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St. Louis County Council Approves Arch Tax For April Ballot, Will Consider Changes To Smoking Ban

UPI | Bill Greenblatt
The Admiral riverboat is helped down the Mississippi River by the tugboat Michael Luhr past the Gateway Arch in St. Louis on July 19, 2011.

On Tuesday night the St. Louis County Council gave final approval to put a sales tax initiative on the April ballot that would fund improvements to the Arch grounds, trails and local parks.

About 60 percent of the 3/16-of-a-cent so called “Arch Tax” would go toward sprucing up the Arch grounds and regional trails, the rest would pay for improvements to local parks.

Councilman Mike O’Mara sponsored the measure and says he’s ready to campaign on its behalf.

“We will get some regional money back here for our parks system,” O’Mara says. “Which I think will be beneficial for St. Louis County and St. Louis County taxpayers.”

In order to reach the full level of funding, the sales tax has to be approved by St. Louis County and either St. Louis City or St. Charles County voters.

After hours of debate, last week the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen voted to put the sales tax up for voters’ approval.

The fate of the measure in St. Charles County, however, remains uncertain.  County Council members there have expressed concern over the cost it will take to put the initiative on the April ballot.   

Reconsidered Smoking Ban

The St. Louis County Council is also set to reconsider exemptions to the county’s smoking ban.

The council took up a bill that’s intended to close loopholes in the county’s smoking ban, which went into effect in 2011.

Councilman Mike O’Mara introduced the proposed changes and says he wants to sit down with business owners to determine the best way to put in place any further restrictions.

“My main goal is to get this back to a fair playing field for the business that have been hurt by this ordinance,” O’Mara says.  “Because the people have spoken and they do want a county wide smoking bill.”

Marty Ginsburg runs the Sports Page in Chesterfield and says his bar and grill has lost customers because some of his competitors have found loopholes in the current ban.

He says he welcomes the attempt to clarify the ordinance.  

“You know, the economy and business is tough enough as it is, and every little bit hurts,” Ginsburg says.  “So, hopefully we can get this thing on track the way it should be and everybody will be equal.”

O’Mara says the bill is not intended to keep people from lighting up in private clubs.

But it would remove the current exemption for casinos.   

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