Recently a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth has taken place over proposed smoking bans in St Charles County.  Council members have made inaccurate and false statements about a proposal that collected 22, 850 signatures and misrepresented their proposed ban versus the petition proposal.  Since the Council appears unable or unwilling to provide the public the facts, I’ll be glad to give them to you.

Let’s hit the most glaring falsehood the Council uses in trying to demonize the petition effort – they call it “the Casino” bill.  How can you know that the accusation is false? Both the petition proposal AND the Council bill EXEMPT the casino from the smoking ban! The only difference is that the casino could decide by taking various steps to allow smoking in other parts of their building under the petition but so could all other businesses in St Charles County. The Council continues to make false statements without the facts to support them.

I got involved in this when Councilman Cronin was working on his first smoking ban proposal.  It was as wrong headed as the second one and the current one. Fortunately it did not make it on the ballot as County Executive Ehlmann rightfully vetoed it. He should do the same to the current bill – if it makes it that far!

During this initial effort, I met up with local bar owners who immediately recognized the bill for what it really is – an attack on property rights.  They not only recognized an attack on property rights but knew the attack was aimed squarely at them.

During this time, Troy Stremming, Senior Vice President of Government Relations & Public Affairs at Ameristar had commented in the Post-Dispatch that while they appreciated the exemption in Councilman Cronin’s original bill – just as they are in the current version – he  was not a supporter of smoking bans. In fact, he stood with the small businesses who were objecting to the ban:

“I agree with all of those small businesses when it comes to the business rights issue,” he says. “As long as smoking is legal in the United States, then it should be up to the business owner — who has invested his own capital — how to run that business.” St. Charles Suburban-Journals

The bar and small business owners actually got the ball rolling.  A draft was developed by the bar owners, bowling alley owners, restaurants, veterans organizations, tobacco/cigar shops and Ameristar.  Many of these people have everything they have invested in the businesses Councilman Cronin and others want to negatively impact.  It was a joint drafting effort not Casino driven.  No one on the Council has bothered to ask about this, they have been content with making unfounded accusations. Apparently it’s more fun when you don’t have to worry about the facts!

It is true that Ameristar provided funding for the signature collection effort.  All the funds have been used for legal work and signature collection efforts. No compensation for me or any one connected to me has been received and none is planned through-out the campaign or after.

But surely you can understand why Councilman Cronin and others are calling this the “casino bill” right?

One of the tried and true ways of shifting the attention from a really bad idea or issue is to create a distraction or a bigger “bogey man”.  In this case, Councilman Cronin and  others want you to think it’s the casino.  They can’t gain any sympathy for their cause if they don’t have a ready-made target like Ameristar to cover up their proposal to attack St Charles County small businesses.

Councilman Cronin and his supporters claim they want people to vote on a ban. He claims the petition turned in with 22,850 signatures is the status quo but only because he either hasn’t read it, is just parroting his handlers or both. The petition actually requires every business in St Charles County to go non-smoking unless they take very specific and direct actions otherwise.  The petition proposal is far from the status quo and will protect public health AND the rights of private, small business owners.

It’s a win-win! And contrary to the political speak of the Council – it’s not “the casino” bill, it’s a small business jobs protection bill.