As promised, here's my take on the upcoming alcohol referendum for Jacksonville. For the record, let me say I'm not opposed to someone having a drink. If someone wants to drink, that's between them and the Lord. The Bible only proclaims not to get drunk. My problem is saying we want to bring it into our city as an endorsed revenue stream. Enough precursor - here goes.
On Wednesday of last week, I met for an organizational meeting for those of us opposed to the Jacksonville beer/wine referendum coming to us this spring. If there's one thing we DON'T need in Jacksonville, it's more beer and wine. People can already get it at least at Chilis, etc. - why do we need to enable them to bring it home with them too?
Please don't tell me about tax revenue. I lived in Corsicana when the same referendum passed there in 2004. We were assured there would be "huge" financial benefits. It would aid the city in many ways. There would be no "down side". That was five years ago. Although we don't live there anymore, many of our friends do and here's what we've learned since 2004. It's been such a "blessing" to the city, they are running a deficit budget this year and next. Meanwhile, the cost of having has been more than the benefit. It does NOT pay.
I'm also well aware of famed economist Mr. Ray Perryman's statistics showing the financial benefit of beer / wine sales. But I've learned that some things aren't worth the trouble - this is one of them. If no other reason, those who will be most directly affected by this are those who can least afford to spend their meager income on beer and wine. What about our children? Who wants to explain all those cases of beer and wine stacked like mad at Wal-Mart? Anyone believe our teenagers won't find a way to purchase beer / wine from one of our local vendors? What about the people in low-income brackets who can't afford to drive to Cuney or Rusk but can afford to walk to the convienence store? Who'll be there to help them when the rent money is spent on beer / wine and they are evicted? The alcohol related domestic abuse? Alcohol related child abuse? Anytime a business like Brookshire Brothers spends $23,000 (in Rusk) to see a measure passed, we can be sure they aren't spending money but making it. They'll earn that back in a month. But we'll be stuck with it, good and bad.
But at what cost to the quality of life in Jacksonville? I read with interest the column on the Daily Progress front page last week proclaiming "Cuney has seen no negative impact from alcohol." So Cuney is what we aspire to? Have you been to Cuney? Without disparaging our neighbors, I drive through there twice a day and it's not the kind of place I would want to live. If you want to buy alcohol, it's a great place to go. If you want ANYTHING ELSE, you've got to leave Cuney because alcohol is all they sell. Literally, there are no other business of merit there.
I have no doubt there's money to be made in alcohol sales. The problem I have is the cost of selling it. Some will say "But our tax dollars are driving out of town to get it - why not have it here and keep that money at home?" To that, I say let someone else / another town pay for the additional cost of increased police controls, increased jail space, etc.. Furthermore, if we're going to use that argument, let's apply it to other venues like these: let's legalize and tax gambling since so many people drive to Shreveport. Let's legalize and tax prostitution since so many are going to go out of town to find that as well. Let's legalize and tax drug use. . . . You get the idea. The argument is simply not sustainable.
I know we've got some church members who want beer and wine sales in Jacksonville. Respectfully, I love them and ask you to do the same despite our disagreement. But on this matter, for the first time since 2004 in Corsicana, I'll speak openly and throw whatever I can toward seeing this matter defeated. I don't have another viable solution to increase tax revenues, but I'm firmly convinced on this: we don't need it and it won't help us live better lives in Jacksonville.