By Benjamin Bullard
The Cullman Times
GOOD HOPE —
Residents of Good Hope will have their second chance in as many years on whether to allow legal alcohol sales, after a petition calling for a vote on the matter was accepted Monday by the city council.
In a 4-2 vote, the council elected to set the referendum on the August 28 municipal election ballot, after a petition containing 194 valid signatures forced the wet/dry issue back onto the local agenda only two years after residents defeated legal sales in the city’s first referendum.
Title 28-2A of the Code of Alabama requires that cities place wet/dry referenda on the next available ballot on their local election calendar, so long as they allow at least 30 days between the submission of a petition and the election. In other words, noted mayor Corey Harbison, the city had little choice in setting the election for August 28 if it wanted to abide by the law.
“If the council had voted not to accept the petition, we could have been challenged in court,” said Harbison.
“The law is clear on it, so a judge would have ruled that we had to put it on a ballot anyway, since the petition met all the requirements the law makes — and that would have cost the taxpayers of Good Hope money, because then we’d have court costs, as well as the cost of another election. We simply did what the law requires by putting it to a vote.”
Council members Maxie Jones and Danny Buchanan each cited personal moral convictions in opposing the referendum, which state law requires the city to hold following a successful petition.
“I just don’t think you can support something that’s wrong in order to get what you think is going to be a good result,” said Jones. “I’m just not in favor of it in our town.”
Good Hope resident Alan Hauck, who helped organize both the 2010 and 2012 petitions, said he’s hopeful that his city will see the referendum as a way to reap the same economic benefits that Cullman and, more recently, Hanceville, have opted to pursue through legalizing and regulating liquor sales.
“Hopefully, people here have looked around them, and it’s starting to sink in,” said Hauck Tuesday. “It seems, this time around, that it’s going a little bit easier than it did the first time. I’ve got two people in my subdivision who have changed their minds and are now in favor of Good Hope going wet. I think for a lot of people, now, it’s all about the money the city could be making.”
Harbison said the city will likely hold off on revising a liquor ordinance the council passed ahead of the failed 2010 referendum until after the upcoming municipal election.
“Most of the difficult work in drafting and passing an ordinance was already done two years ago,” said Harbison. “I feel that, if this time it does go wet, we will have enough time between the vote and the first license we’d have to issue to go back and tweak anything that the council feels like we ought to change.”
The city’s massive Daystar church, composed of nearly 3,000 regular members, won’t take an official position to influence the outcome of next month’s referendum, according to lead pastor Jerry Lawson.
“We don’t take a position on it; we leave it up to our church members,” said Lawson. “The reason for that is that we try to make the major issues the most important issues, and we leave the rest of it alone: ‘Jesus will save your soul; walking with God will fix your family‘ — and the rest, we leave for our members to decide on their own.”
*Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.