Blogs Sep 21, 2011 at 11:09 am


Oh come on now. A lot of things contribute to the nightmare state in California. The empty bottles themselves are not to blame.
Anybody who uses the phrase "police state" in reference to this country automatically has a bad argument.
I found empty bottles and drunk idiots in the alleyway of every apartment I had in Seattle. Try another scare tactic, Jim.
Aw, Jim Walls writes some classics. In honor of the Stranger's 20th anniversary this week, let's dig into the mailbag from 2000, a year when Cienna was having that wonderful second-grade photo taken:
Look at this stupid paper. Who could read such a stupid paper? It pretends to have journalistic integrity, but its writers seem to make up as many facts as they look up. You're better off reading a phone book. At least that publication serves some kind of purpose. If it weren't for their cutesy, arrogant personality cults and juvenile shock humor, everyone would know how stupid these writers really are! What a stupid paper. Stupid, stupid paper.

Jim Walls, Seattle…
Puhleeze, liquor sales have been privatized in CA for decades; it's not like this "problem" just appeared overnight.

Maybe this person should move out of the city and into some more peaceful rural enclave, where the only bottles you'll find lying around are the ones the locals have used for target practice.
There's a reason why the 43rd voted to endorse the No position overwhelmingly on the Costco Bill of Liquor Sales last nite.

Meanwhile, everyone is way more upset over the Tunnel causing massive traffic delays for West Seattle, especially with no transit ameleoration, and they're going to start drinking and driving is my guess.
Even if privatized liquor sales were the main cause of public drunkenness and litter in California (which they are not), it still makes no sense to infantilize the 95% of society that gets drunk in private and properly recycles beverage containers by insisting that you can buy your liquor only from the state.

News flash: Washington's "drunk idiots" buy their liquor just as easily form the state-run stores as they do from grocery stores, and malt liquor and fortified wine are in no short supply in grocery stores already.

Also, I have spent plenty of time in California and find the state to be basically litter-free. I do not know what filthy areas Mr. Walls somehow prefers to spend his time in, but the problem he anecdotally describes is not pervasive (if it exists at all), and introducing state-owned liquor stores in California would have exactly zero effect on the problem anyway.

Here's my anecdote: Sweden and Finland have draconian state controls on liquor sales from government liquor stores, and public drunkenness is in absolutely no short supply there. Hmm.

Vote yes on 1183.
Word of advice: Don't listen to ANYONE from Seattle when they say ANYTHING negative about California. Unless they're buying all the drinks, and picking high-quality alleys to drink them in.
Privitization has little to do with empty bottles everywhere, has everythign to do with granting permits and zoning to sell booze. The more permits the city or state approves, the more it might become a problem.
I don't know what this stuff is talking about. the only reason there's more drunk hobos in CA is because the weather is nicer. And I don't remember it being any easier to get alcohol when i was underage.
Who is this idiot? Some Socialist Worker's Party throwback? California has many problems but privatized liquor sales are not one of them. It's also not a police state. Saudi Arabia is a police state. To argue that is really just silly.
I'm as liberal as they come, but I do not support the current initiative to privatize liquor.

Liquor is a harmful substance, you can't argue that. Probably more harmful than beer and wine. It should be much more difficult for a teenager to snag a few handles of vodka than it is to get a rack of Keystone Light.

This bill takes the liquor monopoly from the state and hands it over directly to Costco, Safeway, Walmart, and QFC. The hundreds of unionized employees who work at the state's liquor stores and earn a LIVING WAGE with HEALTH BENEFITS will lose their jobs.

If you vote Yes on this measure, you put hundreds of folks out of work and empower companies that pay their workers minimum wage like Walmart and Safeway. Do you really believe that someone who makes $8 an hour has any motivation to stop a kid from running out of the store with a few bottles of booze?
Here in Colorado we have private liquor stores that are not permitted to sell anything else. Moreover, chains of liquor stores are forbidden (you're only allowed to own and operate one store under your own name) which means that they remain (for the most part) small, family-run businesses. (some Costco and Sam's Clubs do have liquor stores attached to their larger businesses; I'm not sure how they get around the ownership rules).

Is it annoying to have to make a separate stop because you can't buy beer or wine in the local grocery or convenience store (in an odd twist, groceries can sell beer here, but it can't be any more than 3.2% alcohol)? Yeah, sometimes. But it's not really that much of a hassle to make two stops.

Frankly, I find it kind of nice that there are lots of small guys in this one business still. I have two or three decent liquor stores within convenient biking distance of my house if I just want to pick up a case of beer or a few bottles of plonk for dinner. And I also have places in town that provide really good specialty service, if I'm looking for a particular import or need help choosing a good wine.

Naturally, the grocery stores and Kwik-E-Mart operators have been trying to fight this. I hope they don't win. I rather like my alcohol money staying in the neighborhood.

