Scare tactics on Initiative 1183

We’re a year away from choosing a new governor, and this off-year election has no high-profile statewide races. So the most pitched campaign battle likely will be over Initiative 1183, the second attempt to get the state out of the liquor business.

Costco again is spending several million dollars on this push to end state-controlled distribution and sales of liquor, because the retailer could gain a big chunk of this lucrative market if customers could buy booze in its warehouse stores.

Returning on the other side and ponying up millions of dollars for the campaign to defeat I-1183 is the national trade group Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. Their money goes to a campaign committee called Protect Our Communities, but what these wholesalers really aim to protect is their gravy train that would be derailed if I-1183 ends the state monopoly on liquor distribution and sales.

This outfit is reprising TV commercials featuring law enforcement officers and emergency responders who warn that public safety would be imperiled if state-run liquor stores are supplanted by four times as many outlets in the private sector.

It’s fine for these dedicated folks to express their personal views, which are undoubtedly sincere even though there’s not much evidence to support them. What’s objectionable about these commercials is that the ads are cynical and misleading and they try to scare people rather than inform them.

Those official-looking patrol cars and ambulances are just unofficial props; state law bars public agencies from using their   property for political purposes. But the commercial creates an impression — a false one — that an agency or the broader law enforcement community opposes privatizing liquor stores.

“So many of the commercials relating to political issues,” notes Port Orchard police Chief Al Townsend, who’s not worried by possible passage of I-1183, “are twisted to scare people.”

Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer says ads on both sides of the campaign are “promoting their own version of truth.”

But hopefully voters are as insightful as the sheriff believes: “My thoughts are the citizens are smart enough to wade through all the rhetoric and make a wise decision.”

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