Our Community, Our Dollars Ends Efforts in Faulkner, Craighead Counties

by Lee Hogan  on Thursday, Jul. 31, 2014 6:50 pm  

Our Community, Our Dollars says it will turn all its efforts for the legalization of retail alcohol sales to Saline County, and end its efforts in Faulkner and Craighead counties.

“We just received word from the County Clerk’s office in Saline County that we have turned in a significant amount of signatures — enough to put the wet/dry issue on the ballot in that county,” Jay Allen, president of the group, said in a statement. “Assuming the issue ultimately makes the ballot, we will now focus our attention on encouraging Saline County residents to get out and vote in support of turning Saline from dry to wet.”

At the same time, the group will end its efforts in Faulkner and Craighead counties.

“Given the strong support we have received from voters in both [Faulkner and Craighead] counties during the last several months of gathering signatures, we greatly regret that they will not have the opportunity to decide this issue through the democratic process,” Allen said. “It has been decades since voters in these counties have had such an opportunity.”

The group began petition drives in the three counties in May in an attempt to get the issue before the voters in the November election. In each county, signatures from 38 percent of the registered voters were needed to have the initiatives make their way to the November ballot. That came to 25,000 signatures in Saline County, 24,800 in Faulkner County, and 20,000 in Craighead County.

Our Community, Our Dollars submitted signatures in Saline and Craighead counties July 7, and said it hoped to turn in signatures in Faulkner County by the final Aug. 5 deadline. The group turned in 25,917 signatures in Saline County and 20,956 in Craighead County. The week before the July 7 deadline, Natalie Ghidotti, a spokesperson for the group, told Arkansas Business that more than 75 percent of the signatures had been gathered in Faulkner County.

Our Community, Our Dollars is heavily funded by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville and Kum & Go of West Des Moines, Iowa. Through June 30, the group had received more than $1 million from the two retailers with just under $1 million from Wal-Mart and $50,000 from Kum & Go. It also hired the National Ballot Access to gather signatures.

Through two months of reports on its funding, Our Community, Our Dollars has spent $716,291.06, including $167,592.58 going to NBA, and another $161,452 on advertising. The group has also spent $104,000 on consultation.

Opposition in Faulkner, Craighead Counties

While efforts in Saline County were able to move along without an organized opposition group, the same could not be said for Faulkner and Craighead counties. 

The opposition in those two counties came from liquor stores in neighboring, wet counties.

In Faulkner County, the CCLBA Action Fund committee, funded by the Conway County Legal Beverage Association, and They Win, You Lose, which is led by Camille Boggess, who was listed as a lobbyist for CCLBA in 2012, led the opposition. Through June 30, the two groups had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to stifle the attempts to legalize retail alcohol sales in Faulkner County.



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