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Letters to the Editor

Election season isn’t fun

Editor:
How I long for true commercials
Selling this and that and those,
Selling soap and cars and groceries
Selling toys and even clothes.

Now our TV breaks are awful
Selling mud and dirt and lies
Politicians, join a circus,
And instead of mud throw pies!

Only time brings all the stations
Back to normal sanity
When commercials sell those somethings
Hurry up Nov. 3!
Penny Dollar
Hartselle

Alcohol sales would help city

Editor:
I am a Duke-trained physician who has been practicing in Morgan County since 2004. As this mid-term election cycle come to its much-anticipated denouement, I have been collaterally observing with great curiosity, the recent wet-dry debate in the City of Hartselle. Let me start out by saying that, as a transplant to this area and a virtual teetotaler (save an occasional glass of wine with a meal). I have absolutely no personal or political skin in this game, as I am not a politician, convenience store owner, or bartender. I simply wish to propound certain factual concepts surrounding this issue based on contemporary and compelling research.
As sort of an outsider looking in, I will begin by stating that Hartselle is a very nice, family friendly and spiritually rich community. Further, with respect to the citizens of Hartselle, I would like to believe that this fact has more to do with responsible parenting and the sound individual decisions of the electorate and not paternalistic legal mandates. However, after closely studying this controversy for these many months, we must acknowledge that, at its base, blatant hypocrisy, and more, specifically, NIMBY (not in my backyard) politics is driving this debate more than any absolute moral imperative.
The net positive effect of maintaining a “dry” city that is contiguous to a “wet” city (as in the case between Hartselle and Decatur) is marginal at best or, more likely, illusory. In fact, there is much evidence that suggests maintaining dry counties and communities increasing drunk-driving deaths and DUI arrests and has not real mitigating effect on alcoholism rates. As a physician, I can vouch for that.
As has been demonstrated in many locales, the downstream consequences of such legal moralism may be very deleterious to any community aspiring to be recognized as progressive to outsiders contemplating new business interests. Aside from the more obvious micro and macroeconomic forces that drive these decisions, cultural, social and religious tolerance often play key roles. For example, examining Hartselle population demographics, it would be difficult to attract a diverse workforce given the probability – defying reality that 92.25 percent of the population is white. The value of cultural diversity cannot be underscored when addressing community growth and progress.
To understand this issue in the proper context, we need look no further than the United States Constitution, I will not cite the more frequently quotes 21st Amendment that repealed prohibition, as that it is not pertinent to this discussion as a matter of law. Rather, the issue lies deeper within the penumbra of the 1st and 14th Amendments.
Human autonomy deserves prima facie human respect. Therefore, the question rightfully involves the community’s legitimate authority to restrict the freedom of its citizens. America, at large, has already weighed in on this matter on Dec. 5, 1933. However, the sovereign rights of the states and other jurisdictions give us the authority to conduct referenda regarding alcohol from time-to-time. Several years ago, such a referendum was soundly defeated in this community by 72 percent of the voting electorate; but on what basis? My research points to NIMBY (Not in my Back Yard.)
In 2002, the Hartselle Ministerial Association and Families for a Safe Hartselle PAC collected a lot of money to make darn sure NIMBY politics carried the day. Unfortunately, such politics are very telling about collective views of a community and that’s not a good thing to outsiders looking in. How many of these same people dine out in Decatur of Huntsville and have a harmless beer or glass of wine with their meal? The quantities of libations stockpiled in many of their own homes also might surprise us.
Perhaps prior to Nov. 2, the folks that are grappling with this issue will do their own soul-searching and research on this matter. I am certain that, if given the choice, the community of Hartselle would rather embody the attributes of a progressive and tolerant community. To quote James Davison Hunter, professor of Sociology and Religious Studies and director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia: “Where a consensus remains in our moral culture, it does so only in terms of the shallowest of platitudes.” Indeed. If you want to drink, you will drink; and no Sunday sermon or imaginary legal wall between Hartselle and Decatur will change that. Legal moralism is an unacceptable substitute for sound parenting and personal responsibility in contemporary society. I think Hartselle citizens have a solid, nascent grasp of these concepts already.
Scott Alan Anderson MD
Diplomate, American Board of Family Medicine
Member, American Academy of Family Physicians

