While Bill Hannegan definitely qualifies as a gadfly, a person who repeatedly and persistently annoys others, it's people like Bill who consistently fight for individual and personal rights, freedoms and choices that are slowly disappearing from the American landscape because many, and sometimes just a few, think that there should be laws, penalties, and fines for everything not in line with their side of the human equation. Congratulations, BILL
Best Gadfly - 2009
Few local issues have raised a stink as big as the looming bans that would prohibit lighting up in public places such as restaurants and bars. While national trends suggest that most major cities will go smoke-free in the next decade, cadres of smokers refuse to let their liberty get stubbed out. Believing that smoking in public is a basic civil right on par with freedom of speech, Bill Hannegan has appointed himself spokesman for the persecuted smoker. A self-described casual smoker, Hannegan started Keep St. Louis Free several years back and has been vociferously opposing public smoking bans ever since. He's managed to wrangle all kinds of press for his group and has kept his main rivals at Smoke-Free St. Louis City on their toes. While Hannegan is fighting for the rights of smokers in public spaces, he wages most of his battles online: You can find Hannegan's comments on most local news websites any time the smoking bans are mentioned. You might not agree with him, but you can't dismiss his persistence.
Thanks for that RFT! I do though see myself primarily as fighting for the property rights of St. Louis bars and restaurants. I got my start as a property rights advocate opposing Fr. Biondi's taking of the Grateful Dead mecca 20 North by eminent domain long before any one started talking about banning smoking in bars. But I am glad at the same time to stand up for smokers too.
The RFT and the rest of the St. Louis press has covered the smoking ban issue better than it has been covered anywhere in the world. If a smoking ban passes in St. Louis City or County, you won't find me blaming the press.