PALMER — At Tuesday’s Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting, residents of Wasilla came out to support a resolution that was not even up for public comment yet. Resolution 21-017 was sponsored by Assemblymen Sumner and Yundt and supports changes to state law to allow for more local control over alcoholic beverage licensing.
“While municipalities can take actions limiting the licensing of alcohol within their jurisdictions, there is no concurrent ability for local governments to determine whether to allow for more alcoholic beverage licenses in their municipalities,” reads the Informational Memorandum.
“Either delegating the power, or providing a mechanism for municipalities to determine the appropriate number and types of alcoholic beverage licenses and permits within their community, will provide for more effective regulation of licenses and permits across our vast and diverse state.”
The Resolution cites that Article X of the Alaska State Constitution references the intent of maximum local self-government, and repeatedly draws comparisons to marijuana permitting as a positive impact of maximum local self-government. Wasilla Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessica Viera spoke passionately to the Assembly. Viera said that every year on the Chamber’s legislative priority list, local control is near the top.
“We have long seen the state impose population limits on alcohol licenses as a barrier to business and something that should rest in the hands of a municipality to decide how they can handle it best,” said Viera. “Why if Wasilla has voted to be wet are we told by the state that we’re only allowed to be damp by means of limiting the number of licenses we are allowed to have.”
Viera touted that the Mat-Su Borough is one of the only areas of the state that has seen continued growth, not all of which is done inside the city limits of Wasilla.
“By telling the city of Wasilla that their licenses are limited by the number of people within their city limits when the greater Wasilla area population is five times that or more and that population fully relies on city services and amenities, you create barriers to business and restrict the free market,” said Viera. “We’re starting to hit walls, those barriers to business, the biggest of which is the inability to access additional liquor licensing.”
Prior to the 6 p.m., regular Assembly meeting, a 4 p.m., special meeting was held to discuss school funding and bond debt. Former Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle attended both meetings and spoke in favor of Resolution 21-017 during the regular meeting, speaking in opposition to Senate Bill 9 filed by Senator Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna).
“A bad bill is a bad bill and that boils down to two words and that’s local control. We’ve had the Governor here within the last 60 days saying that we should have local control to have our own economic development, our own destination. You talked about it in your 4 o’clock meeting and what our local control is and what economic development would be to the borough,” said Cottle.
Cottle introduced himself as a resident of Wasilla and scoffed at the 143 restaurant beer and wine licenses and 119 beverage dispensary licenses that have been permitted in Anchorage.
“We should have our own local control,” said Cottle. “We should have a free market. We should have an open market.