Essay: The ten top reasons for a no vote

Essay: The ten top reasons for a no vote

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Here are the 10 top reasons for voting no for beer and wine:

1. The number of licenses – 38 beer and wine licenses (19 year-round and at least 19 seasonal, with no package stores) is excessive for a town with a population of 3,811. That’s one beer and wine license for every 100 citizens. That’s more than Edgartown, which has a total of 34 liquor licenses (20 year-round, including four package stores, and 14 seasonal, including one package store, for a population of 3,932). Or Oak Bluffs, which has a total of 34 (17 year-round, including four package stores, and 17 seasonal, for a population of 3,735).

2. Cost – There will be additional costs for monitoring the licensees, enforcing regulations, and policing the town and harbor, but we don’t know what those costs are. Tisbury currently has 12 full-time police officers and hires no additional summer officers other than traffic personnel. Edgartown currently employs 15 year-round officers, five summer special officers and three year-round special officers. Oak Bluffs currently employs 14 year-round officers and 10 seasonal or special officers. Before voting, we should know what the additional costs are and how we are going to pay for them.

3. Economic benefit – Restaurants will be the primary beneficiaries if the town grants beer and wine licenses. The September 2006 Report of Findings from the Town of Tisbury Beer and Wine Committee concluded “there would be no significant economic benefit or detriment to the town…However, forecasted benefits were projected primarily for the hospitality trades…Other market segments, and the much broader business population, did not envision a significant change.” Why should we risk changing the character of the town for the benefit of the restaurants?

4. Regulations – The regulations are unclear and can be changed at any time, at the whim of the selectmen. What criteria/conditions are they using to grant licenses? What constitutes a meal? What distinguishes a bar from a restaurant? Will restaurants be required to bring in an equal or greater amount of revenue from the sale of food than from the sale of liquor? These questions should be answered before we vote.

5. Enforcement/compliance – No plan for enforcement has been developed. Who is going to monitor compliance with regulations? Who is going to go into restaurants to check if they are only serving alcohol with a meal or that the food being served is a meal? Who will patrol the streets and waterfront? If we grant licenses, we have to monitor them and, if we monitor them, there will be additional costs.

6. Effect on the character of the town – “When the summer floodgates open, Tisbury is the most vulnerable of all Island towns. The availability of beer and wine will attract new crowds to Tisbury by land and by sea. It will dilute our quality of life by bringing noise, harbor patrol problems, safety issues for kids in town, enforcement, and associated costs. Take a look at other Vineyard ports that serve alcohol, where the atmosphere is totally out of character with our family-friendly, welcoming style, quiet residential streets, historic district, and peaceful anchorage. The disruptions brought on by selling beer and wine in our town will not be offset by the questionable benefits for a few restaurants.” Nat Benjamin, in the Vineyard Gazette, ‘Tisbury Opinions on Beer and Wine’ April 10, 2009.

7. Harbor safety – The Island has a strong commitment to conservation to protect the land. Why wouldn’t we protect our harbor? We have something that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Why would we risk losing it? The harbor is the destination for hundreds of ferry passengers, sail boats, and power yachts daily, bringing enormous economic benefit to the town with no impact on the infrastructure. There are many maritime businesses located on the waterfront that have made huge sacrifices to limit their expansion to protect the character of the waterfront atmosphere. The harbor is also host to a number of vital sailing and swimming programs for more than 400 kids, including the VH Yacht Club, Sail MV, and the high school sailing team. These programs have chosen Vineyard Haven harbor because of it’s family friendliness and safety, which would be compromised by having to share it with people who are operating boats under the influence.

8. Planning – Granting liquor licenses is not planning. It is a short-term, quick-fix, shortsighted solution to address the long-term economic viability of the town. The beer and wine proponents believe the sale of beer and wine in restaurants will boost Tisbury’s economy and revitalize the town. Who will really benefit and why do they think alcohol is the panacea for Tisbury’s economy? The proponents say it will increase all retail business in the town, but present retail stores could be replaced with seasonal restaurants. The availability of beer and wine licenses and a sewer system increases the value of retail space, and landlords may increase their rents. Seasonal restaurants that close for the winter will leave the town more of a ghost town in the winter. Finding long-term sustainable solutions to Tisbury’s economic problems warrants more thoughtful consideration, with input from all sectors of the community.

9. Good food and BYOB – There are restaurants in every town on the Island with thriving businesses that don’t serve beer and wine. The key is serving good food at affordable prices. Many people like the BYOB policy already in place in Tisbury, because they can bring their own wine and avoid paying the mark-up cost to restaurants.

10. Unintended consequences – Substance abuse on Martha’s Vineyard is a well documented problem among both the adolescent and adult population (Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of 7th -12th grade students in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 documented adolescent substance use to be higher than state and national averages, and in the 2004 Island Health Report 31 percent of M.V. full- time residents reported “excess” alcohol consumption with more excess consumption reported by residents of wet towns than those in dry towns.). Is it necessary to drink alcohol to have fun, and is this the message we want to send/model for the island’s youth?

Please vote no on Article One.

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