We reported last week that a petition has been circulating around Estill County asking for signatures to ensure a vote to either legalize alcohol sales in the county or for the county to remain dry. Since the article (see “Petition circulating requests vote to legalize alcohol sales in county,” front page, Aug. 2) ran, I have talked with different people in the community about what it might mean if alcohol sales were legalized.
I find that most people seem unconcerned with the petition because of past attempts that failed. I’m told a similar petition circulated several years ago.
I started doing research and found some back issues of the Citizen Voice & Times that detailed the previous wet/dry vote in the county.
In 2009, a local resident, Josh Rison, started the petition that he placed in 10 businesses around the county. He had six months to gather 1,375 signatures but fell about 440 signatures short of his goal.
The first story involving the petition was printed in July 2009. Former CV&T Staff Writer Don White wrote, “It’s been nearly half a century since local residents had an opportunity to vote in a wet/dry election.” I learned the last wet/dry vote in the county had been in 1960.
Now, Estill County is in a similar situation.
The current petition has been circulating for nearly a month and the last report was that the group of citizens, headed by Jacob Estes, had more than 400 of the required 654 signatures.
I must say I am glad that such a petition is circulating and I am even more glad to see the group nearing success with the petition.
We won’t know for at least another month or two if the ballot will happen but I strongly encourage the people of Estill County to sign the petition.
I’m not saying this because I think we should elect to allow alcohol sales in the county, because, to be honest, I haven’t completely decided just yet.
The thing that everyone needs to remember is that by putting your name on the petition you are not saying “yes” to alcohol sales in the county. You are saying “yes” to a vote.
You are forcing the county government to let your voice be heard.
It’s been more than 50 years since Estill County citizens have been given the chance to vote on this subject. I feel safe saying Estill County in 2012 is very different than Estill County in 1962.
Since the end of prohibition in 1933, Kentucky has been legally wet by default. However, individual cities are allowed to pass legislation to deem themselves dry again.
I encourage my readers to exercise your rights as a citizen and make the decision for yourself whether it’s time for the county to move in that direction.
I understand there are several reasons to not allow alcohol sales in the county. But I also know there is statistical evidence that alcohol sales don’t hurt counties as much as many citizens would think.
The most frequently used argument to drive counties into a dry status is the desire to limit or avoid the number of alcohol related incidents, including DUIs, in the county. Many groups and individuals argue legalizing alcohol sales would cause more accidents.
It’s important to note research suggests wet counties actually report fewer DUIs and alcohol related accidents than do dry counties. The Times Tribune of Corbin recently looked deeper into the issue.
Citing information from the Kentucky State Police, The Tribune reported that many cities that elected to allow alcohol sales saw a small increase in accidents and DUIs in the first several years.
However, in the long-term, those same cities and counties reported that after several years the number of alcohol related incidents decreased dramatically.
For instance, “the percentage of alcohol-related crashes in Whitley County increased in 2004, after Corbin voters approved the sale of alcohol in restaurants. However, the percentage of alcohol-related crashes in Whitley Countysignificantly decreased after 2004 and has remained lower than before Corbin went moist.”
Others argue the moral issues related to allowing alcohol sales should be enough to keep the citizens from voting to allow the sales. Many citizens simply don’t want bars and liquor stores opening in the county.
On the other end of the spectrum, those who advocate for the sale of alcohol in the county say it could serve as a boost for the local economy.
In 2010, House Bill 144 passed lifting a tax exemption on alcohol. A six percent tax was added to all alcohol purchases. The Marin Institue predicted this added tax shelled in nearly $100 million of extra revenue for the state.
The truth is, if alcohol sales were allowed, more restaurant chains would be willing to open businesses in the community, some liquor stores and bars would also follow.
However, each of these businesses would create more jobs in the county.
There are a lot of things to consider when making such a decision. As I said before, I can clearly see good points on both ends of the argument.
Are we, as Estill Countians, willing to take the chance of risking safety to create jobs and promote growth in the community? Or do most of my readers believe Estill County is fine the way it is in terms of alcohol sales?
We will never know if we don’t exercise our right to vote for such things.
If the current petition does not lead to a ballot, I am positive there will be others in the near future.
Why not force the county government to let us decide what we see as best for the place we call home?