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The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission Legislative Review Committee expressed both positive and negative concerns over the minimum drink price increase item and motioned to expand the legislation to the entire county. (Photo/Jason Born)

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission Legislative Review Committee moved to designate a minimum drink price increase item to the entire county, a change from prior discussions in the LRC that only focused on downtown bars, at a meeting on Nov. 21 in City Hall.

The LRC will discuss the topic at least one more time in December before being presented to the full commission again. LRC meetings are open to the public, though the meetings don’t have a public input section.

District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards made a motion to expand the legislation to the entire county. The motion was an assurance that the minimum drink price increase would be county-wide.

Edwards said singling out downtown for its own increase is “welcoming conflict” between downtown bars and other bars outside of the area. Nevertheless, Edwards expressed strong support for instituting the price increase.

“We have a crisis downtown. We have unbridled debauchery and binge drinking and sexual assault and discrimination,” Edwards said. “The police have come to us and asked for a modest $1 increase that has been proven to address this problem by curtailing binge drinking.”

Edwards said the ACC Police Department has been trying to address these problems while being short-staffed, and the price increase was “the minimum” the commissioners could do to help.

The price increase item was first presented to the full commission at its Oct. 15 agenda-setting session but was sent back to the LRC for more discussion.

District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker said she is “increasingly hesitant” about the drink price increase because it may disproportionately affect low-income community members’ opportunity to “participate in public life.”

In addition to discussing the minimum drink price increase, the committee also addressed e-scooters and other “shareable dockless mobility devices,” choosing to send the topic to the Athens in Motion Commission to get input on how devices like e-scooters can be safely implemented in the community.

The Athens in Motion Commission serves an advisory role for the Athens in Motion Plan, which aims to create a connected network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Athens. The LRC will receive a report from the Athens in Motion Commission and further discuss the e-scooter topic in the future, said Deborah Lonon, ACC Assistant Manager.

In October, the commission extended a ban on the devices until June 4, 2020.

Two members of the LRC, District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton and District 10 Commissioner Mike Hamby were not present at the meeting.

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