Hartselle can handle selling alcohol

Editor:
When I was a Hartselle Jaycee, a Hartselle Civitan, and a member of the Hartselle Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, I never dreamed that one day I would ask the good people of Hartselle to vote yes on a wet/dry referendum. But that day has come.
Everything about this issue is already here in Hartselle except the revenue from the sale of alcohol. The alcohol is here. It’s legal to own it and drink it. The mixers are here. Check the grocery stores. The easy availability is here. Go to the bottom of Hartselle mountain. The problems are here. AA holds meetings here, DUIs and fatal accidents are already here. The advertising is here. Turn on your TV. Buy a magazine. The domestic problems, the crime, the broken homes and the bootleggers are here. It’s all here already.
The bars are not here. Yes. But we can regulate them with a city ordinance. And we can elect city officials who will carry out the will of the people and keep bars out of Hartselle.
Please continue to preach against alcohol abuse, underage drinking, and DUIs.
The real question is are we smart enough, are we forward-thinking enough, are we courageous enough to legally sell alcohol, regulate bars, collect the revenue and use the money to help grow our beloved city and it’s local economy. I think we are. Thank you.
Doug Chapman
Hartselle

Alcohol is a Trojan Horse

Editor:
Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas. I must admit that the proponents for the legalization of the sale of alcohol in the city of Hartselle have done a good job of staying on message. In their portrayal of the decision as being an economic instead of a moral choice, they have deftly moved the debate into an area in which the pros and cons aren’t quite as black and white as they might be otherwise.  The essence of their position is that alcohol sales in Hartselle will help enable economic development in the near and distant future as well as provide an instant boost to city tax revenue.
Alcohol sales proponents tell us that Hartselle desperately needs both of these things. They also wonder aloud why anyone would want to hinder economic development or discourage tax revenue that should rightfully be Hartselle’s.  After all, as they frequently contend, alcohol is already being consumed in Hartselle. Furthermore, to allay any misplaced fear of bars, nightclubs, increased crime, etc., the pro-alcohol folks point out that the city council will enact strict measures to control how the alcohol is sold and consumed in our town. These measures, they say, will allow Hartselle to maintain its small town charm while fostering a progressive mentality that will essentially give us the best of both worlds.  And, in these uncertain economic times, how can one say “no?”
Certainly, the champions of alcohol must be commended for their ability to frame their arguments in such a manner. It is, after all, much easier to sway a teetering soul if his attention is cast only onto subject matter that seems to favor one side over the other. It brings to mind a certain scene from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her companions are told to “ Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”  Be that as it may, it is worth considering the above mentioned points.
Firstly, is Hartselle in need of economic development?  The answer to this is a qualified “yes.”  Yes, Hartselle does need well-paying, benefit-providing jobs that are not just temporary positions.  But, of course, not every employer pays its employees well or provides benefits.  Also, one can imagine any number of hypothetical situations that would qualify as “economic development” but wouldn’t necessarily be considered desirable. For example, Decatur recently spurned the opportunity to have a fuel depot on the banks of the Tennessee River.  Why? Because it wasn’t willing to accept the risks involved.  Would it have brought jobs to the area? Sure, but at what potential cost?
Secondly, will the legal sale of alcohol bring economic development?  Perhaps it will.  It has been pointed out on many occasions by the alcohol proponents that certain restaurants will only locate where alcohol is legally permitted to be served. This point begs the question:  Are “sit down” restaurants where alcohol is served vital to the future of Hartselle’s economy? Maybe so, but it is a debatable point nonetheless.  Other employers mentioned include grocery stores and those in the “retail” sector.  Frankly, it is puzzling why Old Navy and Pottery Barn need the legalized sale of alcohol.  (I suppose I’ll just have to take their word on that one.)  It seems the more someone is convinced he needs something, the more desperate he becomes until he gets it.
Finally, will Hartselle obtain additional tax revenue from the sale of alcohol?  Definitely.  There is no question that additional taxes will be collected by the city.  However, this comes with at least one big caveat.  Namely that spending rises proportionately with increased revenue.  Be assured that once the tax revenue starts coming in, the city will find a way to spend it.  If one needs any evidence that this is true, they need to look no further than Decatur.  When Decatur was dry in the early fall of 1984 I remember well the promises of all the wonderful things that were going to be done for the city with that increased revenue.  The city council liked the increase in revenue so much, a few years ago they raised the sales tax so they could have a little more.  Now, 26 years after they allowed legalized alcohol, they find themselves in need of cutting the budget.  What happened? They knew the money was coming in so they spent it.
So, the economic justification for the legalization of alcohol sales may not be the panacea it has been made out to be. And, if it hasn’t become clear by now how this writer feels about the legalization of alcohol sales in Hartselle, let me close with this.  Legalized sale of alcohol is in my opinion just like the Trojan horse.  It may look good on the outside, but if we let it into our city the outcome won’t look nearly so good.
Russell Ellis

