Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 3, 2012

Greenup alcohol vote

Faith-based group vows to work at keeping county dry

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

WURTLAND — A group is beginning to organize against the countywide vote to allow alcohol sales in Greenup County.

The faith-based effort Keep Greenup County Dry hopes to defeat the ballot measure set for a vote on Jan. 22. The election follows a petition drive that collected more than 1,600 signatures of voters who wanted to place the issue before voters.

About 60 met Saturday night at the Wurtland Church of God to discuss the issue and begin organizing opposition. Leaders encouraged attendees to begin talking to their friends, neighbors and colleagues about the issue, primarily disputing proponents’ claims that legalizing alcohol will spur economic growth in the area.

County Attorney Mike Wilson and Melvin Leonhart, the newly elected commonwealth’s attorney for the 20th District, spoke out against alcohol sales at the meeting, along with pastors from several local churches. They are concerned alcohol sales will lead to increased crime and provide easier access to teens and others who may abuse the substance, thereby degrading the quality of life for residents of the county.

Many at the meeting said the consumption of alcohol is against their religious beliefs and are calling on Greenup’s church community to get behind the issue.

Leonhart also called for churches to organize against the issue saying, “This is where the churches need to step in to make sure everybody in the community is reborn, and then we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” he said.

“There are churches from all over Greenup County, all denominations, and we’re going to stand together for the good of man,” said Brian Daniel, a member of Wurtland Church of God and a leader of the Evangelistic Outreach Ministry at the church, who helped organize the meeting. He said additional meetings would take place to develop groups that will get the word out that the vote is happening, register voters and drive them to the polls on the day of the vote.

“We believe that Greenup County should not become wet,” Daniel said. “We have looked at statistics and numbers and they all prove that the economic principles are better in a dry community.

“If you look at the history of Greenup, you will see Greenup is a prosperous community and we’d like to continue that. I have two young children and I don’t want them walking into a convenience store to get a gallon of milk for my wife or I and have to walk by four beer coolers. I don’t want to put that drug at their fingertips.”

“I don’t have any love for it whatsoever and I don’t want to see it become a part of our county,” said Wilson, who has served as county attorney since 1989. He shared the story of a fatal accident caused by a drunken driver, which he and Leonhart worked many years ago, saying he believes passage of the issue will only increase instances of drunken driving and will stretch police resources thin.

“It’s not right and it is not going to be good for us,” said Wilson, again disputing claims alcohol sales help a community to attract and retain businesses.

Wilson told attendees the get-out-the-vote effort would be essential to defeating the measure.

“You win county elections one vote at a time,” he said. Proponents of the measure, Wilson said, “are afraid” of opposition being organized and backed by faith-based groups in the county “because they know the power of organization. I want you to think ‘I have people that I have to talk to’ … What you want to do is sneak up on them. What you need to do is work grassroots.”

Leonhart echoed Wilson’s belief crime rates soar if sales are allowed. Both officials expressed concern establishments selling alcohol would not be limited to reputable businesses.

“Don’t be deceived … you are going to see the Dew Drop Inn out here. Any person that has a shed is going to throw up a neon sign and get a license and sell alcohol. I don’t want to see that at the corner of Route 2 and W-Hollow or any place,” Leonhart said. “We’re already drowning in drugs in Greenup County. Do you really want to add one more drug to the problem? And alcohol is just another drug.”

If alcohol sales were to pass, each city in Greenup, along with the fiscal court, would adopt ordinances controlling the sale of alcohol in its jurisdiction, setting tax rates licenses fees and other regulations.

Leonhart said he also believes alcohol sales are “a means to an end.” It’s one step at a time. Let’s get the alcohol, let’s get the gambling,” he said, referring to the push in recent years by Gov. Steve Beshear to allow slot machines at racetracks.

For more information about the Keep Greenup County Dry initiative, visit its Facebook page or email staydrygreenup@hotmail.com.