It’s a municipal election year.
Councillor Mel Stehelin doesn’t seem to care.
And we’re not surprised.
Stehelin has a comparatively narrow focus, fixed, as it is most of the time, on peddling booze to folks in a smoke-filled bar.
Stehelin, who owns the 98 Hotel, built his municipal political career opposing the smoking bylaw.
That said, his stint on council hasn’t been very successful.
The smoking bylaw exists despite Stehelin’s opposition.
It has been in effect for a year, or so.
Amid much handwringing, bar owners predicted a widespread collapse of the local bar industry once the bylaw passed.
Has one bar closed?
Of course some, like Stehelin’s 98, turn a blind eye to smoking.
Walk in there for 10 minutes and you’ll have to strip down, shower and wash every stitch of clothing on your body to rid yourself of the stench of smoke.
This at 11 a.m. in the morning.
Stehelin is a habitual scofflaw.
And this is particularly irksome because Stehelin is also an elected city official.
Normally, city officials uphold the laws passed at their table. But not Stehelin.
He flouts them.
Despite his self-interest, he participates in council debates on the issue.
And he calls the law, which his staffers drafted and his colleagues passed, “overly simplistic.”
“In the case of my premises here, you could have a guy smoking legally in his bedroom, and somebody might smell the smoke and all of a sudden say, ‘Yep there’s smoking in that bar’ — well how can they prove it’s in that bar?”
We hope that bylaw steps up its bar-monitoring efforts.
So far, the bylaw has made the city’s nightlife more inclusive and vibrant.
The city has taken a big step towards improving public health.
And there has been little, if any, effect on the local business owners.
It’s time to crack down on the holdouts, like Stehelin, councillor or not.
Failure to do so raises questions about bylaw’s autonomy from the city’s political arm — yes, putting bylaw in a bad position is just one of the problems of this guy’s actions.
And it just penalizes the bars that are following the law.
The bylaw’s kinks have been worked out. Time to make sure it’s applied to everyone. (RM)