The new mayor of St. Paul campaigned in part on his support of tough new bans on smoking in public places, especially bars and restaurants, beating the more moderate Randy Kelly in his bid for re-election. However, it appears that Mayor Chris Coleman has one standard for the residents of St. Paul and another for himself, as local columnist Joe Soucheray reported today:
The new mayor, Chris Coleman, who couldn’t wait to sign legislation that prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants, was puffing away on a big cigar the other night at Stogies on Grand. A guy I know was in there. He told me that Coleman was chomping on a cigar along with former police chief Bill Finney.
They have a back room at Stogies with a big flat-screen TV. It is a popular place to smoke a cigar, and usually they have sports on the TV or maybe the stock ticker running so that the guys back there can pretend to follow their investments. It is almost as Republican an activity as quail hunting, smoking a cigar and following the stock ticker. …
Coleman had a pretty thin platform. A lot of guys are probably shaking their heads that they didn’t run against Randy Kelly, who was defeated because he hugged George W. Bush. Maybe that’s what Finney and Coleman were talking about, Finney telling Coleman, “Why, I could have kicked your …”
Coleman rode in on a big anti-tobacco white horse and made a bold promise of how he shared Thune’s belief that it was up to politicians to safeguard the health of citizens.
Now, I realize that the mayor has every right in the world to enjoy a fine cigar. And a cigar store is not exactly a bar or restaurant. But you would think, just for the sake of appearances, politics being all about appearances these days, that he might have let the ink dry on his legislation to put bars and restaurants out of business before he lit one up.
One might expect the new mayor to set a better example. The new law did not forbid cigar clubs from allowing patrons to light up, but the campaign to ban it almost everywhere else made it clear that the St. Paul power structure considered tobacco an evil to be opposed. They heralded the ban as an important step in safeguarding the health of citizens in the marketplace. Coleman enthusiastically supported this effort to remove choice from the patrons of restaurants and bars and to impose the role of nanny on the owners of these establishments.
When one makes an argument that second-hand smoke is so dangerous that even separate facilities in businesses aren’t enough to safeguard the health of St. Paul citizens, those politicians should not be lighting up anywhere outside their own home. Coleman refused to respond to Soucheray’s questions on Friday. Perhaps business owners will be asking more questions on Monday — at least those whose businesses didn’t die as a result of the ban.