White offers help on Whiteclay issue

Published Friday February 19, 2010

Omaha Sen. Tom White has offered his solution to the Whiteclay alcohol problem: Sue the beer distributors.

There is so much alcohol sold by four businesses — the equivalent of more than 4.2 million cans of beer were sold in 2008 in a town with a population of about 14 people — that much of the booze has to be sold illegally or for illegal purposes, to people already inebriated, to people who plan to illegally sell it elsewhere, he said.

A lawsuit would stop the sales, either through a victory in court or because the distributors wouldn’t want to mess with a costly lawsuit, White said.

“They are killing people,” White said of those who sell the alcohol.

He says he’s offered to handle the suit for the Oglala Sioux tribe, whose members buy most of the beer. The tribe isn’t interested, he said.

White was among five senators on the Revenue Committee who agreed this week to send a Whiteclay-related bill (LB1002) to the floor. The bill would use $250,000 for alcohol-related programs in the Whiteclay region.

But three of those senators, White included, said they may not vote for the bill on the floor. The better solution, White said, is to stop the sale of beer at Whiteclay.

White, who says his Irish family has its share of alcohol problems, said he’s always willing to help those who want help.

“But I can’t help them beat alcohol unless they want to.”

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