By Lena Mitchell / Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
Booneville voters will decide Tuesday whether the sale of beer and light wine will be legal in the city.
Both supporters and opponents have conducted intense advertising campaigns to sway voters, each side taking out full-page ads week after week in the local newspaper.
Now it boils down to who can get more of those voters to take action.
“On Tuesday everybody will have a chance to cast their ballots about the way their hearts feel about this issue with nobody looking over their shoulder,” said Gary Walker, whose Citizens for New Business and Growth organization launched the election effort four months ago.
It didn’t take long for opponents to organize as well.
“We’ve tried to express to the public the moral, biblical perspective of alcohol and the problems it brings along,” said Brother Lee Dillard, pastor of Tuscumbia Baptist Church and spokesman for Citizens Against Alcohol Sales in Booneville. “We presented our views and appealed to our folks and just pray folks will get out and vote on Tuesday.”
From the beginning when his group began gathering signatures to bring the issue to a vote, Walker has said business growth is his bottom line.
“Like I said from the start, it’s been about progress for my community,” Walker said. “My plan is to legalize beer and light wine in Booneville so our community can more forward. Right now it remains stagnant, property values continue to go down, taxes are increasing and jobs are disappearing. The opposition has mentioned no plan except to defeat my plan.”
However, the revenue and tax benefits of legal beer sales as suggested by supporters are not as presented, Dillard said.
“By the time you pay for the cost in a town as small as ours, the benefits do not outweigh the costs,” Dillard said.
It’s not only about the business aspect either, Dillard said. It’s also about quality of life.
“I’m the father of five small boys and I really like the fact that we’re raising them in a small town with a good community feel where the crime rate is not high,” Dillard said. “In the research and statistics we’ve come across, it shows that in violent crimes across the United States 40 percent of perpetrators are under the influence of alcohol immediately before or after they commit the crime. Without alcohol it’s a better all-around atmosphere, a godly city – that’s what we desire for our family.”
Around Booneville last week there were others of like mind to both Walker and Dillard who expressed their views.
“I’m a big church-goer and a big church worker, but I would vote for it,” said one Prentiss County resident who asked that her name not be used. “I’m tired of the hypocrisy. On that long list of names printed in the paper against it, I know at least 10 people who drink beer. They think we don’t know it, but we do.”
Nalene Pannell said she’d like “to keep our community free of that if at all possible,” and Debra Brooks said “I’m against it.”
Customers at Michael’s Tobacco on East Church Street have said they favor beer sales, said store clerk Debbie Maness.
“I think it would be a good thing for Booneville,” Maness said. “I live in Altitude and won’t be able to vote on it, but most of our customers who bring it up, I would say 99 percent support it.”
The Rev. Steven and Wyvonne Powell both said they will vote against legalizing beer sales.
“I personally think it would be a wrong move,” Wyvonne Powell said. “This town once had a saloon and even though that was long ago, I think the people against it recognize how bad it was for the city.”
“In a college town it would just be opening up problems,” Steven Powell added.
Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Westside Community Center.
Of the 6,126 registered voters in Booneville, as of Thursday, 193 absentee ballots had been requested and 141 ballots had been voted, according to the city clerk’s office.
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.