Photo from Wikimedia Commons
Last week for the Q&A, I talked to Bruce Becket of the Washington Restaurant Association about why his group supports Initiative 1183. This week, I talked with Jim Cooper, president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.
Q: First, what does Initiative 1183 do from your perspective?
Cooper: Well, the first piece, the main piece for us is that the initiative increases the number of liquor outlets fivefold — from 328 to nearly 1,500. We know through a lot of research and evidence that when you increase liquor outlet density, crime and violence go up as well. The American Medical Association has a web site called Alcohol Policy, MD which compiles all the different resources and the CDC, for that very same reason (of increased crime), has recommended against any further privatization in any states that have a control system.
The current system is keeping communities safe and it would be irresponsible to add more liquor outlets.
The other side of it is, what part of No does Costco not understand? Voters said no in two different initiatives last year that went down overwhelmingly in almost every single county in the state. And Gov. Chris Gregoire commissioned an Elway Poll on the liquor system and found that most people like the current system and feel they have ample access to liquor. We’re kind of like, why do we need to do anything different? There’s not a grassroots groundswell, this is really just a big box corporate initiative.
Q: Do you think privatizing liquor sales would increase consumption and abuse?
Cooper: There will absolutely be an increase in consumption related to the volume of liquor stores. Anytime you increase consumption, you’re going to have some increase in abuse.
In our state, I don’t remember the exact number but we have a significantly lower rate of crime and violence per capita than California.
Q: So are you saying it will increase the crime rate in Washington?
Cooper: I know it will.
Q: Part of the pushback of this initiative will undoubtedly be from state employees. Can you say more on that point?
Cooper: Sure. Over a thousand living wage jobs would be lost if this passes. You know, and then you’re talking about what that means to communities and I don’t really have a lot more to say to that but there are the labor unions involved, faith-based organizations, firefighters, law enforcement and many others.
Q: Bruce Becket suggested in last week’s Q&A that those who lose their jobs at state liquor stores could work at the private-run stores.
Cooper: You know, I don’t want to pretend to know how that will happen, but I don’t see Costco or Safeway increasing their number of employees by very many on the floor. Costco doesn’t even have people on the floor. (more…)