Ordinarily, presidential primaries don’t draw a lot of attention. This year’s will be different — and not just because of the now-winnowed field of Republican and Democratic candidates.
Tuesday, Effingham voters will decide if they want liquor by the drink sales to be held on the premises in Rincon, Springfield and the unincorporated portions of the county. Over the last couple of weeks, we have allowed both sides to have their say in our letters to the editor. We had announced previously that no further letters will be published after our Jan. 31 edition. That was done to prevent anyone from trying to slip in a letter late Friday, one way or the other, in order to guarantee getting the last word in today’s paper.
We also figured it wouldn’t be worth it to run letters in Tuesday’s upcoming edition. People may not get the paper before they vote.
I’ve been asked, and have asked, what the outcome might be from the vote on the referendum. The last time, back in 2002, the margin was decidedly against liquor by the drink sales. Folks I talk to think the vote will be very close this time around.
I think — and have nothing really to base this on other than observation — that those opposed to liquor by the drink were taken aback by how well organized the advocates of the referendum were this time around. It did not take them long to crank up their machine and mount their campaign.
I will freely admit I am no saint by any stretch. I’ll have a beer or two with dinner. I enjoy a glass of wine on occasion. I like a mixed drink every now and then, though I’ve only had such a drink with dinner on less than a handful of times. I’m not opposed to alcohol in moderation at all.
But I see both sides of the argument. I understand the desire to keep Effingham’s family-friendly environment. Those opposed to the referendum feel the envelope’s been pushed enough with beer and wine and have recounted the deleterious effects of alcohol abuse.
They also believe the restaurants will come in time as the county’s population grows and the market grows accordingly to draw their interest. Those chains look hard at traffic counts and the number of people, and even per capita income, within a radius of where they want to open.
Yet the referendum’s proponents point to the boom of Chatham County’s Westside and that if Effingham doesn’t make itself more of a draw to those chains, they will set foot in Chatham’s Westside first.
Once there, those establishments will draw their circle and see they have a strong market within reach of the south Effingham population center and don’t need to set up another location. That means missing out on property tax and sales tax money from that area.
Both sides agree they don’t want bars or liquor stores opening in Effingham. While the opponents want to stop that from happening with a no vote Tuesday, those in favor say the resulting ordinances can be written in such a restrictive fashion that those unwanted establishments will be kept out.
I’ve lived a great deal of my adult life in Statesboro and Hinesville. Statesboro only recently allowed liquor by the drink sales, after I moved away. Hinesville is debating its own liquor by the drink sales on a Sunday referendum.
The adjacent town of Flemington enacted a liquor by the drink sales on Sunday statute two years ago — Applebee’s started construction a few weeks later. The referendum and ordinance were written in a restrictive fashion and written well. My lawyer’s the one who wrote it.
I am only relating my experience, as limited as it is, with this issue. This is your chance to have a direct hand in the near-term future of the community. My only plea is that you vote.
I get the feeling that thousands will, and that’s a very good thing.