Time to govern
The Pigeon Forge City Commission needed to move ahead on creating ordinances to handle liquor by the drink. Regardless of the election contest filed the day before Thanksgiving, the commission needs to proceed as if liquor licenses will ultimately be issued.
Yes, there remain questions about the city’s authority on governing liquor issues, especially whether it can set the cutoff limit for sales. City attorney Jim Gass is unsure whether the city can override the state’s established 3 a.m. cutoff. In the meantime the commission approved on first reading ordinances to regulate liquor sales and to establish a privilege tax for liquor sales. A privilege tax is just that: a tax paid for the privilege of doing business in a jurisdiction. The state issues liquor licenses. That’s not the city’s job or responsibility.
Until a judge issues a temporary restraining order to stop liquor sales, or until the issue of whether there were sufficient irregularities in the Nov. 6 referendum to warrant a new vote, the city must move ahead as if all is well. Voters approved liquor sales on Nov. 6, and the Sevier County Election Commission certified the vote the following Monday. That is enough for the City Commission to do its job regarding such sales.
It shouldn’t matter, at this point, whether all five city commissioners personally approved of liquor sales. The time to express those sentiments, both publicly and with the ballot, has passed. Now it’s time to govern. The rather innocuous ordinances placed on first reading Monday by the City Commission should not have led Commissioners Randal Robinson and Howard Reagan to vote against both of them, especially if they did so as a way to further protest liquor sales. They were elected to govern, and establishing the framework for liquor sales now is part of their job.
Putting the ordinances on first reading does not mean they ultimately will be approved or should be approved as written. Ordinances go through two or three readings before passage, and Robinson and Reagan know this.
As Gass gets clarification on the city’s limited responsibility regarding liquor sales, or if Chancellor Telford Forgety decides to uphold the election contest, nothing the City Commission is doing is irreversible. It’s time for Robinson and Reagan to do more governing and less protesting.