Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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June 9, 2013

Kenneth Hart: Many reasons to vote yes: 06/10/13

ASHLAND — Northeastern Kentucky’s second wet-dry election in roughly six months will take place this week. This time, it will be the residents of Grayson who will go to the polls to decide whether the city’s future will include the legal sale of alcoholic beverages.

The key word here, of course, is “legal,” because Grayson, like other dry communities in our region, will always have alcohol sales, whether sanctioned by law or not.

So, the real question before Grayson voters is whether to have legalized sales that provide tax revenue and economic opportunities to benefit the community as a whole, or continue to have illicit sales that enrich only a handful.

It’s also a question of whether Grayson will make an attempt to retain some of the revenue that leaves the community every time one of its residents drives to Ashland to purchase beer or to enjoy a cocktail with a meal in a nice restaurant. (And, sorry to say, if you’re one of the people who does that while crusading against legal sales in your own town, you should definitely consult your dictionary for the definition of “hypocrisy.”)

It’s a question, too, of whether Grayson will continue to have to deal with the problems caused by alcohol — and it does cause problems; no sensible person would deny that — without receiving any of the benefits from its sale.

To me, the answer to all of these and other questions is glaringly obvious.

Yes to legal, controlled and taxed alcohol sales. No to unregulated sales that generate zero tax revenue and actually make it easier for those who aren’t of legal drinking age to obtain booze.

Yes to increased revenue for existing dining establishments and to the opportunity to recruit new ones that long ago scratched Grayson off their lists of potential locations because of the inability to serve alcohol there. (Of course, going wet is by no means a guarantee that such establishments will come to Grayson. On the other hand, maintaining the staus quo is nothing less than an iron-clad guarantee they will not.) No to continuing to tie the hands of local officials who are working to grow the city.

Yes to progress and forward thinking and new economic, cultural, social and recreational opportunities to help prevent Grayson from becoming just another dying little town, like so many others in our region.

No to continuing to do things the same way they’ve always been done and expecting different results. (Isn’t that the very definition of insanity?)

Yes to allowing Graysonians the same freedom the vast majority of Americans take for granted — the freedom to make the decision whether to purchase and consume alcohol responsibly for themselves rather than having it made for them by the government.

No to continuing with a thinly veiled attempt to impose a single set of values and beliefs on an entire community, and no to the ridiculous notion alcohol sales would lead the Grayson down the path to ruin. Residents need only to drive a few miles east (Ashland) or west (Morehead) to see that hasn’t come to pass in either of those cities since alcohol was approved in the early 1980s. Both are thriving, vibrant communities, and alcohol sales have had a lot to do with the growth they’ve experienced.

Yes to legal alcohol sales being used as part of an overall effort to make Grayson more of a destination city for the entire region.

Finally, yes to Grayson voters not being blinded by misinformation, like many in Greenup County were in January, and casting “yes” votes on Tuesday.

And, in conclusion, although I know it’s a pipe dream, yes to making changes to the state constitution that would make it possible for alcohol to be sold legally anywhere in Kentucky without communities having to endure these costly and divisive campaigns.

Perhaps then, the rest of the country would quit laughing at us for continuing to fight about an issue that was settled 80 years ago.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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