Local politics, the county, and the world, as viewed by Tammy Maygra
Tammy’s views are her own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bill Eagle, his pastor, Tammy’s neighbors, Wayne Mayo, Betsy Johnson, Joe Corsiglia, President Trump, Henry Heimuller, VP Pence, Pat Robertson, Debi Corsiglia’s dog, or Claudia Eagle’s Cats. This Tammy’s Take (with the exception of this disclaimer) is not paid for or written by, or even reviewed by anyone but Tammy and she refuses to be bullied by anyone.
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Sugar Tax & Fire Codes
By Tammy Maygra
Rules and Regulations are set in place for a reason. Fire codes are set in place in public places in order to protect the public from the possibility of deaths resulting from fire related causes.
This week I decided to talk about the City of St. Helens failure to abide by the fire code which is posted on the wall in the city council chambers. The council room has an occupancy of 60 persons, which is determined by a formula of measuring the room and dividing by 5. The number of occupancy could be slightly increased if the room was equipped with overhead sprinklers, the room has none.
Wednesday October 4, 2017 I attended a St Helens City Council meeting. The meeting was held before the regular meeting and the issue was regarding the proposed Soda Tax which the city wanted to enact within the boundaries of the city of St. Helens. Since this was such a hot topic in the community the council should have anticipated a large crowd which usually happens when people are upset about an issue and they come out to protest. The city failed to anticipate such a large crowd.
There were over 80 people crowded in the room 15 minutes prior to the start of the public meeting and people were pouring in. I was one of the sardines in the crowd. I saw this was going to be a problem and that we were over the safe number of people for the size of the room. I went up to city councilman Doug Morton and said, Doug do you know that you are well over the safe number of people for this room? That you are violating the fire code for occupancy? I said you need to close this meeting and re-schedule and hold the meeting in a venue which would hold all the people safely. His reply was I am not stopping this meeting and have all these people pissed at me and then he walked off. (Later to say at the regular meeting that he talked about the code issue with the rest of the council and they decided to allow the meeting to continue on)
By then there was over a 100 people crowded in the room sitting, standing, some with huge signs which read no soda tax. There were people who had disability’s some had a hard time walking and there was a person with a walker as well. It was hard to get through the crowd to do testimony. There was people elbow to elbow in the foyer going clear out on the sidewalk, some people trying to get in so they could hear, pushing the crowd, some people who could not get in--- left, so there were even more people attending.
I decided to call the non-emergency dispatch and call in a complaint to have the safety issue taken care of. So I called. While I was waiting for a response… I saw the mayor of St. Helens come into the building, I confronted him about the safety issue and he should call the meeting he said the meeting had already started and he kept on walking. I thought the dispatch would send someone from the fire department since it was a fire code issue which I explained to dispatch.
By then it was my time to testify I made my way through the crowd did my testimony and on the way back I walked by the City of St. Helens Police Chief Moss and said to him do you know that this room is pass the safe occupancy code? He grunted ya, and put his head down and ignored me. So I went on through the crowd and back to the foyer. Then 2 St. Helens police officers came into the room and were looking around. Someone said you came for the riot and laughed the policeman was very nice and laughed and said no I had a complaint called in. I said I called the complaint it and what was he going to do about it if he was going to shut the meeting down? I informed him I had talked to the policeman at the table and complained, he said yes that was his boss and I said I don’t care, the meeting should be called for safety reasons he said he had to take orders from his boss and nothing was done.
They stayed until the meeting was over and the people had left and the policeman and the Chief talked and that was it. I stayed for the regular scheduled meeting so I could address the issue to the entire council, which I did, I told the council that they exceeded the occupancy limit for the room and it was a fire code violation. That they expected their constituents to abide by their rules and regulations and that the city should too. That the council should set an example and they had failed miserably.
Some people will think this was a petty complaint but there is a reason why we have safety codes, it is to save lives. If there would have been an emergency in that room which needed to be cleared it could have possibility caused injury’s or even a death. No one is above the law including the government.
I called the state fire marshal the next morning, in turn they contacted the Fire Chief of the CRFR, Chief Greisen, who in turn contacted me, and we talked and he said they were going down to measure the room as there was a complaint I said there was a brass looking plaque on the wall stating 60 occupancy and it had been there for years.(no sprinklers) The Chief is taking care of the issue and no doubt the city will get notice and hopefully the Police Chief as well. They all knew it was wrong and failed to do their job so I did it for them. I hope they get a fine just like anyone else would.
The public’s outrage toward the city’s proposal had been a widely discussed topic throughout the community and the polls and the word on the street was that the public did not want the tax and the business owners felt the same. The tax would have raised the price of soda approximately $1.50 per two liters. Hurting the small businesses, grocery stores within the city would have been hit with low sales of pop and loss of sales because people would travel outside the city to buy their groceries so they would not have to pay the tax on soda.
Other people attended the meeting to protest the city trying to tell them what they could drink and what they could not drink, the prospect of a back-door tax. People felt it was a sneaky way to collect more tax revenue to pad the city’s coffers. People were not happy with the city and they had every right to feel that way. So well over a hundred people showed up to protest the proposal, some people spoke, some people held signs and some people just clapped in support of those who spoke against the tax.
The Public Health people showed up to give information to the council and public about how bad soda was for people. They talked about heart disease, obesity, and how soda ruins your teeth. This information was all good and well but people know that too much soda is not good for you, but the presentation was appreciated by some and some not so much.
After the pro’s spoke, the neutral’s and the cons spoke the council thanked the public for attending the meeting, people left and then the council voted down their own soda tax proposal.
All in all it will be interesting to see how the council deals with over crowed meetings in the future. They were worried about your health because of sugary drinks but cared less about your life because of fire safety. I guess the council was more concerned if the public was going to be mad at them.