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Hartselle Enquirer

A major decision for Hartselle’s future

On Nov. 2, Hartselle voters will decide whether or not to legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages within the corporate limits of the city. As in previous legalization attempts, this is an acutely debated and highly emotional referendum.
I have confidence in the ability of Hartselle’s voters to individually assess pro and con issues and decide for themselves what is best for our city. This vote will have long-lasting effects on the future of Hartselle. Following are six major issues which should be considered in making a final decision.
1. Worsening Crime – Statistics available from other cities in our immediate region neither conclusively support nor refute worsening of crime due to legalization of alcohol. Varying demographics, including population mix and geographic location, present variables precluding comparative conclusions. Illegal substances which have more recently grown at an alarming rate further distort crime statistics. No trends directly associated with alcohol can be objectively developed.
2. Safety of Citizens – It is ludicrous to believe that our elected city officials would fail to pass and enforce ordinances that     provide for the safety of the citizens of Hartselle. Historically, all previous elected administrations in     Hartselle have prioritized the safety of its citizens.
I maintain that through conscientious election of     responsible city officials, by current and future Hartselle electorates, a safe environment will continue after legalization.
A very restrictive ordinance was drafted by the city during the previous     campaign for legal sales. This draft ordinance is currently under review by the Mayor and Council     and will address all concerns currently expressed by opponents of legal sales. I encourage those     concerned to participate in the public review of the draft prior to finalization.
3. Economic Development –  Hartselle is postured for significant economic development. The retail trade zone is not limited     to the population of Hartselle, but is comprised of households within a 12-minute drive time. The     population within this trade zone was 22,751 in April 2007. Also, not to be overlooked are the 34,000     vehicles traveling Interstate 65 (I65) each 24 hours. In addition to daily commuters, there are      tourists, seasonal transients to the coast, and regional visitors who may stop to dine and/or lodge at the interstate.
Sixty-six desirable businesses, including those selling alcohol, have been identified by the Buxton Co.,     a nationally recognized and respected firm, as a “match” for Hartselle’s demographics and market     gaps. However, recruitment of these businesses is largely dependent on Hartselle presenting a progressive image.
During my 11 years of involvement in economic development and business recruitment in Hartselle and Morgan County, I have interfaced with numerous retail developers. Three of the more  prominent ones (Coldwell Banker Com-mercial McLain Real Estate – Huntsville, Chase Com-mercial     Properties – Bir-mingham and Aronov Realty Management – Montgomery) have interests within and  outside our immediate region and are considered experts and leaders in retail development.
All have visited Hartselle and expressed an interest in retail development here. However, all infer that it will be a long shot without legalized sales. Respective comments from the three are:
•  “The legality and right to have alcohol sales, whether you or anyone buys alcohol at the establishments, makes a significant difference in whether an establishment will locate in an area. Also know that retailers attract retailers and success attracts success.”
•  “I did not realize that Hartselle/Morgan County was dry. As you know, we searched the Hartselle Area for sites for a national grocer 18 months ago and could not generate enough interest to move forward. In my opinion, any grocery site selected that could not obtain a beer and wine permit would be rejected and transaction terminated on the front end.”
•  “For restaurants especially, this referendum really is the gateway to Hart-selle. I am confident there are a number of nice dining venues that will look favorably upon Hartselle should the community pass the referendum.”
Also, without exception my numerous associates and contacts who promote economic development     through their organizations reinforce these statements.
4. Growth and Revenue – Normal population growth is historically about 1 to 1.5 percent annually. Services provided to residents are     funded primarily from sales tax. With continued population increase and stagnant or slow-growing retail development and sales tax base, the city will in the not-too-distant future be confronted with either reducing some city services now provided or placing a moratorium on additional residential construction. When growth ceases, a city becomes stagnant and more than likely will shrink. It has been said that “we either grow or die.”
Legalized sales will specifically provide revenue associated with sales and licensing. However revenue directly associated with alcohol sales will be relatively insignificant when compared to revenue generated by new businesses stimulated to locate here as a result of legalization. Growth     can occur normally and be sustained.
5. Vision – History is a valuable teacher. When lessons learned from history are heeded and vision applied in analogous situations, future generations benefit. To illustrate application of this to legalizing sales, I     cite a situation occurring in Hartselle al-most 40 years ago:
In the early 1970s, soon after I65 was opened, Senators John Sparkman and Jim Allen          secured federal money for Hartselle to widen Highway 36 from U.S. Highway 31 to I65. This offered Hart-selle the opportunity to capitalize on future interstate development and would in the interim present an at-tractive gateway to Hart-selle. Design was started and public review  of plans was conducted. It was then that local parochial and po-litical interests came into play resulting in the project being killed. Some 40 years hence, we are struggling to improve the outdated and congested Highway 36 and to recruit I65 businesses in an intensively competitive business environment with an eroded and much diminished recruitment base.
Failure to legalize alcohol sales in Hartselle will be viewed by future generations as another major     example of lack of vision.
6. Moral – I respect the opinion and belief of each individual in Hartselle. I admire those who take a firm stand to promote their sincere convictions, but only after their reasonable and objective study of all aspects of an issue.
I also believe that in expressing different views on issues that honesty and integrity should prevail throughout the process. All must re-member that the end result does not necessarily justify the means of achievement.
Legalization of sales in Hartselle is a major decision and should not be emotionally influenced, but rather through careful study resulting in a sound and objective decision. Circus antics and slanted information have no place in this important issue
. The decision should ultimately be personal and not be influenced by any organization, peer pressure nor intimidation. Make this vote your personal decision when you close the curtain at the voting machine. Above all, please register to vote before Oct. 22 and vote on Nov. 2.
Every eligible voter should exercise his or her right to vote to assure that this important decision does indeed reflect the wishes of all eligible voters.

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