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Letter To The Editor

Ordinance Is Tool For Selective Enforcement

Dear Editor,

            Why are people all wound up about a beer ordinance?  Water Valley has bigger problems: underachieving schools, deteriorating infrastructure, understaffed police. So why beer?  The answer is, it’s not really about beer. It is the ordinance itself that sums up what’s wrong with our current city government. 

            Consider:

            1. The beer ordinance was written and passed with no input from the people it affects (all of us) nor from the people who know the most about the subject (beer retailers and producers).

            2. The beer ordinance is poorly crafted and antibusiness. After all the patchwork modifications made in response to public outcry, the ordinance still contains (aside from typos, see Article 10, line two) several absurd items. Take for example the  requirement that that someone only order a beer “in anticipation of a meal.” You can’t just have a beer to have a beer.

            John Crow, the Board’s attorney, stated recently “I don’t know what the state does as to liquor.” (See https://soundcloud.com/jack-gurner/water-valley-miss-city-board-april-7-2015 at 12:44 and 1650). Well, here is what the state does as to liquor. It has no “anticipation” requirement. You can enjoy a couple of margaritas at the Mexican restaurant, no food ordered, and go home. You don’t have to worry that you and the proprietor and perhaps the server will be popped for 90 days in jail and a $10,000 fine. That’s the difference between state law and Water Valley law.

            3. The ordinance is a tool for selective enforcement. John Crow assured us at the last Board of Aldermen meeting that the police would never enforce that portion of the ordinance. “I wouldn’t even prosecute it,” he said. That’s “common sense!”  To me, common sense says, if you’re not going to enforce it, why is it there?

            But there’s the point—they CAN enforce it. Just as they can the rest room restrictions and sign restrictions and several other burdens that apply only to beer sellers— not to sellers of cigarettes, whiskey, auto parts, or  artwork.  So as long as the mayor and aldermen like you and what you’re doing, you’re cool. But if someone opens up a place they don’t like, with the wrong clientele, or in the wrong part of town, or owned by someone who’s not acceptable to the establishment, they can shut you down in a heartbeat.

            That’s really what’s offensive about the beer ordinance. It’s not about beer. It’s about control, It’s about big brother making everyone technically a criminal, and then using selective enforcement to eliminate only those folks who don’t measure up to their standards of propriety or morality. That’s no way to run city. And that’s why at least two restaurateurs, since December, have opted not to open a business in Water Valley.

            Don’t dismay! The beer ordinance will be rescinded. It will be replaced with a new, sensible, pro-business, pro-people’s choice ordinance. If the city’s current governing board won’t listen to reason, then the new ordinance might not happen until 2017, when they are voted out of office. But it will happen, and you, readers, can help make it happen sooner rather than later by writing, calling, emailing, and talking to your representatives. Tell them to just use—in the words of John Crow—a little “common sense.”

Best regards,

Cliff Lawson

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