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Speaking out: The Muni is a win for all of us

Fri, Feb 29th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

It is a fact that a resolution to rebuild the Rushford Municipal Liquor Store (the Muni) with both on and off sale has been brought up for vote before and after change of council members and passed both times. There remains a small group (mostly business owners) who is not happy with this decision. They present themselves as speaking for all of Rushford. We disagree.

Those against the Muni focus on inciting emotions while pushing for a hidden/personal agenda, rather than standing on facts, figures and what is best for the city. Possible motivators behind these attacks are: 1) putting more money in the pockets of a few, 2) planning to obtain the Muni's prime property for other business endeavor(s) and 3) continuing a vendetta against the city administrator.

In response we say:

1. Those against the on-sale often cite that the city should not be in "competition" with private businesses. Why not? It is not illegal, immoral or unethical. The city does not compete with any establishment's primary business. Furthermore, the city has never attempted to maintain a monopoly over on-sale. The city has granted on-sale liquor licenses to establishments even though they compete with the Muni.

2. The Muni profits are referred to as insignificant, yet are significant enough to fight for. Since 2002, the Muni has transferred $230,000 of its net profits to the city's General Fund. Obviously, this is a successful business. These profits have provided services for the community that would have required additional tax monies, basically reducing the tax burden of every household in the community, while providing employment opportunities.

3. Another complaint is that the Muni doesn't pay for a liquor license. One wonders why the net profit is scoffed at, yet the cost of a $200-$300 liquor license is a burden?

4. There should be minimal cost to the city to rebuild the Muni, with insurance and FEMA money (over $200,000 will be lost if we don't rebuild on-sale). There is no free money: it comes out of all of our taxes. However, these business owners didn't worry about that when they went looking for our tax dollars to rebuild (up to 90% forgivable!!!) Sadly, we have many homeowners and renters who have yet to find a housing solution.

5. Pull tabs have generated over $10,000 a month for the Rushford Booster Club. The Muni provided the majority of this and received 13% of the pull tab profits as revenue. The Booster Club, was close to raising $1,000,000 from pull tabs, has provided a new track, bleachers, baseball field lights, uniforms and other things for the school and community. Without these dollars, the school would have to look at alternatives (i.e. increasing taxes; increasing/adding fees for students; doing without).

6. The flood has been devastating to Rushford. However, Rushford has an opportunity to establish pre-flood status of the Muni with little cost to the city. Why would we not? It worked well pre-flood, so why not post-flood? Then let free enterprise do its work. We can back down to just off-sale, but it will not be possible to do the reverse. Also, competitors can be open on Sunday and holidays. The local businesses could consider continuous quality improvement strategies. What can you do to attract the business you desire? When was the last time you asked and listened to your potential customer base about why they choose to go to your competitors? Personally, we want choices.

We commend and applaud the city of Rushford, the council, mayor and administrator for the superb handling of the deluge of issues resulting from the flood. We also commend the city for not rushing into a decision regarding the Muni. Sadly, having done due diligence, the city still has to put up with emotional and unprofessional onslaughts from our disgruntled business owners and the ex-mayor.

We also feel that it would be highly inappropriate to allow this resolution to be brought up for another vote. We respectfully suggest that the council stand by the previous votes. If not, then we wonder how the city will justify or rationalize standing by a third vote, if it swings the other way. This could go on and on, which is a side effect that favors the businesses. Perhaps the final alternative is to have a city vote.

We encourage the community of Rushford to resist engaging in this emotional game: look behind the emotions for the true motivator. Whose pockets are they interested in lining? Why are they making this attack and causing such rife at a time when our city needs to pull together? We need to focus on more important issues, like housing and employment problems. We feel the benefits to the community far outweigh putting more dollars in the pockets of a few. The community and business owners all benefit from the net profits of the Muni and the pull tab dollars. It is a win for all of us.

Richard and Roxi Bains are from Rushford, MN

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