The battle lines have been drawn in the Great Debate concerning sales of beer on East Ridge city property.
In last Thursday’s Workshop Agenda meeting of the East Ridge City Council, that august body met to discuss amending Ordinance 860 to allow the sale of alcohol on city property by special permit.
Right off the bat, Councilman Larry Sewell dipped his toes in the water by asking/stating that kids wouldn’t be playing ball when the alcohol would be sold, right?
You’ve got to give City Manager Scott Miller some credit. Miller attempted to frame what the council was doing. Miller said that Sewell’s question/statement was “getting the cart before the horse.” Miller said the sale of alcohol on city property was a policy decision that would be made by the council. If the council amended the ordinance to allow alcohol sales, Miller said that he would push for stringent rules and standards on the permitting process.
In essence, Miller was saying “you guys make the policy and I will administrate the policy by fleshing out all the details about how it can be done.”
Apparently Jacky Cagle couldn’t comprehend what Miller was saying, because he began one of the most confusing diatribes I’ve ever heard objecting to the sale of alcohol in Camp Jordan. He was all over the lot, flipping through copious notes and documents, ranging from deeds for the original sale of Camp Jordan in the 1970s, to East Ridge Beer Board by-laws and procedures, to ordinances which proscribe the sale of beer in convenience stores, bars and restaurants. He continued to distract from any real discussion by claiming that if the city allowed alcohol sales in Camp Jordan it would not be eligible for any grants through the state’s park and recreation pot of money.
Referring to some document, Cagle claimed the city was forbidden from renting space in the park to private parties. For good measure, the man said we couldn’t sell beer on city property where there was adult entertainment. Talk about grasping at straws.
Somewhere in his helter skelter address, Cagle even tossed in the idea of having the voters decide the issue in a referendum.
To me it was clear what Cagle was trying to do … he was throwing anything and everything at the wall to see what sticks. It was an all out effort to confuse and muddle the issue by tossing out obstacle after obstacle about why this measure cannot work under any circumstances.
The sad thing is that Cagle’s efforts had an affect, at least on one resident of East Ridge. A woman on Facebook said after reading East Ridge News Online’s article detailing Thursday’s council meeting that she was in favor of selling beer in Camp Jordan until she read that the city would lose grant money, per Cagle’s statement.
I would hope this woman is one of just a handful of people who bought what Cagle was selling. However, she may not be alone.
After patiently listening to Cagle hold forth on the issue, Mayor Brent Lambert said that the council may have to look at replacing Ordinance 860 in its entirety. I think that idea is an unnecessary waste of time on everyone’s part. The whole issue could be resolved by removing four words from the existing ordinance: … “except on city property.”
I urge the council to disregard one member’s attempt to confuse the issue, and the council ultimately throws up its hands in frustration and gives up. Reject “the sky is falling” cries of one member. I urge you to rationally frame the conversation concerning alcohol sales on city property, vote on the amendment and move forward.
Cagle gave the council a brief history lesson at the beginning of this discussion concerning how Camp Jordan came into the hands of the city. Let me follow his lead and remind the council of another Great Debate; one that dragged on for decades: Liquor by the drink.
The opponents argued that if the city allowed liquor by the drink it would lead to rack and ruin. Once it was finally adopted – by referendum mind you – what happened? A handful of restaurants now sell mixed drinks in our city. And, the sky didn’t fall.