Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Monitor In A Minute

Posted on 06 November 2017 by Calvin


Menthol ban is approved
Menthol, mint and wintergreen tobacco products would disappear from St. Paul grocery and convenience store and gas station shelves by Nov. 1, 2018. On Oct. 25, the St. Paul City Council made amendments to a much-debated tobacco product sales ordinance.

The ordinance was the topic of two well-attended public hearings this fall, with supporters and opponents packing the council chambers. The council heard emotional testimony from retailers saying that a ban would cut deeply into their profits. Some set their keys on the council chambers, saying they could be forced to close.

Advocates of the ban also gave heartfelt testimony, with some holding pictures of loved ones who’d died due to cancer and other diseases linked to tobacco use.

The vote was laid over to allow discussions between retailers and those who wish to limit tobacco access to underage users and people of color. Those talks will continue. One focus is to see how the lost sales could be replaced with other products.

The council agreed to allow the products to be sold for one more year. That allows businesses to use up inventory and to fulfill existing contracts with suppliers. The ban would take effect Nov. 1, 2018.

While there was unanimous council support for that measure, council members split on the idea of allowing sales of the products in liquor stores. The vote was 4-3.

Ward five Council Member Amy Brendmoen has led the charge for changes to the ordinance. She agrees with the goal of reducing youth tobacco access but has concerns about business impacts and access. She’s also concerned that affected stores didn’t get the same level of discussion and process other businesses did.

One of her concerns is that more tobacco stores will open in response to the ban. Allowing sales in liquor stores is one way to mitigate that.

“Kids do hang out at corner stores,” she said. That doesn’t happen at liquor stores.

Ward One Council Member Dai Thao was one of the votes against the ban. “I have nine liquor stores in my ward.” He questioned how that would restrict access.

The tobacco store issue is a concern for several council members. They may look at restricting licenses citywide at a later date. That could be done through a distance separation requirement, as is done with liquor stores.

Hall faces more restrictions
The Eritrean Community Center of Minnesota, 1935 University Ave. W., faces more restrictions on its dance/rental hall license. The St. Paul City Council voted Oct. 18 to impose the conditions.

The need for additional regulation stemmed from incidents on two dates in July when police went to the hall. Police saw alcohol being sold, and sales taking place after 2am during dance events. The sale of alcohol without a temporary on-sale liquor license and the fact that dances were going on after midnight are violations of the hall license.

The council fined the Eritrean Community Center $500 and placed additional conditions on its license. One condition stipulates that there shall be no liquor sales or service unless a legally registered nonprofit conducting a bona fide fundraiser has obtained a temporary liquor license. Under this condition, any event entry fee or donation collected when alcohol is being served or consumed is considered a sale of alcohol, and a sale will be deemed a violation of this new license condition.

The rental and dance hall also cannot operate between the hours of midnight and 6am. No alcohol shall be sold or served to underage persons.

Parks project funded
Several area parks and a planned downtown river balcony project are the beneficiaries of federal, state and regional grants accepted Oct. 18 by the St. Paul City Council. Most of the projects will take place over the 2018-2019 time frame. Council President Russ Stark said it is unusual for the city to be getting so many grants at once for its Department of Parks and Recreation. More than $6 million was received for parks and trails projects all over the city.

Among the funding allocations, a $1.713 million allocation from state, federal and regional sources was also accepted. These funds will be used for various environmental services and arts and gardening projects, as well as the Como Shuttle bus and Como Zoo and Conservatory.

Funding was also accepted to develop sepak takraw or kato courts at two parks, including Marydale Park near Dale and Maryland. A $100,000 grant from Ramsey County will assist with this project. Sepak takraw is a sport popular in the Hmong community.