Vote ‘yes’ for personal freedom

Editor:
I am voting yes for alcohol sales in Hartselle. Not because I want more revenue for city government or claims of new restaurant in towns, as I have no guarantee either will come.
I am voting yes from my personal experience with alcohol. The lack of availability does not stop, but only slightly hinders their acquisition of the product. An alcoholic will lie, cheat and steal to obtain what he wants and a few miles of travel is irrelevant to them.
I am voting yes because of my concern for children. They should learn from their parents about their beliefs concerning alcohol and other issues. Hartselle’s youth will likely not live in an insular world within the confines of Morgan County. They will be exposed to alcohol, either while they live at home with their parents, or away at colleges and jobs, far from their parental influence.
I am voting yes for freedom. I want Hartselle’s citizens to have the freedom of choice to purchase a product that is controlled and legal in most of the United States. To be told that I cannot be personally responsible with alcohol, therefore I should not be able to purchase it in the corporate limits is insulting and tyrannical. If you do not want alcohol in your home, don’t buy it.
On Nov. 2, I will stand with personal freedom, responsibility and liberty. I will vote yes for Hartselle.
Lee Green Jr.
Hartselle

Sales better than tax increase

Editor:
The consumption of alcohol is a personal choice. The revenue generated from the sale of alcohol will benefit all of us. We are committed to the construction of a new high school and the additional expenses this will require.
There must be new jobs, businesses and an increase in taxable revenue to cover these costs or all of us will have to pay.
I am retired and live on a fixed income. I cannot afford an increase in property tax, sales tax or city services. Can you? Consider this when voting Nov. 2.
Liz Harris
Hartselle

God has the answer

Editor:
The wet/dry issue will never go away as long as “so-called” Christians depend on greed instead of prayer. Matthew 6:33 says “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
If we prayed for God’s help, we would get help if we ask for the right things.
Gail Puckett
Hartselle

