Reporter’s Notebook: Dullness, efficiency going hand in hand

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When I told a friend I was going to Salt Lake City to cover the Olympics, she told me a friend of hers had raved about the place: “He just feels so cool when he goes there.”

Sure, Utah shows up on no one’s list of the world’s hippest places. The state’s boundaries may not form a perfect square, but its reputation does.

This is a place whose local foods can be roughly divided into the mayonnaise-based, the corn flake-based and the Jell-O-based. A place where, for a significant chunk of the population, a cup of coffee is considered out of line.

Still, it could be argued the state gets a bad rap, and considering the international spotlight on them, Utahns could be forgiven if they tried to spice things up. To their credit, they haven’t. They seem to have decided that being steadily boring is the best way to show off.

Journalists are always quick to write about things that degrade the quality of their experiences, but so far Salt Lake has given them no material to work with. The easiest way to make us write nasty stories is to screw up the transportation grid.

And the thousands of volunteers have dealt with us clueless outsiders with a smile we don’t deserve instead of the derisive sneers we probably do.

It’s still early. Those buses could start stranding writers at faraway mountain venues, and by Day 12 or so, that’ll probably seem like an interesting story to some of them. Those volunteers could drop the niceness schtick at any moment.

But until then, a pleasant, unobtrusive dullness is as much gospel as the Book of Mormon.

Joshua Benton

School ideas may tilt governor’s race; Candidates differ on accountability system, vouchers

By Terrence Stutz and Joshua Benton
Staff Writers

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Kathy Duffin, Cedar Hill mother of two, is fed up with testing.

She says educators spend so much time preparing students to pass mandated skills tests that she often becomes the real teacher.

“With all the emphasis on testing, they end up skipping some of the building blocks they need but that aren’t on the test. I feel as though I’m having to help teaching more than I should.”

With polls showing that education is voters’ top issue, Ms. Duffin’s concerns frame one of the biggest points of division in the race for governor.

Republican Rick Perry supports the current school accountability system that relies heavily on student testing. Democrats Tony Sanchez and Dan Morales say they want to create an accountability system that relies less on standardized tests.

How much weight to put on testing is one of several noticeable differences among the candidates. Another is their stance on tax-funded school vouchers. (Mr. Perry supports them; the Democrats do not.)

Mr. Perry, in his most direct confrontation with his Democratic rivals, has rejected criticism about the testing methods and said Texas schools should get a high grade for the work they’ve done.

“The forces of mediocrity are looking to turn back the clock on our progress by weakening standards and accountability,” he said, referring to Mr. Sanchez’s proposal to quit relying so heavily on standardized tests.

“In Texas, our public schools are on the right path, our test scores are rising … and the Texas education system is a model for the nation,” Mr. Perry said, giving much of the credit to the initiatives of former Gov. George W. Bush.

Mr. Sanchez, especially in his recent TV ads, has sought to highlight what he says are serious problems afflicting Texas schools. And he has rejected the governor’s suggestion that he is trying to gut the school accountability system.

The Laredo businessman wants to change the school accountability system and make standardized tests only a portion of the criteria. The system, based primarily on the scores of 1.9 million students on the state’s basic skills exam, rates the performance of all school districts and campuses in Texas.

He has suggested that other factors should be used to grade schools such as the number of certified teachers, resources in a school’s library, computer-based learning tools and whether a school’s facilities support learning.

Mr. Morales, a former Texas attorney general who got a late start in the race and is still developing his own proposals, also said he would be willing to consider other factors for judging schools besides student testing. “We need to have more flexibility in the system,” he said.

Ms. Duffin, the Cedar Hill mother of two, supports the Democrats’ approach.

“It’s certainly not the teachers’ fault because they’re under so much pressure to do well on the test.”

And so are the children, she said.

“These kids are under so much pressure today. In gym, they do TAAS learning. Physical education was not a time for TAAS learning when I was in school. It was a time to move those little bodies. We didn’t sit down on the floor and do TAAS drills.”

Patsy Vigil, PTA president at Barnett Junior High School in Arlington, agreed there is too much focus on the exam. “For three-quarters of the year, that’s all they concentrate on. Everything they do is strictly geared to the test,” she said.

Deirdre Delisi, a spokeswoman for the Perry campaign, said the Democrats would create a “toothless” accountability system if allowed to de-emphasize testing of students. Annual testing has driven many of the improvements in Texas schools, she said.

Smaller classes

Another of Mr. Sanchez’s proposals that has sparked debate with the Perry camp is his call for tougher enforcement of the state’s class-size limits for kindergarten through grade four.

Although state law specifies no more than 22 students per class in those grades, school districts can get waivers to exceed the limit if they say they have limited classroom space or can’t find enough teachers.

