Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stale Beer

For some people, old news is good news. Issues of the past never seem to die. Though the general public has moved on to formulate opinions on new, more relevant community concerns, there are some who attempt to drum up support for subjects that have long since been forgotten by the majority of citizens. Such is the case with JoAnn Hamilton and the Bountiful City liquor license laws.

Bountiful, a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah, is a community that traces its roots to the Mormon pioneers, an influence still seen in many of the city’s family-centered ordinances. One such regulation included a liquor law forbidding the distribution of alcohol within 600 feet of a public building. Considered a non-issue by most citizens, this liquor law remained uncontested until El Matador, a popular, local restaurant, received a building permit to construct a new location 412 feet away from the local library. It was not until three weeks before the restaurant’s completion that the owner, Artoosh Hasration, was told serving alcohol in his restaurant violated city law. Appealing to Mayor Joe Johnson and the Bountiful City Council, Hasration sparked a debate concerning dated liquor laws and family values. Many citizens, including Hamilton, a national advocate for children and families, petitioned the city to uphold traditional morals.

Faced with enraged citizens or allowing business to come to the city, Mayor Johnson and City Council members finally voted on 11 December 2007, changing the city ordinance and allowing El Matador to obtain a liquor license. Although public discussion occurred in numerous city council meetings, through the local newspaper, “The Davis County Clipper,” and in other, appropriate civic settings, the decision of the city effectively ended debate. As seen in her 16 July 2009 letter to the editor, some citizens, including Hamilton, have not laid the issue to rest.

Now, almost two years later, Hamilton is still concerned about the city’s decision, upset at the “nastiness, manipulative behavior” of the mayor and city council (par. 15). Granted, her trepidation concerning the proceedings of the mayor and the city council may be valid; however, using her own form of mudslinging techniques, Hamilton’s complaints against Mayor Johnson using two-year old dirt is not an effective form of persuasion. The El Matador liquor license debate has long since passed the critical moment for decision-making. In fact, this period of kairos, the opportune moment for persuasion and argumentation, occurred in December 2007, before the Bountiful City Council granted El Matador a beer license. Hamilton, although justly concerned for the community’s well-being, is seemingly too late in her debate: although she can “see the issue going nationwide,” the rest of the community has since moved on (par. 14). The issue of beer near the library has since disintegrated.

Ironically, through criticizing Mayor Johnson for his role in the El Matador liquor issue, Hamilton has opened her own can of worms, and, as a result, harming the campaign of her family-friendly candidate, Jeff Novak. Subsequent editorials responding to her claims against the incumbent have drummed up extensive support for Mayor Johnson, who, in the recent mayoral primaries, won 67 percent of the vote, with Jeff Novak, Hamilton’s candidate, receiving only 24 percent of the vote. In attempting to discredit Bountiful’s current mayor, Hamilton appears to have given him November’s election.

Hamilton’s editorial reveals the importance of kairos, the presentation of an argument in the correct manner at the most opportune time. Though her concern for the community is commendable, Hamilton illustrates that issues of the past are best left alone, especially when the prime moment for argumentation has long since ended. Old news, therefore, is never good news, when attempting to persuade a forward-looking audience.

Hamilton, JoAnn. Letter. Davis County Clipper 16 July 2009. Web. 17 Sep. 2009.


  1. Your analysis is very well structured. It is obvious that you went through and evaluated the article thoroughly. You relate the topic very well to kairos and you made it easy to understand and interesting to read! Great Job!

  2. Good job.

    While the debate over liqour is over, the upcoming election could be a time to revive an old issue. Why do you think it's not working here and does work in other cases? (Does it work in other cases?)

  3. In this case, the liquor issue is not impacting the upcoming election because there have not been significant alcohol-related problems since the city changed the liquor laws. But depending on an issue's effect on citizens, a candidate's previous stance may cause him or her to lose an election. An example of this is Mitt Romney and his changing opinion on abortion: he may have won the gubernatorial election of Massachusetts, but as a result he lost the presidency.

  4. I really like how you explain to readers the issue. There is much background information which helped me understand the issue greatly. I appreciate the twist you had on kairos because many times we think of kairos has happening during the debate. In this case, her kairos happened after the issue had been taken care of. It is very interesting!