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Which door will you choose?

In just a few days, we will choose the door to Hartselle’s future.  One door is solid as an oak.  Its strength has served well for many years.  Its worn handle reveals signs of fond memories and pleasant thoughts of life inside.  When you approach the door your mind is instantly drawn to your own memories and pleasant thoughts – just like the door of a homeplace, an old church, an old school house, your high school gymnasium or your favorite cozy restaurant.  The door invites you to experience the familiar once again.
The other door is brand new.  Its salesmen tout its features.  There are pictures of how nice the door looks on other buildings.  They point to the shiny doorknob and hinges.  They effortlessly open and close a floor model of the door; the hinges do not squeak. They show you endless combinations of colors and styles and doorknobs.
Those who are urging you to choose the new “alcohol” door have painted an ever brightening picture of their door and what lies behind it.  They emphasize that the future of Hartselle lies behind their door and the future is undeniably linked to government revenue from the sale of alcohol.  Against this backdrop, let us carefully consider what may lurk behind the bright shiny new door.
Surely, they assert, more government revenue will make our life even better.  This is the essence of drink-o-nomics – the brightness of our future is based on the amount of alcohol that is consumed.  You might even call this “drink-o-nomic development.”  They have offered an increasingly optimistic forecast about the economic impact of alcohol.
Since beer is the alcoholic beverage of choice of 50 percent of the men who drink and 19 percent of the women who drink* it will likely be their greatest single source of alcohol tax revenue at the outset.
According to the City Decatur Revenue Department, the City makes between 5 and 6 cents per a 12-ounce can of beer.  It will take about 18,000 12 ounce beers per day to bring in the alcohol revenue some are predicting. Remember, Hartselle’s population is about 14,000**. Well over 25 percent of our population (3,500) is below the age of 21 and cannot purchase alcohol.*** According to a national survey about 23.7 percent of the national population totally abstain from alcohol.* In Hartselle that is about 3,318. Thus, only about 7,100 residents are likely legal alcohol purchasers.
They will obviously need to attract a lot of people outside of Hartselle to come here and purchase 18,000 cans of beer per day.  What problems will this cause? Has this solved Decatur’s problems? Does Decatur have an Olive Garden to show for its efforts? Is this safe?
For a fuller discussion of the revenue numbers breakdown, please go to Facebook and search for “Families for a Safe Hartselle Vote No”.
* Alcoholic Beverage Consumption by Adults 21 Years and Over in the United States:  Results from the Nat. Health and Nutrition Examination Surv, 2003-2006, Tech. Report, Guenther, P.M., Bowman, S.A., & Goldman, J.D. (2010). Ctr for Nutrition Pol. & Prom., & Ag. Res. Serv.
**Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center Report 2009
***2000 US Census
While touting this revenue, they have avoided the discussion of the risk inherently involved in the high volume consumption of alcohol.  Surely, everyone will admit that alcohol has the potential to produce undesirable behavior in people.  Among numerous studies on this topic, one study shows that alcohol outlet density is the single greatest predictor of violent crimes in neighborhoods, greater than other social and economic factors. One study found that reducing violent crime by one percent could be achieved by reducing alcohol outlet density by less than one percent.  Read these and other studies for yourself at
This increased crime will force the city to use some of that new revenue to hire more police officers and incur other costs associated with providing more law enforcement officers and administrative support.
If Hartselle chooses to enter the alcohol door, another door will consequently open – the door to bars, nightclubs and lounges coming here.  You see, if a ity allows alcohol sales, three City Councilmen can vote to bring in bars, nightclubs and lounges.  Four city councilmen can vote to override the Mayor’s veto and still bring in bars, nightclubs and lounges.
If you are simply voting for revenue, you will have to admit that bars, nightclubs and lounges will bring in a lot more revenue for the city.  The Sept. 13 edition of the Arab Tribune reported that the city council of Arab considered extending the operating hours of its bars until 2 a.m. One of the reasons cited by a councilman – Arab is losing tax revenue from bar customers who leave their bars at midnight and drive to Huntsville and Guntersville and continue drinking.  See the Arab Tribune website.
Sooner or later, governments face budget crises.  If we go wet, someone could push to consider bars, nightclubs and lounges as a solution.
One of the more interesting premises upon which some argue for alcohol is that Hartselle has an image problem and our door needs to be replaced.  I challenge anyone to ask many of the new Hartselle families why they moved here.  Al Faulkner said it well in his letter last week  – “…Hartselle was the best location for our family.  The combination of a great school system, sports programs and a family-friendly community were all found in Hartselle.  The quality of life here is outstanding.”
I would also challenge anyone to ask Cracker Barrel, Lowe’s, Walgreen’s, Redstone Federal Credit Union, Bender’s Gym and many other businesses why they chose to move here even after Hartselle rejected liquor sales in 2002.  Ask Kroger and Wal-Mart why they chose to renovate their stores.  I submit to you that these are indicators of safe progress.
Many people, attracted by our quality of life, have recently entered our solid door and found a place to call home here.  Some have built houses, joined local recreation programs and have attracted many new businesses.
Many who now argue for alcohol sales have also entered through the same solid door for years. It has served them well.  Perhaps they raised their families here, operated a business and enjoyed the benefits of safe progress.  The old solid door is no longer good enough – they want to discard it for a bright shiny new door like the one on other buildings.  They seem to have become so focused on getting a shiny new door that they have not observed the problems with the other buildings upon which those shiny new doors rest.
Sure, an old door needs a little elbow grease from time to time to clean off the signs of life.  However, its fundamental beauty remains.  As we continue to enter that solid door, let’s make sure to preserve its beauty and the beauty within so that future generations may enter it and enjoy the peace and safe progress inside.
I urge you to join thousands of Hartselle residents, choose the solid door and Vote No to Liquor and other alcohol sales on Nov. 2.