Wet or dry…time to decide.

...the information.

…the information that was left on my porch this weekend.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that West Liberty will be holding an election this Tuesday, January 22 to decide on the sale of alcohol within city limits.  I had thought that maybe I’d not write anything about it.  I know where I stand…I know where others stand…and I know that probably no matter what anyone says at this point, minds and votes are already decided.

Then I started thinking that if I ever want this site to grow and become a reliable source for news and information in this county, maybe I should chime in on what is turning out to be a story that could be one of the biggest this year and could possibly shape the face of our city and county for years to come.  I started writing and ended up with some big long page about where I stand and why, but after looking at it again, I think I’m going to keep this simple with a few talking points that I think highlight this issue and this election (fair warning: I ended up rambling on again!).  So here goes.

  •  People who want to drink are going to drink, whether they buy it here or somewhere else, that much we know.  There’s probably a few folks reading this right now with a beer or glass of wine sitting beside them. To assume that more people will start drinking if the town goes wet makes no sense, and keeping the city dry will not somehow cure those who already have a drinking problem.
  • As it stands now, really the only people in this county who do not have easy access to alcohol are the people who live in town!  Think about it…you can get alcohol just across the line in what is basically Maytown…Hazel Green…Salyersville…Morehead… Paintsville…Helechewa…if you live in pretty much any direction outside the city of West Liberty, you are closer to alcohol sales now than anyone IN the city itself, and you are potentially closer to it than you would be if the city went wet.  I know there has been a fair amount of opposition to the city going wet coming from outside the city.  I wonder if those folks have considered that?
  • The Judge’s column in this week’s paper pointed out that alcohol sales in neighboring counties has not really been a benefit to those areas economically, but that’s not exactly true. In particular, Buffalo Wild Wings wanted assurances in Morehead that they would allow liquor sales by the drink (not just beer or wine), as well as Sunday alcohol sales, before deciding to open there.  Without them opening, it is doubtful the movie cinema beside them would have opened.  And it is in no small part thanks to BW’s that the city was able to make a convincing case to the Cracker Barrel folks that a store could thrive in Morehead, despite the city having a lower population than the company typically prefers before they open one.
  • There were also a few statements in the paper that seemed to indicate that due to alcohol sales, surrounding areas have had to hire on more law enforcement to deal with the troubles it causes.  I would say that the need for more law enforcement in those areas has been more related to the growth of those cities, not due to the sale of alcohol.  Mt. Sterling, Paintsville, Morehead…they have all continued to expand with new businesses over the past decade or so.  Some of those items include Mt. Sterling opening a brand new hospital, and Morehead adding a super Wal-Mart and filling several vacant business spaces both in town and at the old Trademore and Pinecrest shopping centers.  Those things are signs of growth.  And while alcohol sales may not have had anything to do with it, growth brings the need for expanded services, which would necessarily include law enforcement.
  • Also, all these folks opposed to the city going wet…I sure hope they aren’t eating or frequenting any establishments that sell alcohol now.  That just wouldn’t make sense, would it??

All that being said, I don’t expect there to be a huge economic gain right away if the city goes wet, but I do think it could help.  Here are some figures that are interesting:

  • Ashland alone generates over $450,000 for their general fund due to a 3.5% tax on alcohol sales.
  • Morehead’s revenue tax of 3% on liquor sales generates $125,000 per year plus $14,000 in permit license fee revenue all of which goes into the general fund and help the police force.
  • Over $200,000 is generated each year in Madisonville through this tax which provides equipment and additional funding for the police force and firemen

Those numbers are from an older article (found here), so the revenue numbers have almost certainly increased since then.

That article also points out that in many cases, businesses and industry will decide to bypass a city or county that is dry in favor of one that is wet, and it gives specific examples.  In particular it cites a developer wanting to build a cinema complex in Western Kentucky but ruling out any dry counties as potential locations.  The reason wasn’t that they themselves wanted to sell alcohol, but the availability of it is a draw for people who want to go out and make an evening of having a nice dinner and drinks and seeing a show after.

Again, I won’t pretend to think that West Liberty is getting a BW’s or a an Applebee’s or a Kia factory just because we go wet, but I would make an argument that by at least having the option to sell alcohol, it makes the community more desirable to business interests, even if folks here argue that it tarnishes our image.  I would suspect that by going wet, we’d have a Mexican restaurant open in town by the end of the year.  That would be a signal that outside businesses are willing to invest in our future and believe in our growth.

