Alcohol opponents cautiously eyeing appeal of court ruling

It’s a little like a big game of chicken – trying to wait until the other side commits itself before announcing what course of action to pursue. That’s the position alcohol opponents find themselves in, according to comments made this week by Keep Blount County Special spokesman Larry Gipson. Gipson is also pastor of First Baptist Church Oneonta, though the church does not identify itself officially with the not-for-profit, anti-alcohol group.

Gipson and Glenn Bynum, also a Baptist preacher, both affiliated with Keep Blount County Special, intervened in the case Neal vs. City of Oneonta to argue the constitutionality of the statute subsequently struck down as unconstitutional in the particular part applying to calling an alcohol referendum in qualifying Blount County municipalities. Asked if the group intends to appeal the Nov. 1 court decision clearing the way for a referendum in Oneonta and other qualifying municipalities on legalizing alcohol sales in their jurisdictions, Gipson was cautious.

“We’re still conversing among ourselves about the decision,” he said. “We’re trying to decide what to do. We went to the last Oneonta council meeting thinking they would discuss their plans for an election – whether it would be between now and Christmas or after the first of the year – but they didn’t discuss it. I don’t know if seeing us in the audience scared them or not, but it wasn’t mentioned. We’re now waiting for the next meeting to see what direction they’re going.

“Our group is not just about Oneonta, though. We’re concerned about the welfare of the whole county. What Oneonta does could affect that. We were curious about whether Oneonta would move quickly or not. Our group would like to know what their plan is. We haven’t made a decision about an appeal yet, or about which way we’ll go – probably won’t decide for another two or three weeks,” Gipson said.

He said the group’s discussions have gravitated toward one of three possible courses of action: (1) request a retrial, (2) appeal the ruling to a higher court, or (3) forego further legal action and focus their efforts on the alcohol referendum itself by influencing citizens to “vote it down.”