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Arizona proves its dumbness, yet again

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So there’s this guy, see, name of John Lewis, mayor of Gilbert, Arizona (2007 population: 207,000). Seems like an all-American type: ruggedly handsome, Boy Scout leader, youth basketball coach, married for 28 years to his childhood sweetheart, LaCinda, father of eight (well, he’s a Mormon), IT honcho for University of Phoenix (leading for-profit higher ed institution), lover of outdoorsy activities (“picnics in our parks, and horse riding along the canals”, from his campaign website), founder of “Gilbert Constitution Week” (which sponsors an Essay Scholarship Contest; the theme this year was “If the Founders were here today, what would they say?”, and the winning essay is heavy on “blood of their ancestors,” “blessings” and “religion”). John is, in short, a rock-ribbed, regular guy. So what’s my beef with Mayor John?

Well, this. “Lewis recently called on local grocers to ‘withstand the temptation’ to offer free taste-testing of beer, wine and spirits at their stores.”

Seems Sam’s Club wanted to offer such free tastings, but Da Mayor (and 2 town councilmembers) said Nyet. What was John’s rationale?

“For the image and preservation of what has been building Gilbert as a family-centered community,” he intoned, “I hope we would not approve the sampling privileges in a family environment.”

Then, this pious, God-fearing man said his family frequently shopped at Sam’s Club and he would not want his children to be in an atmosphere where alcohol could be sipped.

OMG! It’s the old “family environment” thing. Children witnessing adults sipping Chardonnay, perhaps with little cubes of brie! How will that warp their tender little minds? These precious developing angels must be protected from seeing adults engaging in such bestial, carnal sins as wine tasting. I can see John and LaCinda now. It’s Sunday morning. They’ve just RV’d all eight of their kids to Sam’s Club, for the weekly pickup of toilet paper, dishwashing liquid, Pampers and 47 crates of Cheerios. Everybody’s happy. Dad is leading the fambly in a singalong of the Arizona State Song

Sing the song that’s in your hearts
Sing of the great Southwest,
Thank God, for Arizona
In splendid sunshine dressed.
For thy beauty and thy grandeur,
For thy regal robes so sheen
We hail thee Arizona
Our Goddess and our queen.

They reach the soda and juice aisle. Turn right, in search of 3-liter jugs of Pepsi. Something’s going on way down the aisle, a crowd of people gathered, what is it? LaCinda senses something amiss. John is curious. “Hey,” says Mr. Mayor, “wonder what’s up? Let’s see.” They approach. The kiddies cluster tightly around their parents. LaCinda reaches out her arms to embrace the youngest ones. The Lewis contingent–10 strong–approaches. Someone in the crowd (which includes no illegal aliens) says, “Hey, look, it’s Mayor Lewis.” The crowd parts. At its center, revealed suddenly in all its hideous, garish wickedness, is Demon Alcohol! A representative of Satan is pouring it out into little paper cups, for any and all to imbibe.

LaCinda gasps. The kiddies begin to scream and cry. Mayor John, in all his mighty Electoral Wrath, gathers up his strength, Charlton Heston-Moses like, coming down from Sinai and finding his people worshiping before the golden calf. Eyes blazing, he roars, “Begone from Gilbert, my city, oh ye baneful purveyors of alcohol! Ye accursed peddlars and mongers, who would poison our youth and bring shame to our beloved city’s family values!”

I’ve gotta stop. Getting carried away. Tonight I will raise a glass to Mayor John Lewis of Gilbert and his lovely family, and hope Hizzoner comes to his senses.

* * *

I’ll be at Rusty Eddy’s “Public Relations for Small Wineries” class Friday, Dec. 10, at U.C. Davis. My fellow guest lecturers will be Jose and Jo Diaz, of Diaz Communications. It’s a fun, instructive session. For more info, call U.C. Davis at (530) 757-8608, or email Julie Brinley at jbrinley@ucdavis.edu. Hope to see you there!

  1. Susan Feist says:

    Too Funny!

  2. As one who resided in the beautiful state of Arizona until 6 months ago (and for a 15 year span), as well as one “ITB,” you could have pretty much stopped at “well, he’s a Mormon.”

    There are a lot of things that I like about the Mormons (as a group) — they take care of their own, they promote self-reliance and generally do some good works in the community. However, when *any* religious group crosses the line (speaking here as a Presbyterian who makes it to services 3 weeks out of the month), it will raise the hackles of the general community.

    You should remember that Gilbert and its next-door-neighbor sister, Chandler, are heavily Mormon in their makeup and have been concentrated centers of Stake (roughly analogous to a parish) activities for well over a century in AZ. Most AZ residents sort of take it in stride, like most people who live near Venice Beach in SoCal — it’s an “interesting” part of the landscape.

    The good thing about Mr. Lewis is that he is vocal and public about his prejudices, so that (come election time) those folks who disagree with his outdated assessment of what constitutes responsible adult activity can vote accordingly.

    Those who sell fine wine in AZ generally ignore such election year bluster, and go about doing their job.