As for the image and appeal of our town, I can see how some may think that the appearance of beer signs and neon in the windows of stores and restaurants may not be all that appealing.  I think that West Liberty has a certain charm to it, and I don’t want to lose that…but is it any more dangerous to put up beer posters than it is to advertise 10 candy bars for a dollar or cheap McRibs and $5 pizzas?  Or what about cigarettes, which kill far more people each year than alcohol?  Where are the door signs and newspaper ads about how many lives and families obesity or tobacco has destroyed?  Take a look at this graphic, which can be found here:

Alcohol destroys FAR fewer lives than obesity and tobacco, yet we can all easily grab a pack smokes, a pop, a cheeseburger, and a pop tart.  Granted, you are not likely to see any sort of tragic accidents result from doing any of those things, but long term, the effects are far worse.  So where are the yard signs speaking out against the damaging effects of cigarettes, or the parades through town calling out the evils of sugary sodas and Big Macs?

Listen, I can respect why some folks would prefer to not see alcohol sales in the city, and I’m trying to avoid being snide about this.  Alcohol does have a stigma attached, and I know that many people have had bad personal experiences with it and would just prefer it not be sold here.  But I have also read stories from places where a city or county voted to go wet, and when they interview folks later on who were opposed to it before the election, many of those same people have reversed course and admit that it isn’t all that bad, and in fact, may be even better.

So opposing views are fine…they are natural.  What is NOT OK are the scare tactics that some folks have resorted to in order to try and sway votes against going wet.  I drive home from Morehead every day, and I don’t encounter any drunks or hungry children laying in the streets.  I’m through Campton and Mt. Sterling fairly frequently and have yet to notice any there, either.  I also think it is wrong to try and use the tornadoes as a tool to sway opinion…to suggest that they have brought us all so close together and SHAME on any of us that even consider voting for alcohol sales at a time like this is just plain dirty.  I agree, the storms brought this county closer together in some ways, but it has brought about quite a bit of division, as well, due to some of the questionable decisions that have been (and continue to be) made, regarding a wide variety of things, financial and otherwise, that will affect the future of this city and county.

I don’t know if approving alcohol sales in West Liberty will be its savior, but I’m certain it won’t be its downfall.  It will open a door to new revenue and likely lead to several new businesses opening here in a short amount of time (and I’m sure we will all come back here and discuss smelly politics again after we see who gets the green light to open the one package store we’ll be allowed).  We were a close, charming town and county before the tornadoes hit, and we’ll continue to be a close and charming town and county, regardless of the outcome of this election.  No doubt the storms brought us closer together, but you know what else might bring us closer??  Sharing a big margarita at the Mexican restaurant we’ll no doubt get once the town goes wet.  First round is on me.

  • Melissa Cheek

    I agree with everything you wrote!!!!

  • Jamie Brunk

    Your article is well written, and thoughtful in its presentation.  Thank you for that.  I stand on the opposite side  –  I am in favor of maintaining West Liberty as a dry city.  I confess that I am a newcomer to Morgan County, arriving here in June, 2012, as the new pastor of the West Liberty United Methodist Church.  I am so very grateful for the gracious way that my wife and I have been received by our congregation and by the people of WL and MC in general.  Here is some of my thinking on this matter….

    A number of the points of your article are speculations on what might happen here in WL should the local option issue pass.  We MIGHT get new (read: better) restaurants.  We MIGHT attract new industry.  We MIGHT bring more income to our city coffers via city taxes on alcohol.  We MIGHT be more prosperous.  But to dangle those carrots is not really fair  –  they are at best generous speculations (even the Mexican restaurant …!)  We have no assurances.

    As a pastor, I have had many situations over the years where I have seen the destructive effect of alcohol on the lives of individuals, families and communities.  Time and space do not permit me the opportunity to present my anecdotal evidence to this effect.   But I hope that you will grant me this much:  I have seen my fair share of lives taken by accidents caused by DUI … lives gone to waste by addiction to alcohol … violence of all sorts escalated by the presence of alcohol … domestic violence of the ugliest sort … etc.  You might say that I am only speaking of the abuse of alcohol.  Not necessarily.  It doesn’t take much in the blood stream for things to potentially get out of hand.  And it is much more difficult to pick up the pieces than to help prevent it in the first place.

    Your statements to the effect that a greater need for law enforcement in surrounding areas that have gone wet was more likely to be due to the growth in those cities … again, speculation at best.  Keen Johnson, retired Commonwealth Attorney and retired District Judge from Mt. Sterling would disagree with you strongly.  He referred to it only briefly in his Letter to the Editor in this past week’s Courier, but spoke more forcefully in a public setting here in WL recently.