“We know that smaller classes improve performance,” Mr. Sanchez said. “But every year waivers are granted, forcing thousands of Texas children into overcrowded classrooms. Texas needs to reduce class sizes in the earliest grades immediately.”

Kim Luczycki, a third grade teacher at Beverly Elementary School in Plano, says small size is important in the early grades.

“You can do a lot more if you have fewer students to deal with,” she said. But she wonders if Mr. Sanchez also would lead a push for more state funds to hire the extra teachers that would be needed.

“They come up with these brilliant plans, and then they don’t provide the financial support you need to put them in place,” she said.

Ms. Delisi said Mr. Perry, his administration and state lawmakers already have taken steps to keep classes smaller. One was the $500 million in state aid distributed to school districts in recent years to pay for construction of new classrooms and other facilities.

She also noted that the number of school districts receiving class-size waivers from the state has declined in recent years.

The Texas Education Agency says the number of districts receiving exemptions has dropped, but the number of campuses has increased slightly because of waiver requests from the Dallas and Houston school districts.

Tackling vouchers

On the issue of publicly funded school vouchers, which would allow students to attend private schools at state expense, the two Democrats are opposed to the idea while Mr. Perry favors a limited voucher plan targeted to low-income students.

“I am very skeptical about vouchers or any other programs that divert public school dollars away from public schools,” Mr. Morales said.

Mr. Sanchez said vouchers would do nothing but harm the public schools of Texas. “I am opposed to school vouchers. Our schools need more money, not less,” he said.

Ignacio Salinas, president of the Texas State Teachers Association, said one of the reasons his 70,000-member group supports Mr. Sanchez is his firm opposition to vouchers.

“It’s a very important issue to us,” he said, noting that his organization has been fighting voucher bills in the Legislature for several years. To date, no voucher bill has been passed.

Mr. Perry has said vouchers can help parents whose students are trapped in failing public schools.

“I believe we should provide additional education options to the parents of children at risk of failure,” he said.

On school finance, Mr. Morales said he supports elimination of the school funding system that requires some property-wealthy districts to send tax money to poorer districts.

He said he would ensure funding equity statewide by raising the business franchise tax, a move that would require legislative approval.

“That will be my top priority,” Mr. Morales said. “We need to reduce the reliance on local property taxes and shift a significant burden of the funding back to the state. We are among a very few states with such high property taxes.”

About 53 percent of funding for public schools comes from local property taxes, 43.6 percent comes from the state and 3.4 percent comes from the federal government. Total school funding last year was about $26 billion.

Mr. Sanchez also has not ruled out a tax increase but said he prefers first to look at ways to make government more efficient.

He also said it is too early to decide what should be done with the school finance system, which a special legislative committee is examining.

Mr. Perry wants to get rid of the share-the-wealth plan but has offered few details.

For the time being, the governor favors changes in the law allowing high-wealth districts to keep more of their property tax money.

A Perry spokeswoman said the governor believes the first step in looking for additional state revenue should be making sure government is running efficiently.

There’s a jiggle in their walk; Salt Lake residents eat twice as much Jell-O as U.S. average

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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SALT LAKE CITY – Olympic Host City isn’t the only important title Salt Lake City has won in the last few years. Just as valued in the hearts of many is its status as Jell-O Capital of America.

“Out on the East Coast, there are a lot of closet Jell-O eaters,” said Lynne Belluscio, director of the Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, N.Y. “In Utah, they’re very upfront about it.”

Salt Lake City residents eat twice as much Jell-O per capita than the average American. So when Belluscio’s museum put together a traveling exhibit touting Jell-O history – complete with recorded narration from long-time spokescomic Bill Cosby – picking its first stop wasn’t difficult.

The exhibit, downtown at the ZCMI Mall – that’s Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution, an only-in-Utah name – has been drawing crowds since opening on Feb. 6.

“We love our Jell-O,” said Janice Brown of Salt Lake City, who said she helped teach her children to read by using alphabet-shaped Jell-O molds. “It’s quick and it’s easy, and kids want to eat it.”

Just as Salt Lake City had to battle against other cities to win these Games, its Jell-O title has not gone unchallenged. In 1999, word came down from Jell-O HQ that increased Farm Belt sales had pushed Des Moines to the No. 1 spot.

The city responded. Two Brigham Young University students launched a campaign to take back the title. Gov. Michael Levitt proclaimed an annual Jell-O Week, which concluded Saturday. And state legislators, bravely putting aside budget, crime and education issues for a moment, passed a resolution declaring Jell-O the official state snack food. Bill Cosby himself appeared at the state capitol to lobby on gelatin’s behalf.

All the hard work paid off, and Salt Lake City has shoved the Iowa usurpers back to second place. (Oklahoma City is third.)

