It’s Time We Had A Talk About Local Control

Clymer is one of a few towns around the state that prohibit the sale of alcohol.

Its status as a dry town was cemented in 1974 when Clymer’s elected Town Board passed legislation allowed under state law. Over the past 50 years Clymer residents haven’t chosen to change the designation as a dry town despite having the authority to force a referendum vote to allow the sales of alcohol.

The real issue with legislation proposed by Sen. James Skoufis and Rep. Harry Bronson isn’t whether allowing Clymer businesses to sell alcohol will increase alcohol abuse by Clymer residents (not likely) or whether Prohibition-era rules banning the sale of alcohol worked (they didn’t).

In our view, the real issue is one of local control. The state Legislature granted town boards the authority to make these decisions. Yes, it was 90 years ago when the state initially granted that authority, but it was granted nonetheless. And it’s not as if Clymer’s decision was rushed. It took town officials an additional 40 years to decide not to sell alcohol in Clymer. And in the past 50 years town residents haven’t chosen to change.

That’s their choice.

We may think the decision to be a dry town is antiquated, but it’s not our decision to make. Nor, in our opinion, is it New York state’s. If Clymer residents want to allow the town to sell alcohol it’s something that can happen in less than a year – but Clymer residents should be the ones driving that change.

There is a related issue, too. State lawmakers really need to stop picking and choosing the situations in which local control matters. It’s easy to override Clymer on alcohol sales in the town because it’s only 1,700 residents who are affected; none of those 1,700 residents have an opportunity to vote for Skoufis or Bronson. But on matters where big dollars are at stake, like school consolidation, legislators are more than happy to say that’s an issue that should be decided locally – even though the state is on the hook for the majority of the cost of an education system that is in need of overhaul. How many state dollars are at stake if Clymer sells alcohol or doesn’t?

We’ve said it before and we’ll repeat it now – if the state isn’t going to respect local decisions, why have local elected officials in the first place?


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