This letter is in response to the letter to the editor dated 4/22/11.
I would like to thank Ms. DiBattista for thinking that I, as the mayor of Bellevue, have enough clout to permit which businesses are allowed to operate in our borough. Perhaps Ms. DiBattista should have done her homework and actually glanced at what my job description is, as the mayor. I am in charge of the police department. I am also responsible for presenting a budget and breaking any tie votes in council. Other than those jobs, I am the figure head of the borough, but I have no authority over which businesses are welcome here in our town. Then again, even council has no authority when it comes to the dollar stores, check cashing stores or pizza shops that Ms. DiBattista mentioned. If Ms. DiBattista is aware of who makes those decisions, please contact me as I would be happy to meet with them.
Actually, the chamber of commerce in our borough does assist and promote the local businesses. Perhaps Ms. DiBattista should be attending their meetings. I have been to several of those and I have never seen her there to complain about anything.
I do not understand why, because I have a difference of opinion on this alcohol referendum, Ms. DiBattista feels the need to personally attack me. My strong opinion on this alcohol referendum is fueled by the fact that if this vote passes, it can and will allow bars, not just nice clean, wine-serving restaurants, as has been stated by all in favor.
If there were a way to be sure that only nice restaurants could serve a drink or two with dinner, then we would all be very pleased to have them in our borough. Unfortunately, this is not the case and that is where my strong objection comes into play. Everyone must look down the road-maybe one maybe two years. The license for the nice restaurant today could easily become the local shot and beer bar tomorrow. If you feel this cannot happen, please open your eyes! Nuisance bars are on the rise. Do you think these bars started out this way? Of course not. And they all have R licenses. Bar or restaurant = R license.
That is my objection, and as a citizen of Bellevue for 54 years, I certainly have my right to an opinion, and my job is to inform the citizens in this borough exactly what they will be voting on.
I would like to inform Ms. DiBattista that being truthful to the citizens is also my job, to tell the citizens of Bellevue the entire truth, not just bits and pieces. When you have the entire truth, then you can make an educated decision. While I would love to have more opportunities come to Bellevue, I do not think serving alcohol is the answer.
Mayor of Bellevue
The information that was mentioned in the "Editor’s Note" of last weeks Letter to the Editor was acquired from the Borough Building, which acquired their information from the Enjoy Bellevue web site (enjoybellevue.org). After reviewing the site, it seems they list a few schools and churches located in the Avalon area, in addition to those that are in Bellevue. The reason that I mentioned schools and churches in the first place was because they have the right [to] oppose liquor sales near their location, and I imagine a lot of them will exercise this right. This doesn't mean that the license won’t be granted due to the opposition, just that it can make it difficult for a business to attain the license.
The corrected statistics are below:
The following seven schools are in Bellevue: Assumption Catholic School, Bellevue Elementary, Mount Assisi Academy Preschool, Northgate Bellevue Head Start, Northgate Pre-K Counts, Northgate Middle/High School, Lil' Tykes Day Care Center.
The following nine churches are in Bellevue: Bellevue Christian Church, Bellevue United Presbyterian Church, Church of Assumption, Emanuel's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Forest Avenue Presbyterian Church, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Mount Assisi Convent, Mount Nazareth Center, New Life Community Church.
The number of schools and churches may have been off by a few, but that doesn't change or discredit the point of the letter.
[Editor's Note: Once again, the "facts" presented are either inaccurate or incomplete. According to the PA Liquor Code, the LCB MAY (not SHALL) consider churches, schools, etc. located within 300 feet of the location of a business applying for a liquor license. Only people residing within 500 feet of the proposed location will be heard by the LCB. Northgate High School is not within the required distance of any commercially zoned area in Bellevue where a liquor license could be approved. Finally, Forest Avenue Church, Mt. Assisi Convent and Mt. Nazareth Center are located in Ross Township, NOT Bellevue. The same is true of Mt. Assisi Academy pre-school.]
SCHOOL BOARD SHOULD LISTEN
[Concerning the] Northgate School Board:
While I appreciate their service and know that it is not an easy job, I will remind them what I have to always remind myself as a council person, that they represent the people and it is their responsibility to hear the people. I do believe that all of them have good intentions and care about the school and I thank them for that, but there are a lot of other people out here that do also and they need to consider their opinions and suggestions and caring about that is very important as well.
Sadly it seems that some members of school board take offense to good suggestions, when again it is their job to hear the people they represent.
