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Government, Politics & Issues

County Council OKs smoking ban exemption for Harrah's

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 5, 2011 - Democrat Barbara Fraser is no longer on the St. Louis County Council, over which she presided in 2010.

But Tuesday night, during its first meeting of 2011, the body passed two bills of keen importance to her: one that she strongly supported and the other that she ardently opposed.

Both had prompted discussion or debate at the council's last meeting in late December.

After reorganizing itself for the year, the seven-member council voted 4-2, with one abstention, to allow Harrah's casino in Maryland Heights to apply for exemptions from the county's new smoking ban, which went into effect over the weekend and applies to most public places.

Fraser had been an outspoken opponent of the proposal.

In line with last month's vote, the four veteran Democrats on the council Oked the exemptions, while the two Republicans opposed it. Fraser's replacement, Democrat Pat Dolan of Richmond Heights, abstained, noting later that he abstained on all final-passage votes Tuesday because the issues had been introduced before he came on the council.

The council handily approved -- 6-0, with Dolan abstaining -- Fraser's final cause: a bill that restricts the outside tethering of pets to eight continuous hours, or nine hours within a 24-hour period. The measure bars tethering when outside temperatures fall to 32 degrees or below, or 90 degrees and above.

Fraser's successor as president is St. Louis County Councilman Steve Stenger, a Democrat from south St. Louis County who was handily elected Tuesday night to a one-year term. Gaining the No. 2 spot was a fellow Democrat, Michael O'Mara of Florissant.

The council also gave first-round approval to a measure that requires commercial and industrial properties where structures are demolished to be restored to their initial condition before the buildings were built.

Prior to the vote, representatives for several business groups spoke out against the bill's wording, saying that it was so strongly worded that some building owners might avoid demolition and allow the structures to remain vacant.

County Executive Charlie Dooley said the county's aim is to avoid new incidents of the abandonment of properties found to be contaminated with harmful materials. Several council members said they were amenable to reaching a compromise in the wording before the final vote, as long as the bill's intent remained the same.

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