Beer, wine sales pass

TYLER/SMITH COUNTY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - For the first time since 1940, Tyler and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 will sell beer and wine after voters here Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to go wet.

Four proposals, two to legalize the sale of beer and wine within the city limits and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, which includes unincorporated areas surrounding southern Tyler, Flint, Noonday and Bullard, and two to expand mixed beverage sales in those jurisdictions, were approved.

Complete but unofficial results show Proposition 2 in Tyler, which would legalize beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption within city limits, passed 21,225 votes to 10,670 votes, or 66.55 percent to 33.45 percent. In JP Precinct 2, the legal sale passed 16,695 votes to 8,850 votes, or 65.36 percent to 34.64 percent.

Proposition 1 in Tyler, which expanded mixed beverage sales in areas recently annexed, passed 22,767 votes to 8,450 votes, or 72.93 percent to 27.07 percent. In JP Precinct 2 the same measure passed 17,138 votes to 6,772 votes, or 71.68 percent to 28.32 percent.

"I had no idea voters would respond with these types of numbers," said Bob Westbrook, chairman of Buy Local First, the political action committee that worked to bring beer and wine sales to the two jurisdictions. "I am humbled by the result, but I think this sends a clear to the opposition."

Tuesday's results were a stark contrast to when Tyler voters last weighed in on alcohol sales in 1976, rejecting sales 58 percent to 42 percent.

Pastor Mike Daniels, of Landmark Baptist Church and Stand Strong for Tyler, the group opposing the propositions, said he did not know what the next move for the opposition will be. The group had considered filing a lawsuit to contest the election results, but Daniels said he has lost faith in the election process altogether.

"There's no credibility or integrity in what has been done," he said.

Daniels said the city and county did not perform its duty, and that if both entities followed election law the propositions would have never made it to Tuesday ballots.

"I'm in a fight to preserve our clean, wholesome community," Daniels said.
Daniels said enough petitions did not meet three criteria required by law - each must have an official seal, signatures by the registered voters in that jurisdiction and a page number – to nullify the election.

"I'm happy that (the proponents) spent all the money they needed to get what they want. I'm happy for them," he said. "But the fight is not over. I want my town back."

Tyler Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Mullins said, "It was just time. Tylerites were ready, and they showed it at the polls."

Mullins said he hopes the vote signals to businesses that Tyler is opening up for opportunities.

Tyler expanded mixed beverage sales in 2008, effectively doing away with requiring patrons to be "private members" to buy alcohol in bars and restaurants.

More than half a dozen East Texas communities have legalized alcohol sales since 2009, including Winona, which became the first Smith County jurisdiction to become wet since 1930. But several communities,

including Bullard and Whitehouse, have said "no" to alcohol sales.

Campaign funding in the battle over beer and wine has been a lopsided affair, but the vast majority of funding for the campaign to legalize, $323,075 has come from two sources – Brookshire's and Wal-Mart.

Brookshire's gave $150,000 to the campaign, while Wal-Mart gave $120,000, a total of $270,000.

Jerry Kidd Oil Co. gave $25,000 to the campaign for legalization.

Stand Strong for Tyler raised $8,195.

Buy Local First members have touted the economic impact of bringing beer and wine buyers into local stores.

An economic impact study the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce initiated and released in late September showed legalizing the sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption would generate more than $100 million in new business activity, more than 1,600 jobs and almost $5 million in tax revenue locally.

Stand Strong for Tyler members say the numbers were inflated to create a supportive case.

Coffee City Mayor Tony Moore, reacting to the news that Tyler and JP Precinct 2 voters had passed the alcohol propositions, had a bleak assessment of his wet town's future.

Moore said it would sap up to 20 percent of his town's sales tax revenues, but it wouldn't make the town immediately dry up.

Stand Strong for Tyler members and other anti-alcohol individuals insist beer and wine sales will increase the number of alcohol related crimes, such as DWIs. However, a survey by Sheriff J.B. Smith of 25 jurisdictions that recently went wet concluded that such incidents either experienced no change or reduced. Texas Department of Public Safety studies have shown a reduction in alcohol-related accidents and deaths in areas after alcohol was introduced. Election results are expected to be canvassed within two weeks, but a lawsuit could extend the timetable.

"The people have spoken. It is time to move forward and come January, start buying locally first," Westbrook said.


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