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Bethel voters decide to keep the city's alcohol laws as they are

A voting sign outside of the cultural center, one of Bethel's two voting locations.
MaryCait Dolan
A voting sign outside of the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center, one of Bethel's two voting locations.

Bethel voted in a municipal election on Oct. 4 to keep alcohol laws in the city as they are.

A question posed to voters on the Oct. 4 ballot asked whether or not businesses should be able to open stores selling beer and wine. Currently, beer and wine are only allowed at permitted restaurants; voters decided it should stay that way.

That ballot measure is what drove Nick Thompson to the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center to vote. He voted with the majority: more than twice as many people voted to keep alcohol laws as they are rather than allow a beer and wine store.

“Alcohol has destroyed a lot of families, continues to do so,” Thompson said. “So we don’t need more of it.”

Ida Alexie also voted against the measure. Families were also on her mind when cast her ballot.

“I think of all the kids that get forgotten when there’s an alcohol package store. So for the safety of all and for the well being of the community, I voted no on that,” Alexie said.

John Wallace agrees that hard liquor should remain banned in Bethel. But he voted "yes" to a store selling just beer and wine, which was the proposal on the ballot.

“I don’t see a problem with people being able to buy a six pack of beer or a bottle of wine. It’s a totally different thing,” Wallace said.

The other question to voters on the ballot had to do with masks. Voters seem to have decided by a slim majority to amend the city code to prevent Bethel from enacting mask mandates.

The ballot proposition passed in last night’s unofficial results by only 26 votes. The city canvass board still has to verify 46 absentee and questioned ballots.

Barbara Liu voted to prohibit the city from enacting a mask mandate.

“It should be a personal choice,” Liu said.

She was thinking back to previous times the city council mandated masks in public when she cast her ballot.

“There were a lot of people that were not happy last year, or two years back. So, make people happy,” Liu said.

Bryan Nenneman voted for the city to keep the ability to enact a mask mandate.

“If it means an added measure of safety for the community during a pandemic, then yeah,” Nenneman said.

Four city council candidates were running for four empty seats on the council. Three of those candidates' names appeared on the ballot. The only incumbent, Rose “Sugar” Henderson, and two newcomers, Sophie Swope and Patrick Snow, all received more than 400 votes. All three will serve two year terms on the city council.

The write-in candidate, Henry S. Batchelor Jr., received the fewest votes of the four. That means he’ll serve out the final year of outgoing city council member Conrad “C.J.” McCormick’s term. McCormick is stepping down a year early to run for state representative.

Voter turnout was up slightly from last year’s city election: 15% compared to last year’s 11%.

Nina was a temporary news reporter at KYUK. She comes to Bethel from NPR, where she's a producer at Morning Edition.
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