Writ Now Filed, Dallas Attorney Offers Many Reasons Why He's Against Wet-Dry Election
Our weekly rock-and-roll-and send-off will have to wait till tomorrow morning, as, at long last, Andy Siegel has filed that long-promised writ of mandamus in which he contends that the organization formerly known as Progress Dallas didn't get enough valid signatures to call the November 2 election that could make it legal to sell beer and wine off-premises citywide. The suit and several other docs are after the jump, but you know the particulars by now: Siegel says the group now known as Keep the Dollars in Dallas didn't get the signatures it needed, and that City Secretary Deborah Watkins improperly certified the petitions last Wednesday.
But that's only the beginning.
Among the issues Siegel raises, both in the suit and during a conversation with Unfair Park this evening: Oak Cliff and Preston Hollow, among other parts of town annexed into the city limits over the years, historically did not allow for the sale of alcohol, and a citywide election that ignores those historical boundaries violated the Texas Constitution.
"The law says before you can wet up those areas you have to reconfigure the boundaries of those precincts and let them reverse that status [individually," says Siegel, who counts among his clients in this litigation Mount Tabor Baptist Church, the African American Pastors Coalition (of which Mayor Leppert's good friend Dr. Frederick Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church is vice president) and Lifeway Church.
Siegel, who represented Addsion during the most recent attempt to "wet" up Dallas, says he's not repping the city this go-round. He says those who insist the opposite are being "paranoid." In March, however, he did appear before the Addison Charter Review Commission, as an attorney repping package stores, when it took a straw vote to consider allowing the citywide off-premise sale of beer and wine. "That has nothing to do with this," he says.
But he does acknowledge: He counts among his clients not only clergy in the southern sector, but also "eight to 10 beer and wine retailers who choose not to sell wine in South Dallas." I asked who. He said he wants to "protect their confidentiality," but adds it's "most of the major chains.
I told him: Readers will claim that's what today's filing is really all about -- keeping beer and wine out of, let's say, the Whole Foods in Preston Forest so it doesn't cut into his clients' business. He begs to differ.
"If there is anyone primed to take advantage of the city going all wet, it's the largest beer and wine chains," he says. "They have the most resources, the biggest distribution network. If they decide they want to expand, they can do it. The reason they don't is a practical economic matter. People are wrong when they say it's about competition. It's not that you increase the volume of beer and wine. You spread it around. It doesn't make economic sense to them, in the same way Kroger isn't going to build new stores. So what they're trying to do is bump up their bottom line. They don't care about convenience. They want a slightly larger margin. This lawsuit says this is not just about folks who peddle spirits. This is about what you want in your neighborhood for your family. We've gotten away from that."
In response to today's filing, Keep Your Dollars in Dallas offered the following statement:
The campaign is confident the signatures gathered are valid. The Dallas City Secretary certified the signatures and they meet the legal requirements to place the Local Option Election on the November ballot. It is no surprise that attorneys representing the liquor lobby would attempt to use legal maneuvers to prevent voters from deciding this important issue. Trying to discredit petition gathering companies and signatures is a common, yet disappointing tactic, often used by opposition groups when they are trying to obstruct the democratic process.
"More than 108,000 people signed petitions asking for the right to vote on the wet-dry issue in Dallas and we believe those voters deserve the right to go to the polls, " says Gary Huddleston, Keep the Dollars In Dallas Chairman.
Siegel says, again, it's about more than signatures.
"They're relying on a huge turnout from whoever they think wants a beer barn and tons of beer and wine on every corner, and are ignoring those peope who bought in a dry area," he says. "There are folks in Far North Dallas who believe they are losing sales [to Addison]. Ask them for a single survey that can quantify what level of sales Dallas is losing. I have a master's degree in economics from the University of Chicago. I don't usually tout that, but I can at least understand numbers. The fact is, we sell in all of Dallas County $630 million in beer. The city gets 1 percent of the sales. These numbers that we'll get $5 million and $10 million and now $30 million a year in new sales tax revenue? That means we need to sell $3 billion more in beer and wine every year just in the city to get the kind of money they're talking about. That's absurd."
So pour yourself a tall one and read up. It's going to be a long fight. "If we even have one," Siegel adds.
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