December 13, 2005
This vote today falls within our responsibilities as a County Board and
public health agency to responsibly manage important social change. My
vote today is about how we deal with the effects of our policy decisions.
We need a statewide ban, and we need it as soon as possible. Currently
three million Minnesotans live in jurisdictions in which patrons and
employees are not protected from second-hand smoke, not only in bars, but
in restaurants where children are welcome and appropriate.
Let there be no confusion about my position. I voted for the full ban a
year ago, based on my firm belief that not only is smoking harmful but that
second-hand smoke is also harmful to our health. I question neither the
science nor the public health need to take action.
I voted for the full ban in hopes that we could, in short order, achieve a
full ban throughout the state of Minnesota. That did not happen. In fact,
at this moment, outside of Hennepin County the only place in Minnesota with
a mandatory, full ban, i.e., all bars and restaurants, at this time is
Moose Lake, population 2,239. Even a ban similar to that in place in
Olmsted and Ramsey Counties did not get a favorable committee vote with a
recommendation to pass from any committee in the Minnesota House.
The reality is that the statewide, all-out ban proposal is dead in the
water for now. We are not moving ahead and will not if we follow the
current strategy. I believe that a phased approach will get us there
quicker statewide, i.e., get us more public health faster, than pursuit of
an immediate, full, statewide ban. We have a responsibility to pursue a
realistic plan to achieve a statewide ban. This is a matter of strategy,
and, as such, is subject to disagreement without charges of abandonment of
As local officials charged with managing public health efforts, we have a
responsibility to manage that process in best interest of our residents.
We have a responsibility for their health. And we have a responsibility
not to treat businesses and employees as cannon fodder in this process of
I would point out that the doctors who regularly attacked the notion of
connecting economics and health on this issue are represented by an
association that has sought to eliminate the health care provider tax at a
time when thousands of Minnesotans are uninsured. There is no greater
public health problem facing us than the lack of preventive care that comes
when less than our entire population is insured. Surely the assault on the
provider tax represents a linking of economics and health. And surely,
that linkage is considerably more harmful than that associated with this
19-month hold for fewer than 100 establishments in Hennepin County.
One of the things that frustrates and disappoints the general public when
it comes to politics is how groups with political power treat those without
power. We must find a way to work with the concerns of minority views.
That is what I strongly believe. It is how I have and will act.
This change represents responsible management and provides modest,
temporary relief in several ways:
· It provides protection for private clubs and true bars only, thus
maintaining the total ban for all restaurants and literally hundreds of
· It does not create the loophole provided by both the Ramsey an Olmsted
ordinances for enclosed bars within bar-restaurants;
· It is temporary, providing exemptions for approximately 19 months,
during which time the legislature can and should act on a statewide ban, a
ban which Hennepin County has and should continue to support.
· With my amendment, no exemptions are provided for new bars.
Brian Shekleton, Principal Aide
Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin
A-2400 Government Center
Minneapolis, MN 55487-0240
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