Opinion

Currently being discussed in the state legislature is a proposed budget from Governor Paterson. Part of his budget proposal would give stores that sell beer the ability to also sell wine. On the face of it, this may sound like a good idea for you, the consumer. More stores equals more convenience, right? The fact of the matter is that this is not a good idea. It will kill the independent retailers and you will be left with less choice. Far worse, however, is that passage of this budget will result in a more dangerous state in which we live. We, the voters and taxpayers of this state, have to tell the governor and our state representatives that we don't want this change.

There are 2,400 licensed retailers in New York. If this budget passes, 19,000 additional stores will be licensed to sell wine. The types of stores are gas stations, convenience marts, beer distributors, independent and chain pharmacies, independent and chain grocers and big box stores. In states where this change has been allowed, the number of alcohol-related auto fatalities is dramatically higher than in New York.

Florida, California and Texas, states with high density populations like ours, have alcohol-related automobile fatality rates amongst drivers 21 and younger that are triple that of New York. For all age groups, their alcohol related auto fatality rates are more than double that of New York. If the governor's proposal passes, you and your loved ones will not be as safe on New York's roadways. That is why no state in more than 23 years has passed similar legislation. Four states - Massachusetts, Minnesota, Tennessee and Colorado - have all recently defeated similar proposals.

The law enforcement organizations in New York are well aware of the increase in fatalities in other states and have formed a coalition, Law Enforcement Against Drunk Driving (LEADD), to fight the governor's proposal. "This dangerous proposal would make it much easier for teenagers to have access to alcohol, and that is a bad idea," said LEADD Chairman Daniel Sisto, who is also vice president of the New York State Troopers PBA. "The State Liquor Authority is already stretched beyond its means, and this dramatic expansion of wine in thousands of new outlets would result in less enforcement. In addition, an increase in drunk driving will put more pressure on police forces throughout the state at a time when they are also being asked to do more with less."

The governor's proposal will degrade your quality of life and it will put you and your family at greater risk of being injured or killed by a drunk driver. Law enforcement in the state knows it, other states that have rejected similar proposals know it, and, unfortunately, states that have allowed this change to occur know it painfully well. Unfortunately for them, once the laws change, there is no going back to a safer and more civil way of life.

If you want to voice your objection to the governor's proposal, a website, www.lastmainstreetstore.com, has been created by a coalition of independent retailers to help you voice your opinion. Under the "Take Action" tab, you can send to the governor and your state legislators an email telling them that you are against this proposal. You can also send an email from the site to the media outlets that you depend on for your news.

Yes, as a wine and spirits retailer, I have a personal stake in this fight. However, the facts and the sad experiences of other states is real. New York Law Enforcement opposition to this proposal is real. Putting the citizens of New York at greater risk in order to chase tax and licensing money is destructive public policy. After all of the effort and money that New York State has put forth to get the public to focus on preventing drinking and driving, it is both shocking and disappointing that the governor would put forth this disastrous proposal - a proposal with a known negative outcome.

Please take a few minutes to visit www.lastmainstreetstore.com and tell your state representatives that you do not want to endanger your family. The budget is due to be voted on in March, so there is very little time for opposition to this destructive public policy to be heard.

Ed Wassmer

Co-Owner, Young's Fine Wines & Spirits


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