    I have always been consistently amazed and troubled when I hear the stories of teen-age parties that depend on the presence of alcohol (and other drugs) for kids to truly “party.”  Don’t kid yourselves  –  we often say that drugs are the real and present danger for our kids  –  please be aware that alcohol is as popular as it always has been.
    I would raise the concern of availabilty and accessability.  Anytime alcohol is made more readily available and accessible, the danger level for its potential abuse rises.  Yes, I know that folks can make the run to Wolfe County or other nearby outlets readily, but why make it more accessable, especially to our kids.  Wait a second, you might say, our local outlets would never sell to underage patrons!  I would hope that to be the case –  I trust that it would be the case.  However, one places one’s head in the proverbial sand to think that a 22-year-old would not be willing to walk into a store here in WL to purchase whatever might be necessary for that underage teen drinking party.  Ahhhh, now YOU are speculating, Jamie!  Yep, but I think it to be realistic speculation from my years of youth ministry and coaching, unfortunately.

    And yes, I am very well aware of the damaging effects of tobacco in all its forms, and obesity (what the King James Version might refer to as “gluttony”)  –  I have strong feelings there as well.  But that is an argument for another time and place.  We are talking about alcohol here.  The unique dangers of alcohol are well known and easily understood, from a practical as well as Biblical standpoint.

    Well, it was not my intent to “preach”  –  hope it doesn’t come across that way, but simply to share from my heart some of how I feel about the issue.  Thank you again, so very much, for this forum.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers for the “dry” side of things  –  there are far more intelligent people out there who can voice that viewpoint with facts and figures and quotations than I can.  I have simply shared my own heart and experience and concern, as others have done.  God bless you with His love and grace.

    <  Jamie Brunk, West Liberty United Methodist Church pastor

  • Guest

    Very well said.  While there are always pros and cons to everything, in my opinion, going wet in Morgan County will have more pros than cons.  I hope it goes wet so that this little town can flourish, especially after the devastation we have endured.  My vote is Yes, go wet.  Too bad I live outside the city limits.  VOTE WET PEOPLE!

  • Dtvance

    i agree and i think it would cut down on drunk drivers theres alot of people go on beer runs while there drinking and that isnt good so maybe being able to get it alittle closer might cut down on it because no matter what they will get it if they want it and if theres a small chance of someone sending a friend to town that wouldnt normally go out of town that would be one less drunk driver on the road

  • Denise

    Staying dry just makes West Liberty look small-minded and backward.  Heaven knows we need all the help we can get to fight that image.  Well-written David.

  • Tmwtohe

    It is not just about the alcohol sales, it is about tax revenue and bringing businesses to West Liberty. If I want to see a movie or eat at a good restaurant, I have to travel to Morehead or other places to do that. Like many others, I spend my money at the restaurant, tip the waiter, maybe go see a movie, run by Walmart, Kroger, and Lowes, or do a little clothes shopping. All in all, spend about $200.00+ of my money in another county. That is money that I may have spent in West Liberty, some of which was tax revenue. Not a bit of it was spent on alcohol. The sale of alcohol brings in businesses, that brings in jobs, ergo, tax revenue. Tax revenue that can be used to bring our state and county workers, such as teachers, police, and others, a wage comparable to that of the surrounding counties. Which in turn would probably benefit Morgan county, because then their extra pay, might just be spent in the county, creating more revenue. It doesn’t have to be on alcohol at all!

  • Shawn Cantrell

    Vote yes for progress,vote no stay in the hole
    We need every penny we can get!!

  • Dvance1127

    Very well said.I dont drink but anyone should see that Wet is the only option for growth

  • Kelly

    So the only way a town to grow is if it has alcohol.  Maybe there is a problem developing in this nation that thinks it can only grow through the growth of sin.  The same rational is used to legalize prostitution, gambling, the lottery, drug use, etc.  After all hasn’t all those supposed dollars brought in from the lottery done wonders for our educational systems across the country?  Wake up America!   I would rather be the backward whatever someone mentioned in one comment than be part of the forward downward spiral this nation is going.  It is not all about money folks!!!

  • http://morganminute.com adminDave

    By no means do I, or does anyone else, as far as I can tell, think that the ONLY way for a town to grow is by allowing alcohol sales…but…alcohol, as opposed to prostitution or drugs, is already legal…it just so happens that we don’t allow it to be sold in our city or county.  And it does not make you backward to oppose it…everyone is entitled to an opinion, and it is rare that we can all agree on everything.