Elected board is best option

Editor:
It seems like the wet-dry folks have put a very important issue on the back burner lately. That would be the elected Board of Education and what it would mean to the children of Hartselle and the city of Hartselle. Never doubt that the people that got this approved for a vote on November 2nd did have the education of our children at heart. We know that our children are not only the future of this city and state but also play a big part in the future of this nation. They must get a better education than they are getting now at all cost. Under our Council appointed board, they sit back and let many things happen that should not be happening in our schools. Why do the teachers of the Hartselle City System not get a supplement so that they can make more than the teachers in Morgan County? Would we not stand a chance of getting better teachers? I do not mean to imply that we do not have a lot of very good teachers in Hartselle now but they are held back because of funds. Hartselle requested a really great teacher in the county to come to Hartselle High School to teach a very important Advanced Placement Course. These courses are awfully important, especially in the high school. This teacher had to come in at the same pay she was making. Then she, along with the rest of the teachers, had to buy their own classroom supplies. Then the school let parents put their children in the APC so that over 60 were in the classes instead of about 20 that should have been. So last year she had only about 4 or 5 out of 60 plus students pass the course and this year she had only 7 to pass. This in spite of being a very good teacher. Advanced Placement classes should only be for college bound students that really want to learn and not just put in these classes because the parents want them there. An elected board would have to take this issue up and make some changes in Advance Placement Courses. So, the board and the city do not want to provide funds for these things.They think new buildings and new athletic fields will solve the problem. It cost one teacher two-thousand to three-thousand dollars out of his/her own pocket for classroom supplies. This should never happen! Also, the schools send out letters or lists to all parents in the school system for what they have to purchase for the school. This includes Clorox, wipes, and other cleaning supplies that the schools should be buying if they had more money. Then our children must pay for about everything they do and must go out and more or less beg for funds.They should get the money. A good school board would demand that this stop and that teachers be supplemented. I firmly believe that in the event Hartselle goes wet in the Nov. 2 election that at least 40 percent of the annual tax revenue should be given to the above. I certainly don’t want to vote yes and just let the City Council have all the revenue and do what that want to do with the money. They have already proven that they can spend money that we will be paying for years to come and have left Hartselle with the biggest debt in history.
Ninety-four percent of all school boards are elected nationally and most of them are elected by districts. Our School Board and City Council should be elected by districts and run with candidates from each district. In this way you would know who to go to if you had a problem or suggestion. In 1999, 83 percent of the people of Hartselle voted on a constitutional amendment when they thought they were voting for an elected board. However, the amendment only made it easier for city school systems with appointed boards to switch to elected boards. Hartselle and Athens are the only appointed boards in Lawrence, Limestone, and Morgan counties. This comes from articles in the Decatur Daily and Hartselle Enquirer. Two city councilmen are in favor of the elected board but the mayor, Council members Don Hall and Tom Chappell, want to keep the appointed board for power! They say we have a great school system so why change it. The Council appoints wives of former Council members and friends to the Board of Education and do not go by any set standards to appoint the best people. I know that an elected board that is responsible to the people and not the council would help our school system greatly. The appointed Hartselle Board of Education allegedly created a position for a school employee because of pressure from someplace. They created this unneeded position with a salary of over one-hundred thousand dollars a year. If this is true, someone should be held accountable for this misuse of school funds. Many of you will know what I am referring too. This money could pay for a lot of school supplies and teacher supplies.
We need to stop thinking like some of the council members that Hartselle is one of the best school systems in the state. Alabama is rated very low nationally and we must start working for Hartselle to be one of the best school systems in the Southeast and hopefully in the country. It will take a long time to get to this point but with good leadership it can be done.
On Nov. 2 be sure to get out and vote and vote yes for an elected school board that will actually be responsible to the schools and the people. Don’t forget the School Board is supposed to hire and even fire if needed. If we don’t like what they are doing, then they will be fired or not elected again. Let’s give our children a better education.
Richard J. White
Hartselle

City needs more revenue

Editor:
I would like to respond to the opponent’s concerns of alcohol sales in Hartselle.
1. Alcohol is legal in Hartselle, but you just can’t buy it here. The alcohol we have here has not hurt the great school system, sports programs and family friendly environment. If you think alcohol sales will drive people to drink you are fooling yourselves. The individuals that use alcohol only have to drive a few miles to get anything they want. If cigarettes are banned in Hartselle, the smokers would go somewhere else to get alcohol.
2. Alcohol was not mentioned on the “Vote Yes” signs because it is not our primary reason for going wet. It is a means to achieve our goal.
3. Comparing Hartselle to cities in Los Angeles County is misleading. Most every city in Los Angeles County has a population of more than 100,000.
4. If the wet/dry referendum is voted down, nothing has changed. Alcohol is still available to those who want it. The only one hurt is the city of Hartselle for lost revenue. If it passes, something will change, Hartselle will get the revenue instead of Decatur.
5. We all know that alcohol is not the cure all but it’s a start. If we don’t start somewhere, look for a tax increase. Without economic growth, that’s the only other source of revenue.
Tom Johnson
Hartselle

