator or employee shall refuse service and shall immediately ask the person to leave the premises. If the person in violation refuses to leave the premises, the owner, manager, operator or employee shall contact the police department.”
A violator could be fined up to $50 for a first offense. Subsequent penalties would follow already established laws in the city’s code of ordinances.
Also, a person who owns, manages, operates or controls a public place or place of employment and who fails to comply with the provisions of the ordinance can be fined $100 for a first violation, up to $200 for a second offense and up to $500 for each additional violation within a year’s time.
In addition, the business license could be suspended or revoked.
Each day in which a violation occurs would be deemed a separate offense.