Smith County voters will decide in November on four proposals — two to legalize the sale of beer and wine within the city of Tyler and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2, which includes unincorporated areas surrounding southern Tyler, Flint, Noonday and Bullard, and two to expand mixed beverage sales in those jurisdictions.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Smith said he and his staff conducted a study of 28 Texas cities that have allowed alcohol sales in their communities in the past few years. Smith said 25 of the 28 police officials in the cities returned his calls, and that he asked each of the police officials the same two questions: if their statistics had shown an increase in crime since the sale of alcohol was approved and if littering in the cities had increased.
None of the cities reported to Smith any increases in crime or littering, he said. Smith declined to state how he felt personally about alcohol sales, adding that the issue is a very emotional one on both sides. “My job as a sheriff is to enforce the law,” he said.
Two of the cities surveyed, Rockwall and Midlothian, actually reported a reduction in crime statistics since allowing alcohol sales in their communities, Smith said. Cities Smith contacted include Temple, Belton, Beaumont, Plano and Lubbock, among others.
Smith said the study was conducted in the past 30 days, and the he “expanded on a story written by the Tyler Morning Telegraph earlier this year” concerning the impact of alcohol sales in Mineola and Jacksonville.
Daniels is the spokesman for the opposition political action committee Stand Strong for Tyler. He said he doesn't want Tyler to end up looking like Longview or Gladewater, communities he said are dotted with signs for liquor stores and don't look good because of that fact. “I don't want this in my community,” Daniels said.
Bob Westbrook, local restaurateur and chairman of Buy Local First, the political action committee seeking legalization of beer and wine in the two jurisdictions, said the signatures on the petition are indeed valid. “The elected officials who are sworn to protect the people of Tyler wouldn't have certified the signatures if they were not valid,” Westbrook said Wednesday.
Westbrook is also the chairman of the Government Affairs Committee of the Tyler Chamber of Commerce and contracted a recent economic impact study regarding beer and wine sales with the Perryman Group. The study, which economist Ray Perryman conducted, showed that legalizing the sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption would generate more than $100 million in new business activity, and almost $5 million in tax revenue locally.
Westbrook cited problems with motorists who drive to locations on Texas Highway 31 to obtain alcohol, saying they begin drinking on their way back to town. If beer and wine sales were permitted in Tyler, such problems would be eliminated, he said.