Pros of a Wet County - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

10/23/06 - Angelina County

Pros of a Wet County

by Ramonica R. Jones

Some folks call Angelina the wettest dry county in East Texas, but on November 7th, Angelina County residents will have a chance to officially expand alcohol sales. Voters will decide on Propositions 1 and 2.

One proposition is to allow beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption only. That means alcohol would only be sold in grocery and convenience stores. A second proposition will allow restaurants to sell mixed drinks without a required membership.

Angelina County has been dry since 1936 and some residents believe that's long enough.

Oscar Dillahunty filed the wet/dry petition that is now on the ballot. He said, "It would make a difference to people like myself who drive across the river to get it. It would keep us home, keep my drink fresh, and make a lot of difference to the way we get it."

Those against retail alcohol sales believe more kids would have access to booze which could lead to more drunk driving wrecks, but Dillahunty's supporters do not believe it.

"I don't think there will be more drinking by teenagers or more DWIs," said Lufkin resident, Sarah Strinden. "You can read any paper on any given day and see two or three infractions already. I think if anything, people won't have to go so far to get their alcohol. The few times I go get beer and wine, it's just so inconvenient to have to drive so far and if you don't pre-plan ahead, it's at least a 20-, 30-minute car ride [there] and back."

John Hatch agrees. He is a partner with Texas Petition Strategies. His firm helped Dillahunty gather enough valid signatures to get the wet/dry issue on the ballot in Angelina County. Ninety-two percent of his petitions have successfully passed the election process.

"The opposition wants you to believe the more alcohol outlets - the higher the crime; the more alcohol outlets - the higher the DWIs and the alcohol accidents," Hatch said. "The real studies show that it is exactly the opposite. I think that's going to be the main issue that we have to get out to the community: don't buy the rhetoric, check out the facts."

And the facts are only 42 of the 254 counties in Texas are dry. If Angelina County drops off that list, there could be at least 30 new jobs created because of new warehouses that would be built after the election. Millions of new dollars in sales tax revenue would also be a possibility.

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