Are you the kind of person that looks at a glass of water and sees it as half full or half empty?
July has been a month in East Ridge that lends itself for you to come to some kind of understanding where you rate on the optimism/pessimism scale.
Earl Wilson, he of the “liquor store” referendum petition, has put himself out there spearheading the issue. He set up camp at the old Milk Jug store at the corner of Keeble Street and Ringgold Road in an effort to garner 705 signatures of registered voters to get a liquor store referendum on the ballot. As one might imagine he’s encountered the full spectrum of human behavior.
According to Wilson, he’s got about 500 signatures to put the measure on the November ballot. He said he’s shipped off more than 350 signatures to the Hamilton County Election Commission for verification. The deadline for the petition to election authorities is August 19.
Is the glass half full? Maybe.
A poll on East Ridge News Online asks this question: Are you for or against the sale of liquor in package stores in East Ridge? Thus far, 67 percent of the votes are in favor, with 33 percent opposed.
Wilson said that having liquor stores in East Ridge would bring the city another sales tax revenue stream. It would be convenient for residents to shop locally. Sounds good, right? What city doesn’t want more sales tax to help pay employees’ salaries and benefits and patch the darned potholes on public streets.
Of course, city officials can’t/won’t officially endorse the measure, especially something as polarizing as alcohol. That’s certainly understandable.
What’s not understandable is the action of the city’s codes enforcement division cracking down on Wilson’s effort by hassling him about a small banner he had hung to draw attention to the petition. But that’s exactly what happened.
Codes officials paid Wilson a visit and said he needed to obtain a permit for the “temporary commercial sign.” He trotted up to City Hall and got one.
Wilson serves this city on multiple volunteer boards including the beer board and the housing commission. He was in the first-ever civilian police academy. For goodness sake, recently he and some of his fellow civilian police academy grads did some painting inside the Fire and Police Services Center to spruce it up. If ever there was an involved citizen, Wilson’s it.
Less than 24 hours after codes officials insisted Wilson get a permit for his sign, the city reversed itself; no permit needed. Why? The sign falls under the political sign ordinance, not the commercial sign ordinance.
Is the glass half empty? Maybe.
Let’s take a peak into the future. The liquor store referendum is on the ballot. Also on the ballot is the election for City Council. Vice Mayor Esther Helton is running for re-election. She also is running to keep her seat in the state legislature. Councilwoman Aundie Witt is running to keep her seat on the Council. Two years ago she was appointed by council to fill the seat of Brian Williams, who whipped perennial candidate Jim Bethune for the Mayor’s job.
Also running for a seat on the City Council are Jeff Ezell, who ran two years ago; Robert Gilreath, who ran two years ago; Denny Manning, who was rejected by the voters two years ago; and political newcomer David Tyler.
That’s six candidates for two seats. I’m thinking that before the qualifying deadline passes a couple more of the usual suspects will throw their hats in the ring, because splitting the vote is what we do in East Ridge. In 2018, with a field of eight candidates, all you needed was 2,083 votes (17.5 percent of the votes cast) to get a seat.
Let’s assume that the voters approve the liquor store measure … then what? Although the state of Tennessee regulates liquor licenses for package stores, the City Council will get down to the fine print, which I’m sure will run to 10 pages, on when and where and how they operate.
Who do you want debating, deliberating and drafting that kind of document? Those who look to the future or those who look to the past.
Better begin to take a real close look at that glass. Half full or half empty?