  3. For a year or so, Maine had a law that store wine tastings had to be conducted in a manner that precluded the possibility of observation by children. The justification was the one given by Lewis — preventing children shopping with their parents from seeing wine being tasted. The law caused chaos at wine shops, and was repealed the next year.

  4. God forbid children should see adults drinking beverages responsibly in public. They should learn about it themselves like I did straight out of the bottle in the back of a car after dark.

  5. Michael Barry says:

    Well it is another lesson on why Italy has little problem with teen intoxication & another country has massive problems.
    Learning about sensible consumption of alcohol from responsible adults AT HOME is the only path to an untroubled passage from teen to mature adult.
    Preaching by wowsers will never be a substitute to a home education.

  6. Michael, the Italians might not be doing as well as we’d like to think when it comes to teens and alcohol abuse. I’ve pasted a link below to a Time article from 2009 that talks about the country’s efforts to try to turn back a rising tide of problems. According to the country’s National Health Institute, 63% of youths under 18 get drunk on weekends. And a study in Milan found about a third of 11-year-olds — yes, that’s 11 — have “problems with alcohol.” Of course, none of this makes the Arizona guy any less of a tool ….

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1913176,00.html#ixzz170iidYNN

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1913176,00.html#ixzz170iidYNN

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1913176,00.html

  7. Michael, couldn’t agree more. Like the old saying goes, you can’t legislate morality. Something these religious conservatives just don’t seem to get.

  8. Steve…be careful about what you say. According to South Park, and I quote: “Its the Mormons…the Mormons had it right” :)

    Seriously, what I find quite baffling are Christian religious sects than ban alcohol. I mean seriously, references to wine are all over the Bible, up to and including the use of wine as the central theme of arguably the most important meal ever served. Plus Jesus turned water into Screaming Eagle. I just do not see how institutional abstinence can be promoted as Chrsitian faith. Does anyone out there actually understand this??

  9. Steve,

    As a parent of young children I understand the man’s point. I was at a steak house last week and the table next had what one would call ‘potty mouths’. This is something my wife and I do not allow. Yet here were adults (all over 45 near as I could tell) cusing up a storm. F**king this, H*lla that, S**t. and so on. I was not happy.
    On the same note my children are activity involved in our wine trade. They are at the tasting room alot! They are at almost all of our events and see people that have drank too much. They see their father drinking out of the barrel at way too early in the morn with wine enthusiasts.
    We have gotten negative reviews online for the allowance of our children being part of the family trade.
    Where does one draw the line? My space, your space or our space?

  10. Steve….love the post, but mormons don’t shop on Sunday pal.

  11. Its not like that the Arizona is dump always. While reading your post I found a poem in between it. It is very good poem and placed at very good place in the post. It suits the post at its place.
    Australian wine

  12. There is a huge difference between responsible tasting of wine and getting hammered like ###!
    I see no problem with the first – wouldn’t want any kids to see the second.
    Winetastings in stores are usually very far from beeing binge drinking and an well instructed/trained salesperson should be able to controll that.

  13. Thomas: Oops. I missed that day in the History of Religion class.

  14. Steve Christian, the behavior of those drunken boors is inexcusable. Where was the restaurant’s management? I would have complained. I also am aware that the behavior of some (thankfully not all or even the majority) of tasting room visitors can be terrible. However, I can’t conceive of people getting drunk at Sam’s Club by tasting little pours of wine.

  15. When the pilgramage to what was to become the USA started, it was started by ummmm, Pilgrams. The first laws of this land were austere and those austere laws have not entirely been eradicated. There is a strong Calvinistic layer to much of the American culture. (such as it is to our Euro- friends)

    A while back I had the disctict experience of selling to a restaurant manager (Italian food) who was Morman. He did the wine list and did not taste wine but smelled it. I did point out to him that he could spit the wine out and then smelling the wine was only one aspect of determining the wines quality. He did have several wines that smelled good on his wine list.

    The state where I live does not permit wine sampling in retail outlets unless they have a ‘pouring license’. LOL. These are prehistoric laws, predicated on the basis that people drink any alc beverage to become insensible and lose their inhibitions and they might break out into DANCING or some other socially unacceptable behavior.

    The hard part is educating the general population that wine drinking is part of a healthy diet, and being healty is a good thing.

    There are several religions that prohibit the consumtion of alcoholic beverages, one particularly comes to mind. Many of these prohibitions came about in a time of history when those beverages were also so crude as to be poisonous. So there might have been good reason to advise against drinking those liquids in the past.

    It took a long time for the dinosaurs to die out. Hopefully, it will not take so long for archaic social presumptions to die out also.

  16. Ok, I’ll be the voice of dissention and play devils advocate. First, I’m not Mormon, let alone religious.

    Should there be wine tastings in grocery stores? Should mom or dad with kiddies in tow be allowed to imbibe and then drive them home? I’m in the wine biz and have spent years on the road doing many tastings in wine shops. I’ve not ever seen anyone who tastes just one wine and stops at that. Plus, pretty much no one spits because they don’t know how.

    I like tastings in wine shops because you know you’re there for that purpose and I’ve never seen anyone bring a kid to one of those. Maybe it’s because I’ve never done a tasting in a grocery store – is there only one wine to try and you only get one taste, thus ensuring you don’t get a buzz? I’d be ok with it then. But tastings in wine shops, the model I’m used to, usually results in some “happy” people.

