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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Sunday alcohol sales coming no time soon

Whether for or against Sunday alcohol sales in Decatur, councilmen say they favor a referendum on the issue.

The chamber of commerce and local businesses have been urging the council to authorize a referendum for at least a couple of years. They point out that Sunday sales would increase local restaurant revenue by reducing consumer leakage to Madison and Huntsville, where Sunday sales are legal; and would help the city recruit restaurants that won't consider opening in areas where Sunday sales are prohibited.

So if all the councilmen agree voters should decide the issue, and the Legislature approved a local bill in 2005 authorizing the vote, why are councilmen now talking about a referendum two years away, in August 2008?

The calendar, they say, is the culprit. Because the local bill does not specify a date for the referendum, City Attorney Herman Marks said, state law says it must be held on the second or fourth Tuesday of the month. This year's General Election is Nov. 7, which is the first Tuesday of that month.

Reasons for the delay include a special election costing $50,000 or more and Sunday sales referenda historically failing in special elections.

Failure to get the issue before the voters is evidence supporting the perception that this council often flies by the seat of its collective pants. There is no excuse for the lack of planning that holds up the Sunday sales referendum. The calendar, after all, has been set for some time now. If local officials really wanted to put the issue to a vote, as they say they do, the local bill would have specified a date for the referendum. Barring that, city officials should have recognized the omission and asked the Legislature for an exemption during its most recent session.

The bumbling of the wording suggests a delaying tactic on someone's part.

It's not likely that council members prefer to have the issue decided during a city election where they would be forced to ally themselves with the issue, so don't count on the 2008 date holding.

Whether by design or simple incompetence, the City Council dropped the ball on this one.

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