I spent way too much time watching way too many baseball, football and soccer games this past weekend.
Which means I saw way too many TV ads for Washington state initiative campaigns.
Which means I ended the weekend with more questions about the big-money ballot measures than I had when the weekend began.
Like why can’t our firefighters and cops get along? I don’t mean why can’t our firefighters get along with our cops. I mean why can’t the cops get along with the cops and the firefighters get along with the firefighters?
Like when Kris Hollen, described as a “professional firefighter” (which is the only type I’ll use because amateur firefighters can really make a mess of things) told me to vote yes on Initiative 1183. The private liquor sales measure would help public safety, he said.
I figure that’s a good thing. But then Craig Soucy, a Renton firefighter, warned me that 1183 would kill people.
Soucy had help. Kristin Sloboden, a firefighter and emergency medical technician, said the measure would bring the state four times as many places to buy booze. And Castle Rock Police Chief Bob Heuer said that includes “mini-marts and gas stations that sell alcohol to 1 out of 4 minors.”
Which seems like a bad thing. But then former Whatcom County Sheriff and former Republican state Sen. Dale Brandland told me the measure stiffens fines for those who sell liquor to minors and bans sales at mini-marts, gas stations and convenience stores.
No wonder I was confused. I took backers up on their invitation to “Look into the Facts.” It seems the mini-mart-sales issue voiced by firefighters was very effective in helping defeat privatization initiatives last year. So this year’s sponsors use their own firefighters to say only stores with more than 10,000 square feet can sell booze.
Opponents, however, aren’t giving up so easily. Because 1183 allows smaller stores to sell liquor if there are no big stores in their “trade area,” opponents feel justified in demonizing mini-marts again. “Trade area” is not defined and will be up to future state liquor boards. Opponents, however, seem to know already that “more than 1,000 mini-marts” will be selling.
Is this year’s model new and improved? In addition to either closing (or leaving open) the mini-mart loophole, pro-1183 cops and firefighers say 1183 made sure that state and local governments won’t lose any money. But the cops and firefighters in the anti-1183 ads say it wasn’t changed enough.
“Still too dangerous,” says firefighter Soucy.
“Still too risky for our kids,” says Chief Heuer.
There is apparently only one thing more horrible than threats to public safety and booze sales to kids: government. The yes on 1183’s government-employed cops and firefighters say the initiative will get rid of wasteful state liquor stores and end government monopolies.
I ended up with more questions about 1183 than I had about Detroit’s pitching or Milwaukee’s defense. I wondered who is paying for all these ads. According to the ads themselves, it’s “big national liquor dealers” versus “big corporations.”
The state Public Disclosure Commission shows the anti-campaign’s “Protect Our Communities” is mostly the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America in Washington, D.C., with a fair amount of cash offered up by state beer wholesalers and the unions that represent workers in the current state-run system.
The “Yes on 1183 Coalition” is apparently a coalition on the model of the “coalitions” that launched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As with the U.S. in the coalition of the willing, Costco pays almost all the bills in the coalition of the thirsty.
The PDC also shows that as of Monday the yes side had spent only $2.5 million of its $11.2 million treasury; the no side still had $6.5 million in its nest egg.
So there’s lots of money left for more of these emotional and contradictory TV ads, just in time for the World Series.
Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657