Anyways, I've lived in places where you can buy your booze from practically anyone and I've lived in places where you have to go to a government-run shop to buy. This setup we have here strikes me as a great balance the reaps the benefits of the free market while protecting local small businesses against huge out-of-state corporate concerns.

Frankly, I'd kinda like to see the model extended to other parts of the retail market.
"In CA there are drunk idiots everywhere and many of them are underage. Empty liquor bottles litter the streets and sirens are heard non-stop."

Welcome to every state*, including WA.

*Except UT, if you want to live in UT you're already in UT.
Only 21 states are in some form state-held monopolies. Is anyone with any intellectual integrity actually willing to suggest the other 29 states in the country are overrun with drunks and failing in major ways because of easier access to liquor?

I dare someone to try and prove that all the blue states on this map are worse for this, and back that up with some scientifically accepted facts. Religious views, generic unvalidated talking points, morality plays, or anything that isn't empirical fact-based evidence is invalid.

Go, I dare you.
And you stupid gits, underaged kids drink booze because OF AGE PEOPLE buy it for them.
But it's not really that much of a hassle to make two stops.

Unless you write for the Stranger, of course. Then it's a crime against humanity.
Yesterday I went for a bike ride.

Riding up SE 256th Street, I saw a mother exiting the gate of her apartment complex...she had a baby on her shoulder and was trying to negotiate down the 4 foot ravine (storm drain) with a folded stroller to get to the other side where the bus stop is...the ditch was full of garbage...mostly bottles like empty bleach and soda. (I picked up a broken crack pipe along that route...but it was half a decade ago.)

Getting to the Soos Creek bicycle trail, a mother was pushing a baby in a stroller along the trail amid the scents of sage bushes and the air was clean from the trees and sunshine.

These two events were no more than ten miles and 30 minutes apart.
I thought CA had a bottle deposit/return system?

If so, the "bottles everywhere" statement is certifiable bullshit.
@16 not in rural areas.

You need to get out more.
Okay, no scare tactic here, just a fact: in California there are liquor stores on every corner and half the floor space in every grocery store is occupied by booze. The alcoholic, overgrown infants on the Stranger's editorial staff might think of that as nirvana, but I'll bet most sane, mature people don't...
I was just in California two days ago. LA is cleaner than Seattle, even in the gritty parts. Didn't see any drunks, didn't see any bottle litter. Best of all, I didn't see Jim Walls. I did see some spectacular liquor stores, and plenty of boring ones too. I wish I could move there, come to think of it.
Using anecdotes to argue causal relationships works wonderfully.
Having grown up in California, I can tell you this guy is full of shit.

Also, anyone who makes generalizations about California is a moron. California is huge and varied. San Francisco is nothing like Bakersfield, and neither of those places is remotely similar to Humboldt County.
Privatized liquor sales here in New York have always been this way. Over the last decade, crime has generally trended down. Meanwhile, you're more likely to walk through a little cloud of pot-smoke on the street than trip over an empty booze bottle.

Speaking of empties, there are fewer booze and wine bottles than there are iced tea and sports/energy drink empties. IMHO, all that shit should have deposits and not just beer, soda and water like now. Yeah, many consumers still won't bring them back, but at least the itinerant trash pickers and recyclers will snag them.
I mainly care about the people who'd be losing jobs, and the reduction in state revenue if this piece of shit gets passed. So what if our present system isn't perfect? We have bigger fish to fry in this crappy economy. Leave the state's (meaning we the people) asset (the state liquor stores) alone. And fuck Costco.
Here in MD, we have privately owned liquor stores that also sell beer and wine in the same store. I don't believe we have any more problems than states that have state run liquor stores.
@20 Are you serious? Kids in rural areas need other people to buy booze for them because the people selling the booze in rural areas know the kids and know they are not 21. That was my experience as an underaged, rural drinker.
Oh dear sweet tiny little baby Jeezis!! What a complete and utter buffoon this Jim Walls person appears to be. As a CURRENT resident of the State of California, I can tell you that there isn't a particularly higher percentage of under-age kids getting drunk than when I lived in the State of Washington a few years ago. Unless Mr. Walls lived down on Skid Row here in Los Angeles (a place which exists in every major American City I should add...whether liquor sales are privatized or not), he is as far off-base as I would be waxing poetic about the price of tea in, oh, I dunno, China maybe. I would suggest that Mr. Walls pipe down, or come back to CA for a visit as it appears from the letter posted in the comments of 11 years ago, that it has been quite some time since Mr. Walls resided in this fair state.
I think it's very funny that the only thing in history that The Stranger would have privatized has to do with mind and body altering I love you Stranger, but my oh my, talk about flip flop.

