Legalizatin of liquor does not solve problems

Dear Editor,

 

Mr. Dale Feicke writes a compelling letter (July 19 issue) in favor of liquor sales in Simpson County. He cites the need for alcohol to be legal in order to attract restaurants and other enterprises that would locate here, if only liquor was legal. This supposedly would make life better, and there’s validity to that argument. Then there are those who would argue from a religious perspective that such action would be morally wrong. I don’t want to debate wither of those positions, because this is America where we have freedom and choice. I do, however, want to advocate for a progressive Simpson County achieved in the BEST manner possible.

One question local elected officials: Where do you want Simpson County / Magee / Mendenhall to be in 10 years? In 20 years? The legalization of liquor will, without a doubt, fatten the coffers of local businesses and the sales and property tax revenue columns. And this is good, right? That way we can create jobs and opportunities, so our children can have a choice of settling back at home to live and work, as opposed to having to go elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I fear this argument by outside corporations that they can’t locate here because they can’t sell liquor is almost a blackmail, intimidation ploy designed to panic and arouse the locals. It’s worked elsewhere, why not here? There are MANY criteria that come into play when those charged with planting new stores look at a community. Such things as per-capita income, population numbers and educational levels, local potential customers compared to travelers, even the overall appearance of the community, also come into play. Unfortunately, liquor is but one of those areas in which we would come up short. We could legalize liquor and still not land those fine dining opportunities or the highly-touted positive spin-off effects.

My concern is that for every additional dollar we may reap because of legalized liquor, we will ultimately spend that dollar and another one besides, to combat the negative side of the legalized liquor question. The one the corporations won’t show you. Unfortunately, liquor is just the tip of the destructive iceberg. IF everyone would consume responsibly, “this might be an OK move. But it doesn’t work that way. Alcohol leads to different types of substance abuse. Liquor sales will contribute to greater employment opportunities in local criminal justice, but the rest of us will be saddled with paying the tab for those who arrest and try the underage drinkers, the DUI drivers, the drug sellers and users. Not to mention the general criminals as well. We’re already behind the curve in keeping pace with crime.

We need look no farther up the road than Jackson to see the questionable dividend of liquor sales and all those chain restaurants. The year is only half gone, and already there have been more than two murders per week since January. It’s not safe out at night. Substance abuse is involved in much of this reality. Do we really want to be a little Jackson in ten years? Twenty years? We have a quality lifestyle here in Simpson County, with Jackson and Hattiesburg close enough to provide what we lack.

For certain, we have some serious issues confronting us. But before we blindly endorse the philosophy that only legalized liquor will solve those issues, look again. Voting for liquor is an easy move. Elected officials don’t have to do very much, and either way, they can say, “The people spoke.” But that’s not what they were elected to do. Instead, our local leaders need to work not just harder, but harder AND smarter. Attack our failing schools cooperatively with a vengeance, and accept nothing less than marked improvement. Explore and implement other ways that our community profile can be enhanced and improved. When outside prospects come calling, we’ll truly have a package deal they can’t turn down, even if they do have to drive up the road a few minutes to buy their liquor.

Position us in such a way that we present as the county that could, without falling prey to the intimidation and blackmail tactics of some of these businesses. There are some corporations we don’t deserve and don’t need. There are others, if marketed to correctly, with a quality product, would gladly come here, because we stood up for what was right and made it a success.

Chick-fil-a was founded by the late Truett Cathy in 1946, 72 years ago. From its inception, it has never been open on Sunday, and it has never sold any form of alcohol, contrary to current business model thinking. It is one of the most successful companies in the country, enjoys one of the highest employee satisfaction scores and lowest employee turnover numbers. All because one man and those who followed him stood up, proudly declared their positon that was contrary to the norm, and took no shame in taking that stand. The company is still thriving today, and in fact offers leadership training that would benefit all our elected officials.

Simpson County could be a success story like Chick-fil-a, but only if our leaders are willing to do their jobs, and not look to liquor sales as a simple, easy way to compensate for determined, smart work. I oppose legalizing liquor because, whether you believe it’s a savvy business move or morally wrong, at the end of the day, the actual cost in dollars and human lives ruined will far exceed any increase in revenue we might realize initially. There are better ways to achieve the same end result.

Sincerely, Walter McCallum, a concerned citizen that believes that the legalization of liquor and gambling solves no problem but creates other problems.