Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No on I-1183

This November Washington voters will be asked again to vote on an initiative to privatize the wholesale and retail liquor industry, and give companies and retail outlet the legal right to sell hard liquor throughout the state of Washington. I voted against the two initiatives last time, one sponsored by the wholesalers and one sponsored by retailers, namely Costco.

This initiative is an updated version of the Costco one last time, with some accomodation to the state which wasn't in the first one and was only narrowly defeated by voters. The retailers, again namely Costco, tried to get the legistlature to do what the voters wouldn't do but that also failed with the effort became public and the political fallout was too much for the legislators.

And now we have a bill Governor Gregoire signed which gives the state the option to contract liquor stores to private companies. This is a sneaky attempt to do the the voters said no, and the Governor had to step back to say it only gave the state the option and didn't mandate anything. She stepped on a voter sensitive issue and while she's a departing Governor next year, she may have thought it was a good thing but then backtracked.

Yet the bill is now law and who doesn't expect the state to quietly transfer the operation and management of some less viable or profitable liquor stores to private companies. We won't know or realize it until it's done and we find the store under private ownership (contract). Again, she found a backdoor way to get done what the voters said no.

In reality the state runs the liquor stores the most efficient way for the people. Maybe not the consumer but consider what the past initiatives and now this one would do to liquor in this state. It would essentially allow all retail outlets to sell hard liquor anywhere in the state for all the hours of their operation, including 24-hour gas station markets.

Let's not kid ourselves with the sales pitch for this initiative. It argues the money would be spent on law enforcement to fight illegal liquor sales and drunk drivers. Like we need more of this in our communities? And will the state actually spend the money for more law enforcement officers in a time of a recession when politicians are arguing for reducing the number of state employees?

And let's face the reality of what it would do to liquor. Yes, it would sell more as Costco would drive prices of liquor into the ground to sell more and try to drive the competition out of business. And their goal is to dominate the wholesale side to ship in directly from producers and companies, eliminating wholesalers along with other retailers. Cheaper wholesale means cheaper retail. And cheap liquor is good for the state and the people?

We know on the retail side it's unlkely they will drive competition out of business as those will add liquor to their sales inventory and sell what customers buy or find available. We also know, as they have said, that many remote or rural areas will actually lose the liquor stores as there are few, if any, retailers who will offer liquor, and they could easily raise prices to fit the demand, like customers have a choice.

While I can't drink alcohol, or very little (like a few times a year at most due to a genetic prediposition for Hemochromotosis) and I'm against drunkenness, especially drunk drivers (my brother was an functioning alcoholic and died of a heart attack at 48 from that and smoking 2 packs a day), I'm not against the social use of alcohol so long as it's not destructive to others or property.

Yeah, right as the man said taking another drink, "I know how to control my drinking, I do it all the time." Ok, it's the reality I live with. I choose not to drink these day but I also choose to socialize with friends who do. I used to drink a beer on Friday nights at the tavern. It's where some of the best conversation happen. Really. Ok, until we wake up Saturday morning with a hangover remembering nothing.

But I've wandered. I'm still against this initiative as I was against the last two. The state is the best choose to regulate, manage and sell hard liquor in this state. It works and still helps the state with revenue and jobs. The backers of this initiative have said it won't change the revenue side but it will change the jobs side. Do we really expect them to replace the state workers at retail outlets, or just add the work to existing employees?

So, I've already decided to vote no on I-1183.

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