Herald Solicits Questions From Beer Issue

Yalobusha Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney holds a privacy sleeve that allows a voter to place their ballot in the scanner privately. Election Commissioner Missy Kimzey sits in front of a privacy booth which can be placed on an open table and gives voters secrecy. – Photo by David Howell

November 8, 2007

Staff Report


    The newsroom at the Herald has received a number of questions from concerned citizens on both sides. In an effort to present as many facts as possible, the Herald will accept questions about this issue.

    Readers are encouraged to submit their questions via e-mail, U.S. mail or written questions can be dropped off at the office. E-mail your questions to askherald@bellsouth.net or mail them to P.O. Box 648. Each week, questions will be published in the Herald and will also be posted online at yalobushanewsonline.

The first question for this week:

    Is the North Mississippi Herald for or against legalization?

    The Herald is neutral on the issue. The job of a newspaper is to provide accurate information so that voters can make an informed decision.

    It may appear to some that the newspaper favors one side or another because it will present information that doesn’t support their particular agenda.

    The Herald is for your right to vote. We urge every registered voter in Yalobusha county to cast a ballot on Dec. 11.

Second Question:

    If beer is legalized, who determines when and where it can be sold? Does this require another vote? Who decides the times and places?

    State Tax Commission spokesperson Kathy Waterbury explained that if Yalobusha residents vote for the proposition to allow the sale of beer and light wine, the county becomes wet as soon as the election is certified and state law goes into effect.

    Sales are tightly regulated by the state and require permits for both retailers and wholesalers. No additional vote is needed.

    The board of supervisors can enact ordinances to additionally control sales in the county and the city boards can do the same.

Third question:

    If I remember an earlier Herald article correctly, our Board of Aldermen can make City law more restrictive than the state law. Can they vote to be a dry city within a wet county, though?

    No, they can’t. They can only enact ordinances to control sales. The only way the city could go dry if the measure was passed in the county is to hold a special election.

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November 15 2007

Staff Report


Question One:    

    Why does the county have to hold a special election and how much is it going to cost?

    While the exact price of the special election has not been pinpointed, county officials have estimated the cost to be from $20,000 to $25,000.

    Cliff Lawson of the Yalobusha Progressive Association said that the group made every effort to get the issue placed on the ballot for the general election so as not to cost the taxpayers extra.

    “The people who are against legalizing beer wanted a special election for one simple reason. They knew that if a fair cross section of the county came out to vote in the general election, beer would pass,” Lawson said.

    The decision to hold the special election was made by the Board of Supervisors at a recessed meeting September 14 after hearing legal advice from Board Attorney John Crow.

    After more than 50 minutes of a back-and-forth dialog weighing the factors, a worse-case  scenario presented by Crow was voiced prior to a motion setting the date.

    “I got a call yesterday that a lawyer that said he would appeal that decision. Now that is fact,” Crow said when asked one last time about placing the matter on the general election ballot.

    “That decision will be appealed. He told me that,” Crow said.

Following Crow’s comments, Surrette motioned to set the date as Dec. 11.

    With Surrette’s motion, Tillman then asked one last time. “I want to ask this one more time… You still saying it is no way other than taking a chance on a lawsuit (for) having it Nov. 6?” Tillman asked.

    “I am ready to settle it one way or another,” Tillman said adding that he hated to spend the money on the special election.

    Tillman then provided the second to Surrette’s motion with the third vote coming from Amos Sims to carry the decision.

    Not been many alcohol related propositions have come up for a vote in recent years. In Montgomery County two special elections were held in 1982; one for beer and light wine and one for liquor. Both were held in conjunction with the November general election. The reason given by Montgomery County Supervisors was to save the county money, according to a story in the Winona Times newspaper.

Question Two:

    Where is the money coming from in the pro-beer marketing effort from the Yalobusha Progressive Association?

    According to spokesperson Lawson, every cent used in the campaign to get the issue on the ballot came from citizens of Yalobusha County.    

    “Since the petitions were validated and the issue was placed on the ballot, we have continued to seek support from anyone who supports our efforts to improve this county. The total contribution from those outside the county is less than 10% of the funds received, and includes contributions from Herald subscribers out of state,” Lawson added.

