Taking sides: I-1183

  • Sunday, October 2, 2011 12:01am
  • Opinion

I-1183 official ballot title: Initiative Measure No. 1183 concerns liquor: beer, wine, and spirits (hard liquor). This measure would close state liquor stores and sell their assets; license private parties to sell and distribute spirits; set license fees based on sales; regulate licensees; an

d change regulation of wine distribution. Should this measure be enacted into law?

Vote Yes  (Jump to the Vote No argument)

I-1183 is good for businesses, buyers

By Diane Symms

Like thousands of local restaurant owners, I support a “yes” vote on Initiative 1183. This responsible plan for privatizing the sale and distribution of liquor benefits restaurant owners and their customers, as well as Washington taxpayers and consumers.

I’ve owned and operated restaurants in the Seattle area for over 30 years. I believe that the changes 1183 will make in our state’s outdated liquor and wine laws will benefit consumers, taxpayers, local hospitality businesses and our customers.

Washington is one of the few states that still requires restaurants and consumers to buy liquor from the state government at monopoly prices set by the state government. 1183 ends this costly, outdated system and creates real competition in the distribution and sale of liquor and wine. Here’s how.

More options and lower costs

Yes on 1183 gives restaurants and licensed retailers purchasing options that will spur competition among distributors. Under 1183 restaurants and retailers can buy liquor and wine directly from manufacturers, and restaurants can buy liquor from licensed retail stores.

Yes on 1183 removes the restrictions on the wholesale distribution of wine. It also permits wine distributors and wineries to give volume discounts on the wholesale price of wine to restaurants and retail stores. This means lower costs for restaurants, consumers and wineries.

Allowing competition in the distribution and sale of liquor creates a more efficient marketplace. This means greater efficiency, better product availability and wider selections at competitive prices for both restaurants and consumers.

Lower government costs and more revenues

Yes on 1183 reduces state government costs and increases funding for schools, health care and public safety services — without raising taxes. It allows liquor to be sold in licensed grocery and retail stores, just as it is in 42 other states.

Businesses approved for liquor licenses will pay a percentage of their sales to support state and local services. The Washington Office of Financial Management estimates 1183 will generate $186 million to $227 million in new revenues for local governments, and an additional $216 million to $253 million for the state general fund over six years.

These additional revenues will provide vitally needed new funds for public services statewide. And, 1183 dedicates a portion of new revenues specifically to increase funding for local police, fire and emergency services in communities throughout our state.

Strengthens regulation and enforcement

Initiative 1183 gets the state out of the business of selling and promoting liquor and focuses state resources on enforcing liquor laws. It doubles penalties for selling liquor to minors, mandates new employee training and supervision requirements for stores that sell liquor, and provides new revenues for local law enforcement and other public safety services.

Under 1183, liquor licenses are limited to medium and large grocery and retail stores, subject to approval by the Liquor Control Board. 1183 also ensures input from local communities before a license can be issued. And, 1183 prevents liquor from being sold at gas stations and small convenience stores.

Stronger enforcement, tougher penalties and funding for law enforcement are key to preventing sales to minors and keeping our communities safe. 1183 provides all of this.

Growing support for 1183

Just a few months ago, more than 360,000 Washington voters signed petitions to place Initiative 1183 on the November ballot. Now, a “yes” vote on 1183 is being supported by a broad coalition of consumers, law enforcement and public safety officials, and businesses across the state.

Among the many organizations endorsing a “yes” vote on 1183 are the Washington Restaurant Association, Family Wineries of Washington State, Washington Retail Association and Northwest Grocery Association.

I encourage Herald readers to look into the facts on this important initiative by visiting the coalition’s website at YESon1183.com.

If you agree with me that 1183 is the responsible choice for Washington, you can show your support by joining The YES on 1183 Coalition online at YESon1183.com. It’s an easy way to add your name to the growing list of Washington citizens, businesses and organizations who support Initiative 1183.

And, I hope you’ll join me in voting YES on 1183.

