Friday, February 22, 2008

Liquor Laws Must Be Changed

As mayor of Brookings, much like other local leaders across the state, my focus and efforts everyday involve many aspects of promoting community development. We do as much as humanly possible to create and to encourage good sustainable development in our local communities.

However, time and time again, we have run into the antiquated state liquor law, controlled by the Legislature, which restricts our capability to foster much-needed economic development, new services, and retail amenities that are enhanced by more restaurants and convention centers.

During the past several years, our local leaders as well as others across the state repeatedly have told this administration and the Legislature the liquor law needs to be changed. Removing the caps placed on the number of licenses allowed and enabling local communities to control the ability to issue licenses to restaurants is a critical part of improved developments.

Our most recent experience of losing a homegrown successful company, VeraSun, is an unfortunate example of this state’s apathy toward progressive development. VeraSun officials commented this was a difficult choice, citing that the future growth of the company depended upon a community that would be able to attract the employees it needed.

A community with amenities is necessary in today’s world to attract people. I am only thankful we were able to keep this important business in South Dakota., but it is still a loss of high paying jobs to our community.

Brookings is making substantial investments for economic development through our research park: the Innovation Campus. Will the Legislature and the governor keep our arms tied behind our backs while we struggle to grow our local economy?

Liquor lobby special interests try to convince lawmakers that we can’t make changes. The system works they say. Why change it? We are too far down the road.

The fact is, we are down the road, but there always is time to turn back and make the right choices. I am reminded of the old saying, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, but the second best time is today.” I watched the recent discussion take place on the Senate floor on this subject. Special interests were at work trying to make useless and controversial changes to the bill, playing the game we see played over and over again in Pierre: “Get the bill killed.”

Let me tell you this: The only thing that gets killed is the future of this state, one community at a time. This administration and Legislature need to stand accountable for their indecision and apathy over the years. They have an opportunity to do the right thing with passing SB126.

Will it happen, or will we have to lose yet another company – this time out of State?

Scott D. Munsterman
Mayor – Brookings

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