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November 22, 2007

Staff Report

The first question for this week:

If the referendum passes, will restaurants and clubs with current liquor licenses be able to sell beer on December 12 or is there a separate license required?

State Tax Commission spokesperson Kathy Waterbury said that a separate license is required. The license costs $30 per year for retailers and will take about 30 days to obtain. Operators of micro-breweries (brewpubs) within a restaurant pay a $1000 license fee.

Second Question:

If beer is legalized, how many more alcohol related traffic accidents can we expect?

A study between 1991 and 1997 of 39,344 alcohol-related traffic accidents in wet compared to dry (prohibition) counties found that a higher proportion of dry counties’ residents are involved in such crashes.

The analysis suggests that residents of dry counties have to drive farther from their homes to consume alcohol, thus increasing impaired driving exposure, according to information from the PubMed.com website sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency.

Also worth noting is that 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related traffic accident at some time in their lives, according to the National Safety Council.

Third Question:    

Where are the opposition (dry) forces getting their money for advertising and where are they getting their signs?

According to Keith Stevens of First Baptist Church, the money comes from local contributors and is being disbursed by the church. The signs were purchased from an out-of-town company by an individual in the church.

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November 29, 2007

Staff Report


The first question for this week:

Who determines the layout of the ballot, and can a sample be presented in the paper the week before the vote with clear instructions?

The ballot form was approved by the Board of Supervisors and contains a single item, “Shall the transportation, storage, sale, distribution and/or receipt of light wine and and beer of an alcoholic content of not more than five (5%) by weight be permitted in Yalobusha County.”

The voter has two choices, for the proposition or against the proposition.

The Herald will include a sample ballot in this edition and next week’s edition.

Second Question:

What kind of privacy can voters expect at the polls?

Yalobusha County Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney said he had ordered 100 extra privacy booths for this and subsequent elections. The booths are simply a cardboard frame that allows a voter to sit down at a table without a bystander being able to see how the ballot is marked. Burney also said each precinct will have privacy sleeves that the ballot can be placed in, allowing the voter to slide the ballot into the scanner privately.

Any voter who feels like they are intimidated by a poll worker or poll watcher can contact a Yalobusha County Election Commissioner, the Mississippi Secretary of States Office or the United States Justice Department, according to Burney.

Third Question:    

What has happened to my yard signs?

A Herald reporter found two signs – one for and one against the beer proposition – where they had been tossed behind the retaining wall of the old high school property on North Main Street. They were returned to the yards from whence they came.

 
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November 29, 2007

Staff Report

The first question for this week:

If you purchase fish that has been dipped in beer batter – and says so on the box – are you in violation of the possession of beer in a dry county law?

We referred that question to Water Valley City Prosecutor J. Katherine Ward who said “we might be forced to consume some to see if there was probable cause.”
She added that the likelihood of having any samples to send to the crime lab for analysis would be slim.

Second Question:

Many times over the last few weeks, I have read in the Herald that the cost of the special election for beer will be around $20,000. What I would like to know is how many cans of beer will have to be sold in order for the beer tax revenue to pay for this election?

You got us on that one. There are so many numbers being thrown around, that we just don’t know for sure. Even the cost of the special election – which has been estimated to be between $20,000 to $21,000 – is in doubt. John Crow, attorney for the Yalobusha County Board of Supervisors, said Monday, “those are not accurate figures.”

Third Question: 

The ballot seems to leave a little room for misunderstanding about the alcoholic content of the wine. Is the wine also limited to 5% alcohol?

Apparently so. Light wine has become a marketing term for wines with a lower alcohol content than regular wines that are already being sold in Yalobusha County package stores. Another term used by the industry is wine coolers. These beverages are covered under the same laws as beer.

And finally, several readers have asked:

Who is the attorney whose threatened legal action was a factor in the decision by the board of supervisors to hold the election on Dec. 11.

The attorney is T. K. Moffett of Tupelo. Moffett said he was contacted by “two or three individuals” who sought his advice regarding the legality of placing the issue on the general election in November.
He said it was his opinion that it was not legal.

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