- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
I am baffled by the parenting advice Cheers liquor store supporters feel compelled to give opposing parents. The Westlake Advocates are conscientious residents who are responsible educators, public safety officers, nurturing parents, mentors, federal employees, local and state officials, government contractors, and military members who have had outstanding careers and are concerned civic-minded citizens.
Several of our households are celebrating the start of a new school year, providing our students in prekindergarten through college every necessary tool they need for a successful school year. Presumptuous critics suggest we have not already taught our students right from wrong or taught them the harmful effects of drugs, which include alcohol. Others suggest we are not raising our children ourselves but leaving that rewarding task to teachers and law enforcement. The most recent piece of advice in a letter suggests that “it’s parents responsibility to keep children away from liquor.” Isn’t that what we’re trying to do?
What the Westlake Advocates do not want in our community is the contradiction of parents and the Charles County Public Schools teaching our students the dangers of drugs and alcohol, while county government allows a liquor store to be so close to a learning environment.
I challenge all readers to watch the Westlake High School production of “Every 15 Minutes,” which can be found on YouTube. The powerful production is a collaboration of the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, the public schools and the College of Southern Maryland.
A lot of time, money and effort is spent annually to teach our students the dangers of drunken driving. Is it me, or is there a contradictory message being sent to our students by having a liquor store’s front window facing the school, which will have noticeable advertisements for alcohol products and specials?
Our opposition is not against the Cheers’ owners, as stated in previous letters, or an attempt to hinder small business. We want to keep our students out of harm’s way by having the store relocate to a more appropriate location.
The Independent reported Aug. 28 in the article, “Two shot at Waldorf gas station,” that “a shooting took place Friday evening at the Westlake Dash-In. … The victim was shot in the leg, and a passerby, headed into the store, was shot in the arm.” This is the type of dangerous activity we are fighting to keep out of our community. The combination of a gas station and liquor store is a magnet for loitering and illegal activity. When a community becomes liquor store-dense, crimes increase.
Several members of our group, and individuals we have garnered support from, understand what happens to neighborhoods when commercial developers assault them with strip malls that allow liquor stores in residential areas. One member cites his hometown of Detroit as an example — liquor store-dense Detroit is bankrupt and broken, while Dearborn, a suburban community, is thriving. Many supporters are opposing the liquor store based on our personal childhood experiences.
Let me be clear. First, the Advocates do not want our students at Westlake or in Charles County exposed to the possibility of drunken behavior, illegal drug activity or unscrupulous adults purchasing alcohol for minors before, during or after school hours. Westlake is the only public school facing this predicament. Thomas Stone High School is more than 1,000 feet from Nick’s. But Nick’s is also a grocer, deli and market that sells alcohol in addition to nonalcoholic items. Cheers is a liquor store only, which makes our position unique.
Second, we refuse to be bullied by outdated policies and procedures. What worked 30 years ago is irrelevant today as Charles County struggles to evolve into a contemporary identity. The county government failed us. The notification process for public hearings did not meet the needs of the citizenry.
And finally, the concern of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, Business Alliance of Charles County and Southern Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce for attracting businesses into the county can be enhanced by creating an appealing living environment.
Residents want safe neighborhoods, quality local schools, low crime and amenities for all ages to enjoy. The message we hope to send to commercial developers and any sized business is that the Advocates want to elevate our community standard, not devalue our properties. We want to feel proud of our communities. Waldorf has the potential to become so much more than our county officials envision.
To all our supporters, we thank you for every effort you have made to stand with the Westlake Advocates on the liquor store issue.
To others, we invite you to get to know us. Don’t just criticize from a distance; the next encroachment might be headed to your neighborhood. We are easy to find on Twitter, @WestlakeParents, and on Facebook.
Angela Sherard, Waldorf