They are also there to be leaders and in charge of our superintendent and staff, but it seems like some are always being led by the very same people that they are supposed to be leading and overseeing.
It is also their job to not just accept things as they are but to do everything possible to make that school great. Almost everything [they] do up there has a direct effect on our community and in the end has an effect on the school's future revenues. One of the first thing potential homebuyers look at in a community before they buy is the school. Why would people invest in a town with a school with high taxes and low ratings and now the proposed less school programs?
I know that the millage reflects a lower amount than the same millage in other wealthier towns with higher home values, but it is not a valid point in ways because the amount of money that comes out of our pockets has an equal effect on us and our income as the larger amount does to the pockets of the wealthier communities’ people.
BELLEVUE NEEDS ALCOHOL SALES
Those of you who live in Bellevue know that May 17 is an important day. May 17, typically a slow, election day geared towards local primaries, will this year be a day when our community will finally vote on whether or not alcohol may be sold by local eateries and restaurants.
For as long as I can remember, Bellevue has been a dry town. I want to say it's been a dry town since the borough was incorporated, but I cannot find the history to verify that. Either way, prohibition has dragged on in Bellevue for a long time, and for many in this community it has become more than just a perceived safety net against "riff raff," it's become a point of selfish pride to their own detriment.
It's no secret that for many years, Bellevue has been in decline. More folks are moving out of town than moving in. More homes are being subdivided and rented as Section 8 housing than are being sold as whole units to young families. Many potential business locations continue to sit vacant for long periods of time. And, for those of us who are sticking it out and betting on Bellevue coming around by purchasing homes and setting up shop here, property and income taxes just keep going up.
It shouldn't be that difficult for Bellevue to turn around. Situated just north of the city limits, Bellevue is in the unique position to have immediate access to the great things of the City of Pittsburgh, while not suffering from the even higher tax rates, larger, more corrupt government, and more expensive homes. Additionally, the daily commute between the city and the northern suburbs is surprisingly smooth compared to the commute east and south of Pittsburgh. And for those who do not work in Pittsburgh and have no reason to trek downtown, Bellevue has an amazing little business district within walking distance of pretty much everyone who lives here that can meet just about every need one can think of. There are so many reasons for folks to move to the northern suburbs, especially Bellevue, but for some reason it cannot escape this downward spiral that is literally killing it.
Something must change in Bellevue sooner rather than later. Something has to give. Somehow Bellevue must again look attractive to new residents and business owners and I believe that this alcohol referendum will be a step in that direction. There are some great little, independent restaurants in Bellevue that, as of right now, are BYOB. They seem to be doing well, but imagine what might happen to their business if they could serve a cocktail or a beer with their meals. There is currently no night life in Bellevue. Bellevue residents who enjoy a drink in the evening are forced to go to other communities to hang out and spend their money. Eventually, because they must regularly leave the community they call home to find adequate entertainment and dining options, these residents purchase homes elsewhere because people generally want to live where they spend most of their time.
The fear, of course, is that if Bellevue allows alcohol sales that the only businesses that will open up shop from this point forward will be nightclubs and bars. Coupled with that, the fear goes on that these bars and clubs will cause Bellevue to experience an immediate up-tick in crime, violence, drunkenness and debauchery. My frustration with this fear is twofold. First, this fear ignores what is actually being voted on. The community is voting to permit Title-R alcohol permits which is for restaurants only. Second, this fear assumes that either alcohol is not being consumed in Bellevue already (in private homes or BYOBs at local businesses) or that the alcohol already being consumed in the community has somehow not affected the crime rate and only alcohol paid for and served in a few restaurants will cause this increase in crime.
I'm willing to bet that the majority of households in Bellevue have a few beers and a bottle of wine sitting in the fridge; they might even have a little of the hard stuff in the liquor cabinet. Unfortunately, for Bellevue, all of these not so cheap drinks were purchased outside of our community, were taxed in other communities, and are being consumed free of charge here. Last I checked, the police have not been raiding these homes and making arrests for lewd activity, violence and drunkenness. So, if adults are able to enjoy a little alcohol in a mature way in their homes or at restaurants via BYOB, why not sell it here? Why not help our local business with additional sale revenue? Why not make an organic increase in the tax flow rather than continually demanding tax hikes on the few who actually still pay taxes here?
I'm not one of those people who believe that alcohol sales in Bellevue will fix all of our problems and will be the one thing that turns the community around. However, it's definitely a step in the right direction. It's a huge piece of the puzzle to modernizing our community, increasing its appeal to business owners and home buyers, decreasing the need for higher tax rates, and ultimately increasing home values (which, for those of you who are not aware, is the one key measurement of whether or not a community is thriving or dying). All in all, permitting alcohol sales in Bellevue can only benefit the community.
