Wednesday, August 5, 2009

St. Louis County Smoking Ban

Last night I went to the St. Lous county council meeting to show my opposition to the proposed smoking ban bill that was being voted on by the council members. This was my first visit to a county council meeting and my perception of the council members’ competence was confirmed.

The evening events got started when I received an email from Campaign for Liberty so I called one of the organizers whose name was listed at the bottom. I had pretty much already decided that I was going to attend the council meeting but I wanted to get a quick preview of what goes on at these things since I had never been. The organizer gave me a quick preview and also encouraged me to call my councilwoman, which I did and left a message with her assistant urging her to vote against the smoking ban. (Note: I normally don't condone begging the slavemasters to decrease the whippings but I decided that this was something I was going to try.)

Point of information: last night’s bill was to decide whether or not the smoking ban initiative would be put on the November ballot for the voters to decide. There were also two substitute bills to the original bill which included different exemptions, including casinos, bars, etc. To be honest, I didn’t read or care who was exempted from the ban; the whole thing is garbage.

When Amanda (my fiance) and I got down to the county government center in Clayton, there was a fairly large group of people holding signs that read “Honk if you want a smoke-free STL.” I didn’t see any signs that read “Honk if you respect private property rights.”

Several hundred people were crammed into the council room and about 70 of us got up and spoke before the council. Although a two minute limit for speeches was implemented, numerous people went over. There was a large group of ban supporters who of course demonstrated the health concerns of smoking and breathing second hand smoke, etc. Doctors, nurses, and members of various health groups peppered the lineup. There were several that really pulled at your heart strings about how this would affect their children, and there was a very emotional lung cancer survivor who was literally throwing herself around uncontrollably at the podium. She said she wanted this bill to pass so bad that “she could just pass out”. About half the crowd was rooting for the latter.

On the other side of the debate there were numerous bar owners speaking out against the ban and discussed how it would affect their business and how jobs would be lost. In a way, I think it’s a good strategy because that’s really the only angle that has a chance at convincing these bureaucrats since they don’t want to be the politician at the helm when jobs are lost (and tax revenue is also lost). Lord knows that the principled stance – trying to convince them that it’s just flat out wrong to tell a person what he or she can do on their own property – will never work with them because pandering, not principle, is what gets one re-elected.

I do, however, have a big problem with these restaurant owners that showed up and gave the following remarks:
- I would support a ban if you would remove the exemptions for the casinos.
- I would support a ban if you would make it state-wide because I lose business to the neighboring county where there isn’t a smoking ban.

This isn’t principled at all. This partially makes me wonder why the hell I would take an entire evening to go down and support the position of the restaurant owners when they are solely concerned with their bottom line and lack the principle that only a few of us have.

And there was another group down there that I have little tolerance of: the casino members. There was a large number of people from Harrah’s (including the guys sitting next to me) that, from what I could tell, came down to either (A) oppose the ban, or (B) support a ban with the casino exemption. Actually, I’m quite sure it was for B. What does this make them? It makes them the same type of pigs that huddle around the government trough trying to get the bureaucrats to affect change that is beneficial for them.

One of the ladies who spoke in favor of the ban mentioned that the council should be aware that Harrah’s paid its employees to attend the meeting wearing their Harrah’s shirts. I turned to the guy next to me and asked if this was true and he just shrugged without giving me a real answer. I think I got my answer.

There were also several people who got up and spoke in favor of putting it to the popular vote. They were obviously in favor of the ban but they were disguising their position with the cloak of democracy. And in America, who isn’t going to support the American religion of democracy – the cure for all ailments? What if I tried to introduce a bill that would put the legality of murder on the ballot for public vote? Do you think these same fans of democracy would support me? Democracy is simply two wolves and a sheep voting on who’s going to be dinner.

After all the speeches were given, Councilman O’Mara gave a very candid speech to the council members and the congregation where he stated that he didn’t even know what was in this bill because they were just handed a copy of the finalized revision that day. He admitted that this bill was proposed purely out of political reasons and proposed tabling the vote and sending it to the Health and Justice council so that they could work out some details and find more compromise. Then Chairwoman Erby got a chance to speak where she stated that she supported the ban but was also unsure of what the bill contained. Another councilwoman had to ask the bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Fraser, a question about who was exempted. These elected officials are voting on a measure when even they have no idea what’s in it.

O’Mara’s proposal to table the bill was voted down 4-3. The main bill was then voted on where I believe it was actually voted down 4-3. Councilman Stenger voted no but only so he could vote yes on the Substitute #2 bill which included the casino exemption – this passed 4-3. I saw on the news later that the ward Stenger represents just got a new casino – I guess that answers that question. He has to take care of the ones that take care of him.

In conclusion, the bill passed which means that it will likely be on the November ballot for the public to vote on. I was disappointed for a little while but that quickly subsided because this is what I have come to expect. The people will not be happy until they are completely eating out of the government’s hand and must ask permission to do anything. It would be somewhat comical if it weren’t so tragic and didn’t affect so many people’s lives who want nothing to do with this band of thieves and thugs.

(Here is the article from the STL Post.)

Here is the speech that I gave: (Amanda said that the applause I received was only surpassed by a middle school aged girl who got up and spoke out against the ban. I’ll admit – her speech was amazing. I’ll gladly play second fiddle to her.)

Let me first start by saying
* I am a non-smoker.
* I don’t own a restaurant or bar.
* I have no personal or explicit financial interest in whether or not people are allowed to smoke in bars or restaurants.

* I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t health implications for those who smoke.
* And I’m not going to tell you that there aren’t health implications for those who breathe second hand smoke.
* To me, this has nothing to do with health and everything to do with personal property rights.

* When people come to my house, they have to abide by the rules that I set up. If I say there are no shoes to be worn on my new floors, then check them at the door or leave.

* If a business owner sets up rules in his or her establishment, those rules are to be respected.

* What gives 4 out of 7 people the right to infringe upon the rights of others?

* Martin Niemoller – German pastor during the 30s and 40s said the following:
-First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist.
-Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.
-Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
-Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

Business owners and smokers are the persecuted group today and I am here to speak out for them.


  1. Damn. Well done. Do you have a website for the group that gave you the heads up for the meeting?

    "Democracy is simply two wolves and a sheep voting on who’s going to be dinner."

    I don't know if that is a famous saying or what, but I will be using it.


    I can't take credit for the democracy quote. There are different variations out there but I don't know who said it first.

  3. Thanks for the nomination but I'm sure the State wants me on their side as much as I want to be there. :)