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City aldermen approve smoking ban, conditional on county action

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 23, 2009 -  After more than three hours of debate, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted 20-7 today to approve a ban on smoking in most public places.

The ban goes into effect only if St. Louis County voters approve their proposed smoking ban, which is on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The bill will get a final pro-forma reading next week and then go to Mayor Francis Slay, who has made clear he'll sign it.

Aldermanic opponents had sought to stall today's final vote by offering a series of amendments aimed at either watering down the ban, or making the final version less palatable to some supporters.

The power of the internet was also on display, with Twitter filled with Tweets posted rapidly by both sides and their allies during the height of the debate.

To appease the hunger pf aldermen in both camps, 15 pizzas were brought in during Hour Three.

In a move to appease some opponents, supporters -- led by the bill's chief sponsor, Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, D-28th Ward -- did OK some changes.

The final version of the city measure gives a five-year exemption to bars that don't serve food, are under 2,000 square feet and that don't admit people under 21.

Casinos can allow smoking on their floors, but not in their restaurants or bars.

The opposition had been led by Aldermen Kenneth Ortmann, D-9th Ward and a tavern owner, and Stephen Gregali, D-14th Ward. Both had argued that the ban would drive out family-owned businesses at a time when the city is struggling to maintain businesses and jobs.

Krewson and her allies -- including Aldermen Freeman Bosley Sr., D-3rd Ward, and Marlene Davis, D-19th Ward -- said the issue was health, especially for non-smokers who seek to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

Several aldermen predicted that, within five years, there will be a statewide ban on smoking in most public places.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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