Buy Local First Drops Off Petitions
By ADAM RUSSELL
More than 16,000 registered voter signatures were turned in to the city Thursday afternoon by the political action committee Buy Local First for local-alcohol option propositions to be placed on November ballots.
The petitions are for a local-option election to allow the legal sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption within the city limits and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2. It does not include liquor sales. Another would expand mixed beverage sales at restaurants and bars in newly annexed portions of the city.
About 7,800 signatures are necessary to place the propositions on city ballots and 6,700 for placement on Precinct 2 ballots. Buy Local First turned over more than 9,000 signatures from city voters and more than 7,000 from voters in Precinct 2.
The county Election Department will have 30 days to verify the signatures. If enough valid signatures were collected, the county commissioners court will place the proposal on ballots.
Precinct 2 includes southern Tyler and unincorporated areas south and west of the city, Flint, Noonday and Bullard. The group also will seek the legal sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption and mixed beverage sales for restaurants.
The city clerk and county election department have 30 days to verify the signatures for their respective jurisdictions. If enough valid signatures were collected the county commissioners court will call an election in Precinct 2 and the city council will call the citywide local-option election.
Buy Local First committee member Bob Westbrook said the group has done its due diligence by verifying the signatures according to current voter rolls. He said the group, which consists of business owners, civic leaders and former elected officials, is excited to hand over the signatures for verification.
"The day has finally arrived," he said. "The people made it easy to collect signatures. The support was overwhelming and now it is up to the voters."
Westbrook said the number of signatures collected, including those rejected during the group's verification process, showed an "eagerness" among Smith County residents to see alcohol sales in Tyler.
Stand Strong for Tyler, a political action committee group in opposition to beer and wine sales in both jurisdictions officially formed late last week. Michael Daniels, pastor at Landmark Baptist Church, said Tuesday that the group will work to defeat the propositions because of social consequences of alcohol.
On Thursday, Daniels said many people have contacted him in support of defeating the measures. He said now that petitions have been filed, the opposition committee will begin working to get likeminded voters to the polls.
"The silent majority hasn't said a word yet," he said. "They'll speak on election day."
City residents last voted on alcohol sales for off-premises consumption in the 1970s, with the proposal ending in defeat.
Tyler is among more than a dozen East Texas communities taking a closer look at how beer and alcohol sales could affect quality of life and the bottom line.
Winona, Troup, Alba, Jacksonville, Athens, Henderson, Rusk and Mineola voted in recent years to allow beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption and in some cases liquor.
Residents from Smith County's Justice of the Peace Precinct 4, Arp, Bullard, Whitehouse, Lindale, Brownsboro, Murchison and Hawkins rejected similar measures.
Buy Local First touts studies showing retailers earn $3 in additional general sales for every $1 spent on beer and wine. Westbrook, former president of Texas Restaurant Association and Tyler CiCi's Pizza franchisee, said based on store size and location, beer and wine sales can mean as much as $25,000 to $150,000 per week in additional sales.
Beer and wine sales will bring businesses otherwise reluctant to come to Tyler, he said.
Westbrook said Buy Local First has begun a fact-finding study that will dispel arguments about alcohol sales' negative effect on community safety and a study that will highlight the positive effects on businesses.
Buy Local First committee member Rick Coker, a dentist who has lived in Tyler for more than 40 years, said allowing residents the option to buy alcohol and retailers the option to sell is long overdue. He said people can choose not to purchase and consume alcohol but should not be able to tell him he cannot.
"This is not an election about drinking," Coker said. "It's an election about buying and having the option."