Wet or Dry / Yes or No

Posted January 24, 2017 at 11:30 am

Voters to decide Tuesday if alcohol sales will be legal

After what has literally been months of unofficial campaigning, rhetoric and a certain amount divisiveness among local citizens, it will be the registered voters’ turn to decide whether or not Clinton County will remain a “dry” county and prohibit the sale of alcohol, or for the first time in modern history, go “wet” and legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Clinton Countians will go to the polls next Tuesday, January 24 at their respective polling precincts and cast a single vote to answer the question, “Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages in Clinton County?”

The choice will result in a simple outcome: A ‘yes’ means you are, a ‘no’ vote means you are not.

The issue, according to some, has divided the county. However, the campaigning to this point has been civil and on January 24, the issue will be put to rest one way or another–at least for now.

The wet/dry issue came to Clinton County last September when a petition containing more than enough signatures to have the referendum put on a ballot, was turned in to the Clinton County Clerk’s office. Signatures were collected for several weeks prior to the petition officially being filed.

Clinton County Clerk Shelia Booher and her staff, validated that the petition contained 565 signatures of registered voters, more than the 515 that would have been required to result in the question being put to a vote.

Once the signatures of registered voters–which was 25 percent of the total number of residents who voted in the November 2015 general election–were verified by the clerk’s office, following Kentucky law, Clinton County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong set a date for the special election to be held. That time frame was no less than 30 days, nor more than 90 days, after the signatures on the petition were verified.

Local businessman Jim Soma, who is also chairman of the Clinton County Industrial Development Authority, spearheaded the drive for the wet forces after several areas counties, most noticeably Cumberland County, had voted to allow the sale of alcohol. Bordering Russell County and other area counties have also voted to go wet over the past couple of years.

On the flip side, at least two nearby areas, the City of Monticello and County of Monroe, each soundly defeated similar measures–most recently Monroe County which voted to remain dry by an almost 700 vote margin.

Even during the period when signatures were being collected, and before the petition was filed, opposition to the proposal to make Clinton County wet began.

The opposition escalated after the petition was officially filed, with the formation of Concerned Citizens for Families, a group led primarily by several local ministers who have held meetings on the issue weekly, took to the streets with signs, put up yard signs and carried out a “vote no” campaign with radio and newspaper advertisements.

The Clinton County News spoke with leaders from both sides of the “Yes/No” alcohol sales issue, interviewing “yes” proponent Jim Soma as well as
“no” supporter David McIver.

“As a community we really need to decide if we want our children and grandchildren to be able to stay and work here,” Soma said. “How many times do you hear ‘there is nothing to do here?’ There are plenty of people in our county who rarely see their children and grandchildren because they had to go off to college and ended up making a life away from here. They realize there is no future here for them. Let’s change that and work toward building a future for them here.”

Soma said he has been a business man in Albany for more than 30 years and he has seen industries come and go and many who haven’t put plants or store here because of the economy in Clinton County.

Soma has been involved with several organizations during the past 30 years that have dealt with the growth of Clinton County like the Chamber of Commerce and he is a board member of the Tourism Commission and the Industrial Authority.

“I believe in supporting our local businesses and I want this town to grow. Some want you to believe that the Bible is against drinking alcohol. That is not true. There is no verse in the Bible that says drinking alcohol is a sin. The Bible does speak against drunkenness and over indulgence of anything is a sin.”

Soma believes this upcoming election is about opening doors for long term businesses in the area.

“It isn’t about promoting alcohol. If we go wet, the revenue is allocated by state to police, EMS, fire department and for economic hardship. The funds that are currently allocated out of the budget will be freed up to disburse to other agencies,” Soma said. “A ‘yes’ vote will give everyone of legal age the choice to purchase or not to purchase, drink or not to drink alcohol. This vote is about job creation for the future of our community. Anyone who is 18 years old and up can vote. Now is the time to vote ‘yes’ for the progress of our town and for generations to come.”

On the other side of Tuesday’s vote, the Concerned Citizens for Families are working to keep the sale of alcohol from passing.

“According to the KRS 243.075, and the way I understand it, the fees can only be used to offset the cost that alcohol brings to the community. It can’t be used to benefit the community,” David McIver, Chair person with Concerned Citizens for Families, said. “Regulatory fees can only be used for policing and other costs that offset the cost of alcohol.”

McIver said the group of concerned citizens have a primary focus on the effect alcohol would have on the families and children in the community.

“We care about the families and the husbands and wives and the children,” McIver said. “The economic impact alcohol will have on the community can’t be measured against the harm it can bring. There is a lot of harm that can come from alcohol.”

McIver said the Concerned Citizens For Families are just a group of community leaders and church leaders who are concerned about the community.

“We look at how the sale of alcohol will effect Clinton County,” McIver said. “The more you see it the more you crave it and want it, especially for young people.”

The issue has also resulted in much discussion on social media, and at times has gotten even ugly, on Topix, Facebook and other internet outlets.

Just recently, wet proponents have begun to place their own paid advertisements as well and “Vote Yes” yard signs are also being spotted in the county.

Proponents claim the legal sales of alcohol would be an economic boost to Albany and Clinton County with added tax revenues, the potential for more business and industry, including tourism. Opponents have countered that revenues from the sale of alcohol are regulated by the state and earmarked for certain uses and would create more crime and be a detriment to families and children.

The discussions and arguments over the issue will no doubt continue right up to and during election day, but the bottom line will be the 7,498 registered voters–that actually go to the polls or have already voted absentee– of Clinton County will make the final decision next week.

Voters are reminded that although this is a special election, and the only election that will be held in the county this year, it will be conducted as any regular election would be, with voters going to their respective polling place to cast their vote.

As of late last Friday, January 13, Clinton County Clerk Shelia Booher said that a total of 89 absentee ballots had been mailed to perspective voters and another 145 people had already cast ballots in the walk-in voting machine in her office.

The deadline for people requesting a paper absentee and have them returned was this past Tuesday, January 17 at 4 p.m. (A total of the number of absentees returned was too late for this week’s press deadline.)

Booher said last Friday she could not make a prediction on the “turn-out” to expect, other than to say she did expect a “good” turnout in the percentage of registered voters to take part in the special referendum. She added, “I strongly encourage all registered voters to go to the polls next week and exercise their privilege to vote in this important special election.”

(Details of the wet/dry vote will be published in next week’s January 26 edition of the Clinton County News.)