About the author: Diane Symms is the owner of two Lombardi’s restaurants in the greater Seattle area and past president of the Washington Restaurant Association. She is the recipient of the Nellie Cashman Woman Business Owner of the Year Award, Washington Restaurant Association’s Restaurateur of the Year award, SBA Score Hero Award and the Seattle Mayor’s Small Business of the Year award.

Vote No

I-1183 puts profits before public safety

By Capt. Dean Shelton

As a firefighter, I’m committed to keeping our community safe. That’s why I’m opposed to Initiative 1183, a corporate-backed measure that would quadruple the number of outlets selling liquor in this state.

I-1183 puts excessive profits before public safety, plain and simple. That’s why firefighters like me across Washington are asking voters to reject I-1183, just like we did with two similar liquor initiatives last year.

Here in Washington, we have pretty tight control over the sale of liquor. Why? Because states that carefully regulate the manufacture, distribution and sale of liquor have lower per-capita consumption, fewer alcohol-related deaths, fewer lost work days, fewer health-care issues and safer roadways.

I’ve seen the tragedies caused by excessive and irresponsible drinking. There is nothing harder than telling a parent their child has been injured or killed by a drunk driver. We know that when liquor is more available, people drink more, and some people drink too much. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently came out with a recommendation against liquor privatization. The public health experts determined that privatization results in a nearly 50 percent increase in alcohol consumption, and that means more problem drinking. And here’s another statistic: Alcohol kills more kids than all other drugs combined.

Those aren’t just numbers to us. Those are lives.

I-1183 is long and complicated and filled with fine print. For instance, no one can tell you exactly how many retail outlets would be able to sell liquor. Supporters say that only stores that are bigger than 10,000 square feet could get a license to sell hard alcohol. But the initiative contains a big loophole. It says that stores with less than 10,000 square feet can sell spirits if there is no other retailer selling hard alcohol in their “trade area.” But “trade area” is not defined. So the Liquor Control Board says there is no way of really knowing how many retailers, including mini marts and gas stations, could sell liquor under I-1183. That’s a risk we just don’t want to take.

In compliance checks conducted by the Liquor Control Board, we know that grocery stores sell alcohol to minors in one out of four attempts. By comparison, our state liquor stores have one of the best enforcement rates in the country. When you have a lack of control, you have more drunk drivers, more problems that impact our communities. That’s just common sense.

Supporters of the initiative say the new taxes on liquor, totaling 27 percent, will generate a windfall of money for local governments. They say this will help fund law enforcement. So why do so many emergency first responders oppose I-1183? We simply don’t believe all the new taxes will pay for the harm caused by expanding liquor sales.

The costs, which we see every day, are enormous. A Department of Justice study in 2007 determined that underage drinking alone costs the people of Washington $1.4 billion annually. Youth violence and traffic crashes attributable to alcohol use by underage youth in Washington represent the largest costs. But there are many other problems: Among teen mothers, fetal alcohol syndrome costs Washington $20.9 million. We all pay.

Last year, voters defeated not one but two liquor privatization initiatives. Now, they are back at it again. You’ve probably seen their TV commercials, and ours. In their rush to get you to vote for their initiative, they dismiss testimony by the Cowlitz County Sheriff, a Renton firefighter, and the Castle Rock police chief, among others who are against I-1183. That’s got to be a new low in local politics. They are willing to stoop to anything to get your vote.

The corporations and big-box stores are trying so hard because they can make huge profits from selling liquor. But the rest of us pay the consequences. So I have to ask: What’s the price on public safety? When does excessive corporate profit trump keeping alcohol-impaired drivers off our roads and highways? When is a little more convenience worth the health and well-being of the citizens of Washington state?

Last year, more than a million Washingtonians rejected big-box retailers and grocery stores from selling liquor. It’s time to say it again. Please join me and my family, and let’s reject I-1183.

About the author: Capt. Dean Shelton is a Marysville firefighter/paramedic.

On the Web: Yes, yeson1183.com; No, protectourcommunities.com

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