  17. Kathy, yes, “happy people” in wine shops–but in a grocery store? I don’t think so. Plus, I bet that the Sam’s Club management has very careful parameters for these tastings and the people who conduct them, who I’m sure are well-trained.

  18. gdfo, I had a good friend who was a Chasidic Jew. He wanted to be a winemaker. But the chief rabbi in Israel said he could never taste non-kosher wine, so that ended his winemaking ambitions. (He went on to become a rabbi!) Far be it from me to tell any religion how to conduct their affairs, but as you point out, the culture is saturated with anachronistic beliefs that date from thousands of years ago. Sometimes I despair that humankind will ever outgrow these archaic presumptions.

  19. Kathy, is a sample taste of wine considered imbibing? I thought this was a case of a wine sample not a wine tasting. Those little plactic cups contain barely an ounce.

    What is wrong with kids seeing their parents drink wine? Kids see all kinds of reprehensble behavior in real life and in the media? It is truly how the parents teach the kids in the first place. It is probably more harmfull for kids to see their parents argue and fight (without the use of any drinks) and eat large amounts of salted processed foods, than see them sip a sample in a store.

  20. I can’t believe we’re actually discussing whether it’s proper for kids to see their parents drinking! That’s how far we’ve drifted into craziness in this country.

  21. Yes, the wonderful state of Arizona. Arizona has some other “sensible” laws. Take the Impaired in the Slightest Degree law. This is not a DUI.

    If an officer determines you are impaired in the slightest degree, his/her opinion and you have a BAC of .01 to .07. You are guilty. Remarkably, the penalties are the same as a DUI conviction.

    So, make a lane change without signaling, admit to sampling wine at the grocery store, blow a .01 BAC – and you WIN! Ten days in jail, $10,000 + in fines and expenses, one year license suspension and an ignition interlock on your vehicle. No wine while shopping; you might get a warning.

    Fair, common sense legislation; only in Arizona.

  22. Spitting! OMG. People actually spit – I think we should outlaw spitting – we could form a group and call ourselves the “Against Social Spitting” group… And that would make about as much sense as attempting to legislate, so called, morality. But I do beg to differ, Steve, we legislate morality all the time in the US – just look at all the alcohol laws on the books; the current discussion on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the hundreds of other goofy laws on the books legislating morality.

    I think the issue is, if we agree with the legislation (like anti smoking and no plastic bag laws in The City), it’s OK. There are “nanny laws” all over the country – just visit Portland, Oregon to see that type of “morality” legislation run amok from a liberal perspective. And there are people on the street in San Francisco who would be arrested in more, shall we say, conservative, communities, like Gilbert, AZ and in other parts of the United States – why? well, they wouldn’t “fit in” with what these communities view as “moral.”

    Constitutionally, I doubt any of these laws would stand a real, unbiased Constitutional review – however, our Constitution has been so misinterpreted, maligned by evil politicians (ohh, wait, is that an oxymoron?), and trampled upon, most people have lost track of what it is…

    Perhaps we should outlaw politicians?

  23. Richard, you raise a valid point about the variability of moral standards in different communities. I understand that what “goes” in SF may not “go” in Gilbert! The people of Gilbert have the right to elect a mayor who’s against grocery store tasting, and if they disagree with him, they can turn him out of office in the next election. I’m just weighing in with an opinion that it’s dumb to not allow grocery store tasting — and opinionating is my Constitutional right! On the other hand, there are no real Constitutional issues with a city outlawing wine tasting. However, there are severe Constitutional issues when a country tries to deprive entire population groups of their civil rights based on hostility and fear.

  24. Dave, couldn’t a .01 BAC be due to natural body chemistry and metabolism?

  25. Arizona long ago established itself as a cultural backwater. Recall the state’s fierce opposition to a national holiday for Martin Luther King and now their bigoted anti-immigration law. We can (thanks to the unbalanced John McCain) also blame Arizona for the emergence of the imbecilic Sarah Palin. It is no surprise that this state should also have it’s share of reactionary religious types too.

  26. As someone who is a 4th generation Arizonan, this post is yet further confirmation of why I left the state at age 16, vowing never to return (except to say hello to family members who lack my sensibilities).
    One other correction (besides the shopping on Sunday thing): the family would not have shopped for Pepsi–it’s caffeine content makes it as evil as coffee or alcohol.

  27. for europeans it is hard to understand the different laws re. alcohol in the states of the USA. Sometimes a land of freedom and sometimes of religious extremists. As I said: not easy to understand for us.

  28. James Callahan says:

    Steve,

    This isn’t an issue with Arizona. This is an issue with Gilbert (which is parts of the mormon stronghold of the east valley). “Good” mormons don’t drink so this reaction by the mayor is to be expected. I know that speaking out against AZ gets easy press and is popular with the press but this story really has nothing to do with the state. I don’t think all of the residents in CA can’t handle their finances just because their state government fails at it… Likewise, I don’t see how one suburb’s antics can define the entire state?

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