  • Let Their Be Light…

    The sale or consumption of Alcoholic Beverages in no way violates any King James Version Bible that I have ever read and would be considered “SIN”… I am assuming that ALL Christians that know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour “DO REALIZE” that he left this world WITHOUT “SIN”,,,, drank wine and broke bread at the last supper. To think that consuming or selling acoholic beverages would be an act of SIN is ridiculous when compared to the 1st recorded miracle of Jesus Christ was turning water into wine and “It was for consumption”… Please don’t take this the wrong way but it is not the act of consuming or sellin that should be our concern as citizens of MC or WL, but it should be the EDUCATION of the effects alcohol itself. Responsibility starts at home with ourselves and our children. Religion should be for the masses and NOT just a few sheep hand picked by the shepherd. GOD BLESS those willing to take a stand for their GOD given right to purchase alcohol that was paid for by our saviour and SHAME on those who push religion to the forefront for personal gain. Ask yourself this. “If your Saviour could drink wine RESPONSIBILY” can’t you? If you answered NO then VOTE “NO” but if you think that you can,  VOTE “YES” and educate others about being responsible with its consumption. Salvation comes from within and if its good enough for my SAVIOUR it’s good enough for me… God Bless You All……….

  • LL

    If you study the Bible I have two years of Bible school.  Wine is considered grape juice or femented grapes which is wine.  The Bible clearly talks about drunkedness and harmful things to your body.  So I believe if you are drinking achool in order to get a buzz or drunk its wrong.

  • Sue_thurston

    I agree completely!!! We need to grow,I am getting tired of driving to Morehead to get everything.If we grow we could be looking at a Walmart!If they are gonna drink, just like gambling they are gonna go spend their money where they can get it!!

  • http://morganminute.com adminDave

    Jamie, thank you for the comments, and I appreciate you adding your thoughts on the issue.  I do agree that alcohol, when abused, can be an ugly thing, but I guess my thinking is that  in all likelihood, introducing alcohol sales to our city will not contribute to a rise in alcohol related problems.  It truly is already easily accessible for most people in the county, either because they live close to an area that is wet or they commute to work in an area that allows alcohol sales.  I think that education about the dangers of alcohol abuse is always needed, as it is for so many other items that people abuse.

    I also know that many folks who are opposed to our city going wet seem to have no issue with visiting establishments in other towns that sell alcohol, so I’m not sure what the real issue actually is for some folks…that they don’t want alcohol to be sold at all, or that they just don’t want it sold in our town?

    Again, I appreciate you contributing your views on this issue.  While not all of us agree, on this issue and I’m sure others, I do think it is good that we find ways to talk about these types of topics in a calm and reasonable manner.  And I’m sure that however this election turns out, we’ll all still be good neighbors and citizens of this town and county.

  • Skootin skimmer

    If we are worried about DUI and our youth being under the influence, let’s get rid of the pharmacies while we’re at it. Pills anymore are just as accessible as alcohol. The point is its not the drug itself it’s the people abusing it. Fix the problem with stronger penalties. Tell me my first DUI is 5 Years in jail, you can bet I will less likely to do it. Like I have always heard when it’s your time, god is the only one who knows when and how this is. So according to that belief wet or dry the life taken was part of his plan. Respect to those who don’t want it and great opinions on both sides. Let’s readers choose where they stand. Last thing lets not look down on those who voted either way

  • Hopeful Mother

    I hope that the people that have fought this vote so very passionately, will stand up with their signs and show opposition to the KNOWN drug dealers in this area.  Unfortunately, I doubt we will see that happen.

  • Let There Be Light 2…

    I agree LL that to partake of strong drink as the BIBLE states is to be avoided but fermented grapes has the alcohol consistency of todays fermented grapes. If wine was grapejuice then noone would have known what it is to be drunk. Don’t be closed minded to think that grape juice wasn’t wine and couldn’t get you drunk. The Bible says to not be a drunkard but does not prohibit the consumption of wine. The wine was so strong in the times of our Saviour that it was used as an antiseptic to kill germs. I wholeheartedly agree that to drink solely for the purpose to get drunk is wrong. Thank you for your comments. 

  • Tobacco Free Petition

    I feel a new petition coming soon to be put up to the voters as well. It’s the “Tobacco Free Community Petition”… Since tobacco is the #1 cause of death I think it would be only fitting that we as a community draw up the petition to BAN the Sale of Tobacco products within the city limits. I ask the Morgan Ministerial Community to take this request and sprearhead it to a vote, OR is it not as important as the petition for the sale of alcohol which was voted down today. Let’s hit the major issues that kill the most people and put it to the test. I wonder how much chaos that will create in the community since it seems we are PAID FOR from the tobacco money and tax revenue that the State and Local Governments get from the sale of the BIG KILLER. Is it not right to go after ALL the issues that are really the most important or is it that we pick and choose which we want to be acceptable because of the lust for money. The sale of alcohol, cigarettes, and guns are all legal as long as you meet the requirements for the purchase, but when tragedy or self preservation are in the PUBLIC EYE it becomes an issue thats needs put to a vote. Alcohol and guns can be purchased and used without harm committed to anyone but cigarettes always harms the one who uses it. Seems to me that we need to hit the real problems and let’s start at the top.