Vote against both I-1100 and I-1105 for public safety's sake
Voters should reject both Initiatives 1100 and 1105, write John Guadnola and Jim Cooper. They argue both are badly written and could jeopardize public safety, while cutting badly needed state revenues.
Special to The Times
BEFORE you cast your vote on Initiatives 1100 and 1105, consider:
• What if potentially every store that sells beer and wine in your neighborhood now sold hard alcohol too? Do we really need at least 3,300 new hard-liquor outlets statewide — and possibly more than 5,000 — a tenfold increase over current levels?
• Should we really support slashing public services, increasing the problems associated with hard liquor for families and communities, and harming Washington's growing beer and wine industry, just so it's more convenient to buy a bottle of booze?
Whatever you think about the idea of privatization of the now-state-controlled retail liquor business in theory, we think you'll agree: Initiatives 1100 and 1105 are poorly written initiatives designed to benefit special interests rather than Washington families. They will cause more problems than benefits, and are a bad idea for the state.
That's why we've joined a growing coalition of faith leaders, small-business persons, community leaders, labor and law enforcement in urging you to vote no on Initiatives 1100 and 1105. Our coalition includes Washington wineries, craft brewers, firefighters and local government leaders. We all agree that 1100 and 1105 are too risky.
You'll hear a lot of spin and falsehoods thrown around by proponents of 1100 and 1105 between now and Election Day. Here are the facts:
According to the state Auditor's Office, hard-liquor outlets could increase from the current 315 to more than 3,300. The Association of Washington Cities estimates Seattle's outlets would go from 22 to 552. Renton: from three to 84. Bellevue: from six to 81. And the list goes on. (Find it here: http://www.awcnet.org/initiatives/2010/possibleliquorretailers.pdf ) Many of those outlets could sell liquor until 2 a.m.
What does that explosion in hard-liquor outlets mean for Washington's communities? It means an inevitable increase in alcohol-related problems: more drunken driving, more binge drinking and problem drinkers, more underage drinking and all the problems that can cause.
That's just too high a price to pay for a little convenience.
Unfortunately, that convenience would extend to precisely those who shouldn't have easy access to alcohol — our youth. Washington is currently ranked No. 1 when it comes to preventing underage drinking. If these initiatives pass, and convenience stores and gas stations can sell hard liquor, underage drinking and drunken driving will increase. It's just common sense. In fact, based on current data kept by the State Liquor Control Board's enforcement arm, sales of hard liquor to minors could increase by 400 percent.
As it stands now, one out of four times a minor attempts to buy beer or wine at a private business like a minimart, they succeed. State liquor stores, on the other hand, have a 94 percent compliance rate — they're simply more reliable at checking IDs.
Those are among the big reasons the sheriffs of Snohomish, Thurston, Cowlitz and Clark counties, along with many other law-enforcement officials, are opposing both I-1100 and I-1105. But that's not all the harm the initiatives would cause.
In the depths of a recession, when state and local governments are already cutting crucial public services like law enforcement and emergency services, these initiatives would cut as much as $730 million from state and local budgets over the next five years; and yes, that's taking into account thousands of new liquor stores.
And, as important public services take a big hit, the initiatives would cause even further strain to law enforcement and first responders as access to hard alcohol becomes as easy as driving to the local gas station minimart. The simple fact is 1100 and 1105 are too risky for our communities.
Along with these concerns for communities and public safety, the initiatives would harm Washington's growing wine and craft beer industry by forcing our in-state producers to be at a competitive disadvantage to big out-of-state corporations. Those industries provide thousands of good jobs and contribute billions to our state economy. Times are tough enough already. We shouldn't risk the loss of even more small-business jobs.
Both proposals ask us to pay far too high a price for a little convenience. Vote no on both I-1100 and I-1105.John Guadnola is executive director of the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. Jim Cooper is vice president of the Washington State Association of Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention. For more information: www.protectourcommunities.com
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