My mind, so far, is not yet made up on this issue. I'm still waiting to be convinced. I think I may vote this down until they remove the stupid 10,000 SF requirement....
The stats tell it all. California has a LOWER incidence of underage drinking than Washington. Clearly availability is not the sole, or even main factor. The fact of the matter is California has stricter laws when it comes to selling to minors. In Washington if little Bobby sells alcohol to an underage decoy he gets a couple hundred dollar slap on the wrist, even if it isn't his first offense. In California you can be arrested on the spot for selling to a decoy and the establishment you work for can lose it's selling license for 6 months; ON THE FIRST OFFENSE.
I left California as soon as I was able (in 1996). There is a lot I just can't stand about the state (I'm not talking about you SF *MWAH*) and I would agree that it is a total mess...but the private liquor sales are absolutely not the the problem. That's quite possibly the most absurd thing I've ever heard.

Oh, and what 32 said.
Wait. You guys are taking this seriously? I thought the letter was a joke.
Costco, Safeway, Walmart, and QFC. The hundreds of unionized employees who work at the state's liquor stores and earn a LIVING WAGE with HEALTH BENEFITS will lose their jobs.

Safeway and QFC are unionized. Costco offers excellent compensation to its employees.

If you vote Yes on this measure, you put hundreds of folks out of work and empower companies that pay their workers minimum wage like Walmart and Safeway.

You are a moron.

FYI, hard liquor gets shoplifted from state stores all the time. What incentive does an employee for a non-profit government institution have to prevent shoplifting?

in California there are liquor stores on every corner and half the floor space in every grocery store is occupied by booze. The alcoholic, overgrown infants on the Stranger's editorial staff might think of that as nirvana, but I'll bet most sane, mature people don't...

Do "sane," "mature" people habitually lie?

I lived the first 17 years of my life in California, so I know from experience that you are completely and utterly full of shit.
In california they don't even let you vote unless you're a drunk idiot, preferably underage. You guys don't want that happening here, do you?
@22: "kay, no scare tactic here, just a fact: in California there are liquor stores on every corner and half the floor space in every grocery store is occupied by booze. The alcoholic, overgrown infants on the Stranger's editorial staff might think of that as nirvana, but I'll bet most sane, mature people don't..."

You're mixing a "fact" with the unrelated opinions of a moron.

I've probably typed this a million times (or, like, maybe 2 times), but liquor is not the best bang-for-your-buzz for the budget conscious ne'er-do-well, and isn't typically appealing to the underage.

Beer and wine retailers in Washington already carry products designed for inebriates, the underage, or anyone looking to get tight in a minimum amount of time for a minimum amount of money. Anyone buying liquor for this reason is doing so simply because it is their preferred drink, and is likely outspending their compatriots.
@39: Yep. Kids/professional drunks go for fortified "wine" and other malty beverages.

@20: "not in rural areas.

You need to get out more."

So control the people who get hired to sell liquor if you actually give a shit. If it's impossible to do, it's impossible to do with city employees as well.
@21 Thanks for the info. Pretty much confirms what I suspected. The bottles aren't going to be sitting in that ditch for very long, if at all.
I'm afraid Jim Walls is going to have to find himself a nice place in a cave on the moon if he doesn't want to see drunk idiots or litter on the streets.
Keshmeshi, you are the moron. Yes, people at Safeway are unionized, but they still work at Safeway. Have you ever been to Safeway? I feel uncomfortable as a customer there, I doubt it's any better on the other side.

If you follow the news, you may have read that (unionized) workers from California's top three grocery stores, including Vons, a subsidiary of Safeway, went on strike this month to protest, now get this, cuts to healthcare, pay, and hours. But hey, at least they are in a union so the workers have a seat at the discussion.

I believe the WSLCB employs somewhere in the range of 700-900 people, most of whom have great healthcare and stellar working conditions (trust me, I work for the government). You get fair management, predictable hours every week, a predictable wage that allows you to pay the rent and have a little extra to save, too.

These people would all lose their jobs, and I can't imagine they'd have much luck finding new jobs at Safeway. Grocery stores aren't going to increase hiring just because they now sell Monarch tequila next to the Cheetos.
@41, it's pretty remarkable. I was bitter for a long time because the law says "grocery stores shall have recycling areas" and very, very few of them did. I resented the hell out of having to pay the fees and not being able to conveniently recycle (no curbside service where I am). But you can't argue with the success rate, and even in my dusty-gulch, end-of-the-earth location there are very few containers littered.

It's especially good that a wide range of containers fall under the fee requirement (above all, the ridiculous bottles of water), and even those that don't, can still generate revenue for bulk collectors/haulers.

