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Welcome to the...Twentieth Century?

Posted Aug 23 2008 11:46pm
Last year our sleepy little town (population roughly 30,000 these days) introduced curbside recycling. How innovative!

Earlier this year I noticed the Department of Transportation was actually constructing sidewalks beside a newly expanded stretch of highway adjacent to commercial property. Wow, I wonder if they'll eventually extend this concept to residential neighborhoods.

Today is another potential step forward. We might repeal Prohibition.

History lesson: in 1950, 17 years after the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, our then-little town elected to eliminate all sales of alcohol within its limits. Every decade or so, the residents vote on a referendum to get that changed. The last vote was in 1994, two years before I moved here, and it once again failed to make a change. After a false start attempt to get the vote going two years ago, city council voted (with the opposition of the mayor) to put this to the residents again.

When I arrived in town, I assumed the biggest naysayers on the alcohol issue were church leaders. Though they were definitely behind the issue, my husband told me that another group of residents also controlled the lack of alcohol: bootleggers. They bought gallons of cheap liquor in other communities and sold them here at illegal(!) gambling houses. As some of these folks were also major landowners, they liked the status quo. I have seen through recent news that these folks are aging out, and a new generation of people (including me and a huge increase of illegal Mexican immigrants) have moved to the area. Time to take the pulse of our new consumer community, I'd say.

Those For the vote say it will improve the economy, bringing jobs, better restaurants and revenue to our town. They are right.

Those Against the vote say it will send a negative message to children and open us up to an increase in alcohol-related accidents and the danger of seedy bars on our street corners. They are also right.

But I can tell you, from the days when I had to haul recycled bottles and cans to a central location, lack of alcohol sales does not equal lack of alcohol consumption in this town. The glass bottle containers were always full of more empty beer bottles than they were mustard jars, soy sauce bottles and jam jars. Bringing the sales here just transfer the dollars of regular and heavy drinkers closer to home, rather than to other towns in the county or even outside this county.

This is a hot issue. I can't tell you how many people voted in the Obama vs. Clinton primary here, but I would bet a fat penny that many who didn't make it to the polls that day will today. Actually, thanks to the laws in our state, we had the option of absentee voting for two weeks prior to this, and over 4000 people have already made their voices heard. That's over a third of the registered voters in this town.

As for James and me? James worked as a bartender once. I used to work in a restaurant that sold alcohol. I've been out of work for almost 4 months. We are casual drinkers, but we are likely to buy a little more if we don't have to drive out of our way to do so. We were among the 4000, as soon as James was feeling well enough.

Hell, yes, we voted For this.
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