Tuesday, July 30, 2013

EDITORIAL >> They should cooperate

After some hesitation, Jacksonville and its chamber of commerce are beginning to join together in an effort to allow liquor sales in town.

The city council approved a resolution last week backing all efforts to get signatures for the election that would allow liquor to be sold by the drink in restaurants and beer and wine sales in grocery stores. Aldermen were pleased an individual stepped forward and offered to help do the job.

At issue is $600,000 a year that Jacksonville is losing in revenue, according to a University of Arkansas study, because 90 percent of the city is in the dry Gray Township.

Sherwood is also dealing with the same issue as 50 percent of it lies inside the dry or no-alcohol township.

Even North Little Rock has the problem in its Park Hill community.

The Sherwood and North Little Rock chambers of commerce are working to get signatures necessary for a vote on whether to stay dry or become completely wet.

Picture this scenario. Jacksonville fails to get the issue on the ballot while North Little Rock, which has about 65 percent of the signatures it needs, and Sherwood both get their elections and the residents say yes to have alcohol sold by the glass, plus beer and wine in grocery stores in all areas.

Supporters of the plan in Jacksonville say that should their effort fail, restaurants that serve alcohol will be calling on Sherwood and North Little Rock. And, sometime in the future, on a Saturday night, Little Rock Air Force Base residents and Jacksonville residents will get in their vehicles, bypass the local fast-food joints and give their money to the other cities. Meaning, instead of losing $600,000 a year, Jacksonville will lose millions.

There are those in Jacksonville who have taken a “laissez-faire” attitude toward getting the 4,400 signatures needed. The chamber so far has placed petitions in only five locations but a citizens group has come forward and is ready to push for a stronger petition drive. Still there are rumblings of opposition from chamber representatives and others.

We say this isn’t the time for squabbling amongst ourselves. This is the time to get on the bandwagon and actively pursue ways to bring income into Jacksonville. The city lost out when Sherwood annexed Gravel Ridge. Let’s actively pursue this stellar opportunity to expand economically.

Even those who are opposed to alcohol consumption should be able to look beyond that and see the economic benefit that could accompany the city going wet.

Let’s face it, when it comes to alcohol, you’re bound to rub some people the wrong way if you’re cheerleading too hard for booze.

One chamber member didn’t want to have petitions in his business because it must maintain a certain image, which is understandable.

Another wasn’t interested because he doesn’t live in Jacksonville anyway. Yet another was peeved because the city director of administration, as a resident who owns office and retail space in the city, donated space for a volunteer to set up shop in an effort to get signatures.

Why didn’t he offer the space to the chamber? It’s obvious. The chamber already has a very nice building and plenty of office space.

We need to get together so the controversy doesn’t split Jacksonville down the middle.

Should the chamber make the first move to shake hands with the mayor or should it be the other way around?

We say it doesn’t make any difference as long as it gets done. Put these squabbles aside and let’s get to work for Jacksonville since the rest of north Pulaski County could go wet and Lonoke and White counties are unlikely to change anytime soon.

Otherwise, North Little Rock and Sherwood could be smiling all the way to the bank.