(I can drop off my recyclables for free at the local landfill, 2 miles away--where they are put in designated containers, not buried--with no gate fee. So I don't mind not being able to recoup the deposit fees paid at the grocery store; they go into the state budget.)
Excellent find and comment, Dominic. While the issue isn't of much importance to me at all, your point caught my attention.
@45 What "economic activity" is created by allowing only 10,000+ square foot stores sell liquor? That is exactly the sort of rhetoric used by the Republican Party; sounds a bit like "job creators" to me, can you hear it? This initiative is bought and paid for by Costco. (And so what if Jim Sinegal is a 'nice guy'?)

Why do you want to throw the 930 WSLCB employees affected by this measure out on the street? There's not enough room for all of them at Wal Mart's Economic Activity Centers.

(That number is taken from the state's Office of Financial Management report from last year's Initiative 1100/1105 research)

Yeah, the state has "no business selling things."

I don't know, I like buying my electricity from the City, I think they do a pretty swell job selling me a service at an affordable price with ethical practices. I think it would be pretty nice if the government sold me health insurance, too.

The state's "business" is not about selling more liquor at a greater profit. It is about making it available to those who are responsible enough to drink it, and keeping it away from those who aren't. A corporation's stake in selling liquor is the opposite: a corporation wants to sell as much liquor as they can. The state values the health of individuals and communities, the grocery store values profit, plain and simple. If we privatize liquor sales, we increase consumption of liquor, that is indisputable. And I think it's indisputably bad for public health.

I actually recognize hard liquor for the dangerous substance that it is, and believe that a state employee is much more motivated to keep a kid or intoxicated person from buying liquor than someone like you, a cashier at Safeway, is. As prudish as it sounds, alcoholism actually does destroy communities. Drinking does actually result in death and it does actually destroy lives. That is why we have a state run system in the first place. Do you know someone who has died from alcoholism? I do. Do you know kids who were killed by a drunk teenage driver? I do.

The state-run solution works, it just needs to be modernized. Sweden has actually taken great strides in making their liquor stores comfortable and attractive places, something that we should emulate.

I have read from your comments that you also hate bicyclists and want to "shove them off their bikes", you regularly call people assholes and "fucking stupid", and would like to end housing programs for artists, so I know that we will never see eye to eye on this issue.

No use in arguing with a heartless Republican. And you're right about NIMBYISM in Washington, so please move back to California, you dick.

Currently, the WSLCB has two opposing purposes. The first is to regulate and restrict the sale of alcohol, so that it does not wind up in the wrong hands. The second is to sell alcohol.

These two goals are, well, at cross purposes.

Right now, a large portion of the WSLCB's employees are in the business of *selling alcohol*. This is an organization whose charter is to protect against the misuse of alcohol. And yet they're selling it!

I don't like it when industries regulate themselves. And that's exactly what's going on here; it's just that the regulation side is dominant over the industry side, for now.

I completely agree with you that alcohol is an incredibly dangerous substance. I know people who have died from it, and others who might as well have. I try to consume as little of it as I can.

But I don't agree that privatizing liquor sales necessarily increases consumption of liquor. Not one bit.

The state is free to restrict liquor stores in any way it wants, just like it currently restricts all sales of alcoholic beverages. (Every store that sells bottles of beer and wine, and every bar/restaurant that serves drinks, has a liquor license, which the state can freely revoke at any time.)

You could easily imagine an initiative which did not actually expand the number of liquor stores from what you see today. It would only allow stores to sell liquor if that was their only product (thus keeping liquor out of corner stores and Safeway). It would require a state employee to participate in the interviewing process for all new employees. It would perform random audits of liquor stores to ensure their compliance with all laws. And it would impose new taxes, thus ensuring that state revenues were unchanged, but (potentially) resulting in higher prices for consumers.

Under such a system, it's "indisputable" (to use your word) that *less* liquor would be consumed than today. Same product, same accessibility, higher prices. And most importantly, the people who sell alcohol are no longer the people who try to stop alcohol from being sold.

BTW, your comments about health insurance and electricity ring a little hollow. First of all, utilities and health care are two of the most well-known and well-studied examples of market failure. The laws of supply and demand work just fine for consumer goods, like alcohol; they don't work so well for utilities (where's there's probably a monopoly), nor for health care (where the person paying for care is not the person choosing care). And second, electricity and health care are *good* things, as opposed to alcohol, which is a *dangerous* thing. It makes a difference.
California's system seems to work fine. It's weird seeing shelves of booze at Trader Joe's, but I haven't noticed an increase in the amount of drunken assholery in LA as compared to Seattle. Liquor seems to be one of the less-broken things in this state.

Now the DMV, THAT is a disaster of which all Californians should be ashamed.
No, the California system is a disaster. That conclusion is clearly and convincingly make in the Department of Justice and Center for Disease Control reports. Why in the world should we join the 32 states that got it wrong?
@52: You're full of shit. But don't take my word for it, check the official data:……

In short, California is not the disaster you have made it out to be. Nor has Washington's Soviet-style state liquor control system made it a model of temperance.

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