St. Joseph Residents To Vote On Indoor Smoking Ban
Date 2014/1/23 4:51:31 | Topic: News
|Voters will decide on April 8 whether the city should enact an indoor smoking ban.|
The language will be slightly different than what was originally submitted by Smoke-Free St. Joseph. The City Council on Tuesday approved an amended version of the group’s proposal by a vote of 6-3.
“What will go to the voters on April 8 will be the initiative petition, but with the substitution,” said Bruce Woody, city manager.
The proposal bans smoking in all indoor public places, with the exemption of the St. Jo Frontier Casino gambling floor, in 10 percent of hotel rooms, and in private clubs when no employees are present.
Members of Smoke-Free St. Joseph and casino management came to a compromise on the “trigger language” in the casino’s exemption from a ban. It now states that the St. Jo Frontier Casino would only be forced to go smoke-free if all five non-Native American casinos in the region also go smoke-free.
The original ordinance would have forced a ban at the casino if only one of the other gambling facilities — or its municipality — passed an indoor smoking law. Jerry Riffel, attorney for Affinity Gaming, said the original language could have triggered a ban in St. Joseph if Platte City — which doesn’t have a casino in its community — voted to ban smoking on casino gambling floors.
Chris Krabiel, general manager for the casino, thanked the City Council for their support of the change. He added he and his attorney believe the new language has legal standing, where the original did not.
“The compromise language keeps us on a competitive, level playing field with our competitors nearby,” he said.
Not all City Council members agreed with the change. PJ Kovac, Barbara LaBass and Pat Jones all voted “no.”
Mr. Kovac said he believed the council bent backward for the casino’s interests, and did not take into account local business owners. He added that now that the casino is satisfied, it will not use any funds for a campaign — money that would have otherwise helped small bars and restaurants fight against a ban.
“Now they don’t have a problem with it because it will probably never happen,” Mr. Kovac said of the casino ever having to go smoke-free. “ ... I just feel like we’re bending over to blackmail.”
Council member Jeff Penland reiterated that the substance of the original ordinance was not created by city staff or the council, but by the petition committee, which brought forward 2,190 signatures in agreement. He said the new language would not change the intent of the ordinance — the casino was always exempt — but would just change when its exemption would be rescinded.
He also added those opposed to a ban still have a chance to make their voices heard on April 8.
“The decision will still go to the vote of the people,” Mr. Penland said. “Why should we stand in the way of the committee and Affinity Gaming coming to an agreement? If two parties agree, I’d rather submit that to the voters.”
If the voters approve a smoking ban, it would go into effect on June 7.