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Local leaders are hoping a resounding “No” vote will convince the ABC Board to reconsider its decision.“I consider it a net positive that there are no liquor stores or bars in Bethel,” said Mark Springer, a city councilman whose son drowned in 2011 as a result of alcohol abuse.But this is rural Alaska, which has had a complicated relationship with alcohol for much of the past 50 years.Violent crime is high here, much of it fueled by booze.Alaska Natives drank less frequently than other Americans, but when they did, they’d consume huge amounts of alcohol.“These are cultures where people have gone from the Stone Age to the Space Age.Literally, people were living in stone huts and then NASA was visiting them to scope out a runway,” Wood told me.Currently, under local-option laws, 21 towns in Alaska ban the sale of alcohol, 42 ban the sale and importation of alcohol, and 33 ban the sale, importation, and possession of alcohol, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.Becoming dry has proven an effective way to reduce crimes related to alcohol, although only by a little, said Wood, who has studied the effects of alcohol bans on crime.It’s currently illegal to buy or sell alcohol in Bethel, though residents are allowed to import it from elsewhere.And many villages, including Chevak, have banned the sale and importation of alcohol.“I haven’t had many people say to me, ‘You’re on the city council, you should get a liquor store in Bethel.’”Yet others, most notably, the Bethel Native Corporation, which owns the subsidiary that applied for the liquor license, argue that it’s time for Bethel and the Delta to modernize its relationship with alcohol.Perhaps there are so many alcohol-related problems because people don’t have access to booze, and so binge when they get their hands on it, they say.“It is time for the community to mature and no longer be crippled by paternalistic mentalities,” Ana Hoffman, the president of the Bethel Native Corporation, said at a city meeting about alcohol sales earlier this year.


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