Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Local News

May 15, 2013

Go wet or stay dry? Grayson must choose

May 15, 2013 — Tuesday, June 11, will be an historic day for residents of Grayson.

Voters in all or parts of seven city precincts will go to the polls to cast “yes” or “no” ballots on a single question:

“Are you in favor of the sale of alcoholic beverages within the city limits of Grayson?”

Other than a small farm vintner, Rock Springs Vineyard and Winery at Iron Hill, approved by voters there in 2008, no other establishment in Carter County has been licensed to sell legal alcohol since 1937.

County voters went “wet” in the fall of 1933 after Prohibition ended but switched back to “dry” in 1937.

Another countywide vote failed a few years later, as did a vote in Grayson even later.

That must have been when the Grayson Temperance League was organized in the early 1960s. That group has been dormant since that time.

With the June 11 special election four weeks away, campaigning for and against legal sales is going public in today’s issue of the Journal-Times.

A group calling itself “Citizens for Positive Progress” has a half-page advertisement on Page A-5 in which it compares the number of DUI (driving under the influence) arrests in two “dry” counties – Carter and Greenup – with DUI arrests in two “wet” counties, Boyd and Rowan. The ad encourages Grayson residents to vote “no” on the issue.

Keith Bays, who organized the petition drive to put local option on the ballot, said Tuesday that he and others supporting a “wet” vote have no plans at present to form a campaign organization.

Under Kentucky law, any group of at least three persons which spends $1,000 or more to influence the outcome of an election must register with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

Known legally as an “issues committee,” such a group must compile and submit records of campaign contributions of $100 or more and must report all expenses, just like an individual running for elective office.

Emily Dennis, general counsel for the state registry, said Tuesday that no group had yet applied for recognition as an “issues committee” in the Grayson local option election.

The Journal-Times has learned that the Citizens for Positive Progress likely has started the process of filing the required documents in Frankfort.

The group had 169 members on its Facebook page, as of 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Bays said the “wet” supporters also have a presence on Facebook.

“Each of us individually is answering questions about what the election means but we have not officially formed an organization,” he said.

The history of wet-dry elections shows that arguments for and against the legal sale of alcoholic beverages generally fall into two categories – moral and economic.

Those on the “dry” side believe that drinking is morally wrong and that it causes or contributes to a host of social problems, including alcoholism.

The standard “wet” argument is that the availability of legal alcoholic beverages will boost a local economy by bringing fancier restaurants and attracting more tourists.

Of Kentucky’s 120 counties, statistics compiled three months ago listed 37 counties as “dry”, 33 as “wet” and 50 as “moist” in that they have cities or individual precincts where alcoholic beverages may be sold legally.

By virtue of the legal winery sales at Iron Hill, Carter County is considered “moist.”

Regardless of the outcome on June 11, the issue cannot go back on the ballot for at least three years, according to state law.

Keith Kappes can be reached at kkappes@journal-times.com or by telephone at 800-247-6142.

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