The vote or lack thereof on the motion to allow liquor by the drink to be put on the ballot by the LaFayette city council on August 11, 2014, was a travesty, but not for the reasons that you might think. The real motion on the table at the council meeting had nothing to do with voting in liquor by the drink but rather, do we (the council) want to give the citizens their right to decide for themselves whether they want to make this change or not? Do we (the city council) want to give our constituents the right to vote?
The answer to that question was unabashedly no on August 11.
Every other municipality in the area as well as the county have given their citizenry the right to make this decision and for the most part they have voted to allow it, including the tiny city of Lyerly. This leaves LaFayette an island unto itself and the ultimate economic repercussions of this situation will be felt by all whether you are personally for or against the consumption of liquor. It is already obvious to those in the downtown area. A year ago, new businesses were opening, people were coming into town to visit and parking was actually a problem. This is no longer the case this year and unfortunately if measures are not taken to turn the tide, I fear many more businesses will be leaving, not to be replaced. This is not solely an opinion, but has also been provided in fact by consultants to the city.
The city has already gained a reputation as being business unfriendly. It has now embarked on a mission to appear citizen unfriendly. Neither position will encourage growth, business or help its population.
Now several reasons were given for this ranging from “it is not the time” to a statement by councilman Bradford indicating that there were still problems with the wine and beer ordinance. I know personally that councilman Bradford as well as the majority of council were made aware of this several years ago when One-Eleven opened as well as when Chattanooga Street Tavern opened. So the question is, what have you been doing for the past three years? You have known that it has been an issue but have done nothing to rectify the situation.
The question of morality and liquor in LaFayette is not even debatable. It is here. People do consume and purchase it (although the revenue goes elsewhere). Liquor is present and used in restaurants and bakeries in town. It is served and consumed at venues, including those too close to a church, housing authority or recreation center according to the beer and wine ordinance. The hypocrisy is that while council is concerned about the legitimate sale of alcohol, it remains unfazed by the sale and use of illegal drugs, bootleg alcohol and even prostitution within a stone’s throw from our local churches.
The real reason for not allowing the public to vote on this referendum? The fear that the public might make a decision contrary to some members of council's agenda.
Perhaps if the council would focus on what it is elected to do, legislation, and leave adjudication to the judges, department management to the city manager, and the democratic process to the voters, they could focus on the task they have been given and possibly give the city a chance at prosperity.
The bottom line is that council is elected to represent and serve the people, not usurp their rights due to incompetence, inconvenience, or personal agenda. They should lead the city forward or get out of the way.
Michael Lovelady, LaFayette