OPINION: Starkville Sunday alcohol sales 1, Community building 0

Let me just tell you up front, this isn’t a column about the joys – or evils – of the Sunday sale of beer and light wine. I believe it’s a forgone conclusion that it will pass 4-3.

I’m writing about the process.

During the election primary season, almost every candidate started their answer to the question with a phrase along the lines of “this election shouldn’t be about Sunday Sales.” A month into the new term, it looks like that is exactly what it was about.

One of their first significant actions was to start the process of holding public hearings on a subject that is deeply divisive and emotionally charged.

Was that the right course?

Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, who spearheaded the effort, said he sees the revised ordinance as one of the first steps to smartly grow Starkville. “Passage of Sunday sales needs to be in place before amending the comprehensive plan for growth and development (of Starkville),” Dumas said.

He cited Sunday Sales as just one component in the attempt to promote further growth in the city. He also mentioned the storm water ordinance, which affects new construction, and development along the bypass as some of the other factors that must be addressed.

Setting a chain of events in motion to facilitate planned growth is exactly what we need from our leaders. But the board could have looked to a community building cause — like a Justice Complex — before pushing for alcohol sales on Sundays.

One political school of thought says elected officials should attack the issue that has the most long-term baggage head-on to get it as much distance from re-election day as possible. Another approach says elected officials should build political goodwill by tackling a project that can unify the board and community. Sunday Sales obviously is a product of the former school of thought.

I question the wisdom of attacking this issue when the 900-pound gorilla of the justice complex is still in the room. Will the ill will on either side of the Sunday Sales debate be easily smoothed over?

To his credit, Mayor Parker Wiseman has maintained neutrality in the whole process. In a recent conversation, he pointed to his campaign promise of not hindering or pushing Sunday Sales. “This is an Alderman-led initiative,” Wiseman said. He said Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill wrote the first revision, presented at the Aug. 4 Board of Alderman meeting, with input from several aldermen, especially Dumas.

Does that set up Dumas as the lighting rod for the opposition while freeing Wiseman to lead the Justice Complex campaign? Will the electorate recognize — or even care about — the subtle difference?

Come Tuesday, we’ll probably have booze on Sundays. Now can we move on to community building and start on a Justice Complex? Please?

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Tuesday’s Starkville Board of Aldermen meeting will be held at City Hall at 5:30 p.m. today.
Click here for more on the meeting.

Robbie Coblentz/Starkville-Now.com