ALCOHOL IN BELLEVUE
Tuesday, May 17, 2011 is primary election day in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This year’s ballot will afford all registered voters in the Borough of Bellevue the opportunity to allow for Retail Licenses, granted by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), for the sale of liquor and malt and brewed beverages.
As it relates to the future of the borough, this has the potential of being one of the most significant issues decided by the residents since the borough’s first election on Sept. 11, 1867.
The Board of Elections apparently intends to have the following explanation available to the voters: “If this question is approved by a majority of those voting, liquor licenses may be granted by the PA liquor control board for the sale of liquor and malt and brewed beverages in bars, taverns, restaurants, hotels, clubs and similar establishments in the Borough of Bellevue.”
While technically and legally correct, that information is incomplete and could be misleading to the voter. That disclaimer fails to include the following: The PLCB does not issue bar, tavern, restaurant, hotel, and or club licenses.
As it applies to the sale of liquor and malt and brewed beverages, the PLCB issues retail liquor and retail dispenser (beer only) licenses. Retail liquor licenses consist of: Restaurant Liquor; Hotel Liquor (H); Airport Restaurant Liquor (AR); Municipal Golf Course Restaurant Liquor (GR); Privately-Owned Public Golf Course Restaurant (PGR); Off-Track Wagering Restaurant Liquor (OWR); and Economic Development Restaurant Liquor (EDR). The sale of food is the primary requirement for a retail license. It is necessary that the establishment be properly equipped with an adequate supply of food to indicate that a bona fide food business is being conducted in the Borough of Bellevue.
In his April 12 e-mail, Mayor Doscher attempts to recruit members for his group that is against bars in Bellevue and solicits money for advertising to “get the word out.” He also writes, “Any establishment that has a license to serve alcohol can turn into a dive bar at any time and nothing can be done to change that. I don’t care to have my kids walk to school or to shop in Bellevue and have to go by a bar, if I wanted that I would have already lived in a town that had bars. Think of the other problems that could arise, a bar on the main street (that’s where they would be) that’s noisy during almost any time of the day or night, increased police calls for problems or drunks...’’
While some of his statements have the potential to be true, it’s just a likely that the South shall rise again and Jimmy Hoffa really was buried in the end zone at Giants Stadium.
Mayor Doscher is incorrect when he writes, “any establishment that has a license to serve alcohol can turn into a dive bar at anytime and nothing can be done to change that.” (1) The appropriate law enforcement agencies can make a nuisance designation. If an investigation substantiates the nuisance allegation, the PLCB will deny any license renewal. (2) Just as the borough can vote to allow for the sale of liquor, they can vote to reverse the sale of liquor by following the same procedures used to get the liquor question on the May ballot. (Publication LCB-19 6/08 Item #4419)
Mayor Doscher is correct that Borough residents should check the facts. Anyone with doubts to the validity of the “facts” cited in his April 12 e-mail is encouraged to contact the following: PLCB Office of Chief Counsel, Suite 401, Northwest Office Building, Harrisburg, PA 17124, Phone (717) 783-9454, email: Ra-LBLegal@state.pa.us.
Even if the sale of liquor is approved by the referendum, there is no guarantee that any existing retail licenses will be transferred into Bellevue or that any restaurant, upscale or not, will open. However, if the referendum is not approved, we know for certain that any liquor license transfers will not occur.
I never viewed this referendum question as an opportunity to make liquor more readily available that it already is. It’s not as if residents of Bellevue are prevented from entering Avalon or the North Side if all they want to do is drink. I view this as a pro-Bellevue issue, having the potential to bring new people and businesses into Bellevue, both of which could generate much needed revenue. Reasonable people would agree that it is critically important to take bold and innovative steps to revitalize the borough and look to the future with hope. Does anyone truly believe that increasing parking meter rates and issuing more traffic tickets will solve the financial problems faced by Bellevue and its less than stellar economy? There can be no doubt that more of the “same old, same old” simply will not work.
As a private citizen, George Doscher has every right to express his thoughts on this issue and to organize any group he wishes. However, the signature to his April 12 e-mail (George Doscher, Mayor, neighbor and lifelong resident of Bellevue) is interesting. By including “mayor” has he attempted to use the very limited power of his office to inappropriately influence the board of elections and/or create a de facto anti-liquor position by borough council?