Alcohol causes broken lives

Editor:
“What were you thinking?” that is the question I have asked myself many, many times as I responded to emergencies where alcohol was sold in Alabama’s largest city.  I worked in the Fire and Rescue Service for 37 years and have seen first-hand how alcohol can ruin or destroy lives.  Most people do not realize that 83 percent of fire service emergency alarms are to emergency medical scenes, not to fires.
Way too many of these emergency medical calls involved alcohol.  For many years I served as Director of Emergency Medical Services.  While serving in this position I was keenly aware of the high number of injuries, deaths, destruction of property and misery associated with the consumption of alcohol.  Where do these disturbing incidents occur?
Wherever there are night clubs, bars, lounges, taverns, liquor stores, road houses, package stores, beer joints or any other location where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed.  These are the types of establishments we wish to discourage here in the City of Hartselle.  It all begins when alcohol is approved to be sold in a city.
I have heard the arguments in support of approving the sale of alcohol here in Hartselle.  The main argument is that the city needs the revenue.  Some of our elected officials have said that major food establishments will not consider locating in Hartselle as long as there is an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol.  There is no way increased revenue produced by the sale of alcohol here will ever offset the additional cost of physical injuries, loss of life, alcoholism, vehicle accidents, damage to property and misery created by the use and abuse of alcohol.  Another argument I hear is, “All drinkers are not drunks.” That may be true, but it is absolutely true that, “All drunks are drinkers!”

Now back to my original question, “What were you thinking?”  As I responded to many emergency scenes where alcohol was involved, I found people in the most ridiculous situations.  One would never think that these people would find themselves caught up in such outrageous behavior.  That is when I would say to myself, “What were you thinking?”  The fact of the matter is they were not thinking clearly.  The alcohol had caused them to loose their inhibitions.  With this loss of the ability to think clearly, make wise decisions, react quickly and function with their normal skills frequently would lead to serious injuries and loss of life to themselves and to innocent bystanders.
“What were you thinking?”  I’m asking the citizens of Hartselle, why do you want to bring the sale of alcohol to a nice, quiet, safe town like Hartselle?  When I moved here several years ago I was looking for a pleasant place like Hartselle to retire.  Let’s keep Hartselle a nice peaceable place to live and raise our families without all the problems that always begins with the approval of the sale of alcohol.
Vote no to alcohol Nov. 2nd
D A Wear
Retired
Assistant Chief
Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service Department

Bedford Falls a better option

Editor:
With the sounds of the cable news show in the background, while reading the articles and letters to the editor pertaining to the wet/dry issue facing the citizens of Hartselle in the Nov. 2 election, the news host made several references to “Bedford Falls” and “Pottersville” from the 1946 movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
What a wonderful analogy it is and most appropriate for the decision voters must make on Nov. 2. Clarence Odbody, George Bailey’s guardian angel, showed George that Bedford Falls, a clean, family oriented town, would become Pottersville, a town of nightclubs and saloons if George Bailey had not lived.
Having lived in a city in another state, where the purchase of alcohol was readily available, I’m well familiar with the happenings there. The economy, services, schools, etc. did not improve with sales tax from alcohol, but rather remained the same or declined.
Also, many of the readers/voters know firsthand what the consumption of alcohol can do to towns and people. Therefore, my question to you, the citizens of Hartselle, do you want to remain “Bedford Falls” or do you want to reside in “Pottersville?” The choice on Nov. 2 is yours.
Judy Woodcock
Hartselle

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