by Joe B. Lyman
Beer in Blanding can be an emotional and divisive issue. My hope is that a little historical overview will help put things in perspective. I hope that people will respect the opinions of others and gracefully accept the result of the debate, whatever that result may be.
On August 18, 1935 there was a special session of the Blanding Town Board. The “purpose of the meeting was to outline a plan to eliminate the Blanding Liquor Store and proposed beer parlor. It was voted to circulate a petition and present to Liquor Control Commission. Clerk was directed to craft the petition.”
It seems rather evident that the Town Board felt the petition would be widely supported, and it was. I have seen a copy of that petition. There were a lot of names on it for a town the size of Blanding in 1935.
In the regular session of the Town Board on February 5, 1936 the “Matter of Beer license was taken up and discussed. Joseph B. Harris moved that the Mayor write the Liquor Commission that we do not want a beer parlor in our town this was seconded by Dorothy Bayles and carried.”
The Town Board carried out the will of the people, as expressed in the prior petition, in opposing the sale of liquor in town.
Flash forward 30 years and you find that in August of 1966 the Blanding City Council passed an ordinance forbidding the purchase or possession of alcoholic beverages by any person under 21 years of age - except as prescribed by a physician or parent.
This ordinance was followed on November of 1967 by “An ordinance prohibiting beer sales within the limits of the City of Blanding”.
This was followed by another ordinance on February 25, 1973 reiterating the 1967 prohibition and requesting that the County not grand liquor licenses to stores close to Blanding.
The 1973 ordinance cited as justification the “desires of an overwhelming majority of the citizens of the City of Blanding”.
No statistical evidence of overwhelming opposition to beer sales in the City was given in 1973 but such opposition confirmed 10 years later.
On April 13, 1983 the Council commissioned an opinion poll in the four voting districts to be scheduled for May 17, 1983. I have not found the results of the poll but I voted in it and recall that the prohibition was upheld by a large margin.
My recollection is supported by the minutes of the City Council Meeting of December 14, 1983, where it is reported that the “recent poll of area voters relative to the sale of beer within the City was ample evidence that a majority of the citizenry is against the sale of alcoholic beverages”.
On March 23, 1988 two different motions were made to draft an ordinance to allow limited liquor sales in Blanding. The first motion was defeated.
Following some political maneuvering to amend it the second motion with a provision that the matter be decided by a binding referendum of the citizens carried.
It was a short lived decision because it was rescinded on April 27, 1988 and no such ordinance was drafted and there was not a referendum vote.
I don’t believe this decision was wrong. It had only been five years since the previous decisive public opinion poll.
It has been 29 years since the last substantive discussion and 34 years since the last public poll. Given the history of this debate and the fact that twice before Council has polled the community, once by petition and once by an opinion poll, I believe the decision rests with the voice of the people.
Of greater interest to me is that decisions concerning alcohol may have been emotional but they were not the decisions discussed.
In every meeting since 1936, when alcohol was discussed it was just one topic on the agenda. The rest of the meetings were spent conducting the business of the City.
The issues of the day were interesting: dogs, sewer, power, water, appointment of a new town marshal, and a swimming pool (yes a swimming pool in 1936). They went about providing the services they had been commissioned by the citizens to provide.
Council members who had been at odds over the alcohol issue immediately worked together on the other issues at hand. That is the model we should follow.
Whatever happens in this debate let us not be divided by it.