a word from the author of 1100

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The response to my Monday blog has been gratifying. Many are in agreement with me, but certainly not all, as you can see from the lengthy rebuttals posted by Paul Beveridge, who is the prime mover behind a group called Family Wineries of Washington.

But I also heard from Stefan Sharkansky, who tells me he is the author of the initiative, and has offered further background on its development. I indicated to both of these gentlemen that I have planted my flag and cast my vote, but in the interest of fairness and continued dialogue, I am turning the forum over to Stefan for today. Here is his post:

“Costco is obviously the primary funder and promoter of the initiative. But yes, I was the instigator and primary author, working with one other person. I mentioned that on my blog weeks ago; it's been reported elsewhere in the media. I started it as a consumer who wants a fair marketplace, and as a citizen who thinks the liquor board should enforce public safety laws, but not sell products or manage competition.

You asked if I was a lawyer. I am not a lawyer. For that expertise I engaged Dick Stephens, an expert on initiative and referenda law to make sure the legalities were correct. At the time I started I-1100 I did not have any relationship of any kind with Costco or any of the other businesses that have lined up behind the initiative. While I was preparing the initiative I did speak with several industry figures who are experts on the alcohol business and its regulation. But other than comments to the effect of "interesting idea, kid. Let us know when you have something real" and some sanity checks on the draft language, it was entirely a grassroots, consumer-oriented initiative. Nobody came on board with serious support until after the final language was filed with the Secretary of State.

My experience as a consumer informs me that open marketplaces are better for consumers and entrepreneurs than markets with government enforced trade restraints. I find the arguments by Paul Beveridge and the Family Wineries more convincing than the arguments of those who think they're "protected" by limitations on their business practices -- particularly when these restraints don't exist for any other category of consumer product. In fact, the story of the 1969 "California Wine Bill", which I read about in your book on Washington wines and the cited sources, was yet another example which informed me that while removal of anti-consumer trade restraints always scares some people, in the end it usually works out better for everyone.

I'll note that my associate and I tried several times to reach senior people from the Wine Institute to solicit their input while we were developing the initiative, but none of them ever returned our calls. You might recall that we filed a second initiative at the same time as I-1100, I-1099. That was similar to I-1100, but it retained most of the Three Tier system and trade restraints, like ban on credit and "pay-to-play" that some of the wineries prefer. My personal preference was always the I-1100 policy, but we thought that I-1099 might be a compromise that would attract broader industry support. As it turned out, I-1100 attracted funding. Nobody offered to fund I-1099.

I did have a consulting engagement with the campaign committee after the initiatives were filed. I completed that work and am now advocating for I-1100 on my own.”

A final note: Sean Sullivan has been polling wineries for their votes, and is posting up the results on his Washington Wine Report blog (see link on the left).



Anonymous said...

You should also note that Stefan Sharkansky is the founder of the Sound Politics blog, the biggest and most influential conservative blog in Washington state, which regularly promotes Republican candidates and conservative causes, and provides right-wing Washingtonians with an alternative "news" source.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info anonymous - I had assumed this was driven by right-wingers without any hard evidence - your post makes it that much easier to vote "no".

james mantone said...

It is interesting that California is held up as a model of deregulation, however, every one of my friends in the California industry have been jealous of our COD and uniform pricing laws. They all mention that they could sell for less if they didn't have to extend credit or artificially discount quantities. Would love to get some Cali folks to voice an opinion.
All this talk of "Free Markets" is phony. The market is already open to all wineries within the state to self distribute and offers no advantages to any. It is a level playing field. Retailers and restaurateurs are more than willing to give brands a chance, but don't have the time to see 650 wineries individually. Distributors will continue to exist and act as consolidators of brands (and expenses).

Ronald Holden said...

Mr. Sharkansky may be the author of the state's most conservative political blog, and I'm sure we would disagree about almost everything except this issue. I wouldn't mind if the state were the only seller of spirits if it were also the only seller of tobacco or marijuana, but the fact is, the WSLCB embodies an antiquated approach to modern commerce. (What if, one day, the State decided to create a monopoly on telephone service? Wait, we had that and got rid of it, remember?) I didn't know that Mr. Sharkansky was the author of the initiative, but that doesn't prevent me from endorsing it.

I'm deeply disappointed that Paul Gregutt has apparently been swayed by the arguments of the fear-mongers. The real opposition--the folks bankrolling all those earnest wine growers, anguished police officers and frantic emergency room nurses on TV--are the beer interests. Passage of 1100 will hurt beer sales more than anything because spirits will be available at the supermarket, Belevedere next to the Bud.

My articles to this effect are currently at Crosscut.com and at Cornichon.org.

PaulG said...

Ron, I think it's a little unfair to suggest that I have been swayed by the arguments of the fear-mongers. In fact, it is the fear-based approach to this issue that led me to write these last few blogs, and to encourage the very healthy dialogue that has ensued. The final decision to oppose 1100 is based largely on the fact that the majority of the wineries in this state oppose it, and it is their livelihoods that are on the line. Is that fear? Maybe, but it's also practical reality. I have presented, con gusto, all the arguments for 1100, and fell just barely short of convincing myself to vote for it. No one, myself included, likes the present system. But blowing it up without a hint of a real solution other than "let's blow it up and see what happens" just doesn't work for me, and apparently, doesn't work for a lot of wineries either.

Erika Szymanski said...

Paul, thank you most sincerely for presenting such a well-grounded and even-handed discussion of 1100 and for moderating the ensuing debate. Regardless of Mr. Sharkansky's role in drafting the initiative (and regardless of his political stance), his statement is an important counterbalance to the almost exclusively economic arguments that have constituted the debate. This is, to me, far more a matter of principal and political rights than it is about money for or away either from winemakers or the state. Government doesn't take command of other industries (like telephone service), so why should they have the right to commandeer alcohol?

Anonymous said...

As this election season comes to an end,I wanted to thank Paul and Sean for reporting as fairly as possible the issue. You do not have to agree with them but I felt they did it as balanced as humanly possible. DougG (douggator)

PaulG said...

Thanks DougG and everyone who contributed to a detailed and thoughtful dialogue. Not an easy topic, nor an easy decision, but if nothing else I learned a great deal about the value of blogging and social media in general.

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