Midlothian voters will decide whether or not to legalize two forms of alcohol sales this fall.
During its meeting May 29, the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court accepted two petitions as certified by elections administrator Jane Anderson and set the election for Tuesday, Nov. 6.
The ballot propositions will be to “legalize the sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption” and to “legalize the sale of mixed beverages in restaurants by food and beverage certificate holders.”
Anderson said Monday the petition, filed by Sissy Day of Texas Petition Strategies, saw 1,040 names submitted for the sale of alcohol at restaurants and 1,059 names submitted for the sale of beer and wine at local stores.
“They only needed the names of 926 qualified voters for the petition to be accepted,” said Anderson. “We stopped when we reached that point.
Anderson said this is the first formal petition she has seen filed with the county seeking a referendum on alcohol in Midlothian. Anderson has been election administrator in Ellis County since 1993.
Anderson said the referendum will be placed on the county ballot for the November General Election.
“Only voters living in the city limits of Midlothian will be voting on this referendum,” said Anderson.
Signatures were solicited at Midlothian businesses in April for the petition that has put the sale of alcohol before voters.
Mark Pitts, of Sissy Day and Associates out of Arlington, said at that time he was collecting signatures for Texas Strategic Petitions seeking to call for a vote that would allow the sale of beer at convenience stores and grocery stores and the sale of wine and mixed drinks in Midlothian restaurants.
Pitts would not say who hired Day and Associates and repeatedly said he worked for Sissy Day and Associates.
“We have done this for a number of communities around the state,” said Pitts. “An individual tried to do this here in Midlothian a couple of years ago and didn’t get enough signatures.”
Pitts said he would have to get 10 percent of the city’s eligible voters - or about 920 valid signatures - to take the petition to the Midlothian City Council and call for a vote.
“Midlothian has about 9,200 of graduation ceremonies and each is different, exciting and full of special memories.
“All graduations are special and something teachers and administrators take very personally as we watch students walk across that stage to pick up their diploma,” Smith said. “High school graduation is a defining moment in the life of every young person and one the community needs to celebrate with pride.”
For the sixth year Panther graduation ceremonies will be held at The Potter’s House. Directions to The Potter’s House can be found at the end of this story and a map to the ceremony site can be picked up at the Midlothian High School office on Ninth Street.
The doors to the Potter’s House open to the public at 7 p.m., but graduates must check in by 6:30. Graduation ceremonies will begin sharply at 8 p.m., with graduates entering the auditorium to the music of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
The auditorium is air-conditioned and has the seating capacity to hold the more than 1,000 students, teachers, parents, family and dignitaries, who are expected to attend Thursday’s ceremony. Since graduation will be inside, it will be held rain or shine. Seating is first-come, first-served.
Parents, relatives and friends are reminded that the Potter’s House is a church and artificial noisemakers are prohibited. Family and friends are encouraged to clap when their graduate’s name is called.
The order of service will see Salutatorian Stephen Nabinger speak and honor graduates will be recognized. Students to be graduated will then march across the stage to accept their diploma as major accomplishments are read about each senior. Valedictorian Michael Gummelt will then speak and be followed by the Midlothian High School Song that formally ends graduation.
The ceremony is expected to last about two hours.
Direction to The Potter’s House
To get to the Potter’s House, follow U.S. Highway 67 north out of Midlothian. Take the Kiest Boulevard exit and turn west onto Kiest Boulevard. The Potter’s House will be on the north or right side of the highway and will be marked with signs. If you go to Texas Highway 360 you have gone too far.
registered voters and we will probably try see 11,000 signatures to make sure we have enough.” Pitts said. “I had hoped to do this in a week but it looks like it will take me two weeks.”
Several people in Midlothian called the Midlothian Mirror in April saying they were told their signature was a ‘no’ vote against the petition. The signature cards were in yellow and blue and both called for a vote to sell beer, wine and alcohol in Midlothian.
“They get to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” said Pitts. “We just want people to have a choice in this matter. There is nothing wrong with that. All I ask is are they a registered voter in Midlothian.”
Anderson pointed out the different colored signature cards each called for a different ordinance and referendum.
Those who signed the petition were required give their name, address, date of birth and be an eligible voter in Midlothian. Those petitions are on file at Anderson’s office.
While Ellis County is dry, Texas law allows a city or precinct to vote itself wet. Beer can be purchased in Ellis County at Reagor Springs west of Ennis. Garrett passed a referendum in May to allow all alcoholic beverages to be purchased and consumed off premises.
Waxahachie allows beer and mixed drinks in restaurants where food provides the majority of the restaurant’s income. Waxahachie does not sell beer in convenience stores or grocery stores.
In Midlothian Savor Restaurant, Don Chano’s Restaurant and Deb and Jerry Restaurant sell mixed drinks and beer as a private club. Campuzano’s Restaurant gave away beer and margaritas before it burned and closed down in October. Campuzano’s had already filed for a liquor license with the state and has talked of building a bar at the back of the restaurant on the Back Alley Plaza.
Pitts said he set up his table at Wal-Mart Supercenter and Brookshire’s Grocery Store and also handed out petitions to tobacco shops, check cashing businesses and several local convenience storeowners.
“Exxon (gas stations are) chomping at the bit to sell beer, as are the Smart Stops east of town,” said Pitts. “The kind of person who signs varies. I’ve even had policemen tell me it is a good idea so it will keep kids from driving to other counties to buy beer.”
Pitts also said a number of people have become emotional about the issue.
“I had one lady yell ‘No,’ at me,” said Pitts. “I also had an older lady sign my petition and then take it and another card off with her. That’s just stealing.”
Pitts said he wanted to approach the city “sooner than later, so we have plenty of time to get it on the November ballot.”
City officials said Monday they don’t know if the petition has to be approved or channeled through the Midlothian City Council. The city is required to pay the county to conduct the election.
Pitts also said getting a vote doesn’t guarantee passage of a beer, wine and alcohol ordinance in Midlothian.
“They voted it down in Irvin, but that is the headquarters of M.A.D.D (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Pitts said.
Pitts also said his company had been hired to work the petition drive and he didn’t know if they would handle publicity supporting the referendum.
Anderson said the state used to allow a 30-day window to seek petitions on alcohol sales but changed the law several years ago. The state now allows 60-days to collect names calling for a referendum on local sale of alcohol.
Anderson said the alcohol referendum in Midlothian will not be a separate vote.
“At this time we would have state amendments on the ballot first, followed by local option elections,” said Anderson. “We have heard that MISD (Midlothian Independent School District) will be holding a bond election, but it has not been decided if they will be on the ballot with us or hold their own election.”
Laws governing the sale of alcohol and elections to allow the sale of alcohol can be found at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission website: www.tabc.state.tx.us.