New Albany prepares for beer referendum

NEW ALBANY – Voters here will decide Tuesday whether beer and light wine will be legal to sell and possess within the city limits.
Union Countians United for Progress secured more than 1,000 signatures to force the vote – the same group that promoted a countywide election to allow liquor and wine in November 2008.
The election will be held at the Union County Courthouse, with the polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Promoters have said the election is an economic issue, and opponents have posed it as a moral question. Some signs around town urge, “Vote for progress,” while others assert that “a vote ‘no’ to beer and wine is a vote for families.”
For some supporters the idea that people drive to other towns is reason enough to make alcohol legal in New Albany.
“It will keep money in our community; it’ll keep DUIs and stuff down,” said nursing student Jeamie Graham, who once spent 39 days hospitalized because of a drunk driver. “If it’s right here for people to get and they don’t have to drive 25 miles each way, isn’t that better?”
“If it kept people from being alcoholics or from drinking, I’d vote no,” said one unnamed woman who said she would vote yes. “But it doesn’t – they go to Tupelo or Oxford to get it.”
Beer supporter Bobby Banks asked, “How many people have been killed driving from Tupelo, Oxford or Memphis when all they’ve done was go after beer or liquor?’
One respondent labeled as “Katie” on a local Internet exchange assured, “A vote AGAINST beer is a vote for the youth of New Albany. Yes, voting is private, but there is One who will know how you vote.”
Wendy Coltharp, a sales trainer with FedEx, said she drinks but is concerned whether legalization might change the town.
“At first I was really for it, because in some ways I think it could bring in some new businesses,” she said. “On the other hand, this is a really tight-knit family community, and I worry about maybe an increase in the DUI situation.
“I have a 1-year-old, and I want her to be safe, so I’m inclined right now to vote no. People are crazy enough as it is.”
To pass, more than 50 percent of participating voters on Tuesday would have to approve the referendum. If it fails, supporters cannot compel another election for five years.

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal