In a move that firmly kills the four-month debate surrounding a potential smoking ban exemption for American Legion Goff-Moll Post 101, Mayor Pat Kelly cast a tie-breaking vote against the exemption on Monday night.
Third Ward Alderman Andrew Leahy reintroduced a bill that would have amended a city ordinance to allow smoking in the veterans hall. It was originally rejected by the board in February, but Second Ward Alderman Mike Marshall was absent because of health reasons. An approving vote from Marshall would have given the post the total votes it needed to gain an exemption. That gave Leahy and supporters hope.
But Third Ward Alderman Keith Robertson switched his vote. He initially voted in favor of an exemption during February's meeting but voted against it on Monday, resulting in a 4-4 tie that required Kelly's tie-breaker. The board offered no debate during the meeting before members cast their votes.
First Ward Alderwoman Barb Clements, Fourth Ward Alderwoman Lorraine Krewson and Fourth Ward Alderman Tom Kramer also voted against the exemption. Leahy, Marshall, First Ward Alderman Anthony Harper and Second Ward Alderman Lee Wynn voted in favor of it.
After the meeting, Kelly said he would have vetoed the exemption if it passed the board and he was happy it didn't come to that.
"I'm glad I could cast a vote," Kelly said. "I feel very strongly about it. It's a health issue."
Robertson said he's "very anti-smoking" and he changed his mind because he hadn't considered how many veterans might join the post now that it's smoke-free.
Post leaders have repeatedly requested the city offer an exemption because they expect bar-goers—who pay for 90 percent of the post's revenue—to seek smoking refuge at American Legion Post 103 in Maplewood or Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3500 in Richmond Heights, two nearby veterans halls where smoking is still allowed inside.