Exactly why Jell-O has so grabbed Utah by the throat is a point of discussion. Belluscio posits the strong familial bonds of the Mormons as a reason. In many families, Sunday meant Jell-O as much as it meant church. “If you ask people where they get their Jell-O recipes from, it’s always their mother or their grandmother,” she said. “These are long-standing family traditions.”

Some say Jell-O is a convenient dessert to fix for large Mormon families, or that it’s easy to make for the regular church potluck dinners.

Still others suggest that Jell-O and other desserts have filled the vice void given over elsewhere to alcohol or coffee, neither of which is allowed in the diets of observant Mormons.

“If you have a party, you don’t serve wine, so you have 10 desserts instead,” said Pam Hicks of Provo, whose daughter Rachel still has fond memories of 1993, when watermelon flavor was introduced.

Belluscio also noted that Utahns are more “unabashedly creative” with gelatin than folks most other places, adding cottage cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and other ingredients that can blur the line between Jell-O-as-dessert and Jell-O-as-salad.

Utah’s Jell-O fame has crossed over into the market for Olympic pins, which are always a hot trading item at any Games. Several green Jell-O-themed pins have been released. Those from the first set made have boomed in value from $7.50 to a dot-com-like $150.

“You can’t find anyone willing to trade their green Jell-O pins,” said Jean-Paul Beland, a pin enthusiast from Montreal hawking his duplicates downtown. “Every day people ask for them. I’ve got four, but I’m keeping them all for my collection. They’re not for sale.”

Utah residents are quick to point out green Jell-O isn’t the only highlight of local cuisine. There’s fry sauce, a ketchup-pickle juice-mayo combo invented by a local drive-in in the 1940s. And don’t forget funeral potatoes, a casserole of hash browns, corn flakes and sour cream customarily served after someone dies.

But no other food seems as deeply ingrained into Utah culture as the noble gelatin blob. “We’re Jell-O people,” James said. “When someone’s sick, you take them Jell-O. It’s just what you do.”

Less than 1% test positive

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SALT LAKE CITY – Less than one percent of 3,639 athletes tested in the last 13 months had banned drugs in their system, according to data released Friday by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

WADA released the names of the 16 athletes – eight winter sports competitors, eight summer, and none American – who have been sanctioned since the start of 2001 because they tested positive in out-of-competition tests. Seven of the eight winter athletes – four Finnish skiers, an Italian snowboarder, a Polish bobsledder, and a Russian skier – are banned from competing at this month’s Games.

The eighth, Latvian bobsledder Sandis Prusis, had his ban overturned by an arbitration panel. One other winter athlete, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Mattias Ohlund, also tested positive, for the diuretic acetazolamide. But it was discovered he had taken the drug for legitimate medical purposes, to help him recover from eye surgery. However, since he had not informed officials he was taking the drug beforehand, he received a formal warning. He will be allowed to play for Team Sweden.

Four other summer sports athletes have tested positive and have their cases currently pending before their sports’ international federations. Two of those four are unidentified American gymnasts who tested positive for marijuana.

Joshua Benton

Security is name of Games; Extensive measures taken to ensure safety

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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SALT LAKE CITY – Mark Burton rents armored vehicles. His business depends on people feeling insecure.

But at these Olympics, he’s finding most people don’t need a bulletproof windshield to feel safe.

“We had a lot of tire-kickers asking about them early on, but I think with all the security for the Games, people are thinking they might not need them after all,” said Burton, CEO of International Armoring in Ogden.

Security for these Games is a very visible $310 million project, from the National Guard troops with M16s to the endless parade of metal detectors across downtown. And while only time will tell if they’re successful at preventing an attack, the precautions do seem to have succeeded in their secondary goal: making people feel safe.

“I feel as safe here as I do at home,” said Charles Coughlin, a consultant from Boston. “It’s like there’s a mini-Army here to protect us.”

The sheer number of security personnel – more than 4,500 military troops and police from 59 local, state and federal agencies – could be enough to discourage any would-be troublemaker. In contrast, there are about 2,300 athletes at the Games.

Compared to the last Winter Olympics in the United States – 1980 in Lake Placid, N.Y., which used only about 1,000 security personnel – it’s quite a buildup.

Signs of extra security downtown are obvious. Just try to mail a letter or throw something away. All of the public mail boxes and most of the trash cans have been removed to give terrorists two fewer places to stow a bomb. Manhole covers are welded shut throughout the Olympic area.

Official Olympic sites are surrounded by high fences and guarded. Even non-Olympic sites downtown, such as the Mormon temple and government buildings, are sending visitors through the familiar gates of a metal detector.

The Guard troops are the most obvious sign of the increased federal involvement in these Games, but there are many less visible signs. For instance, there’s a round-the-clock direct video hookup between the Games’ security command center and FBI offices in Washington to allow for constant monitoring of events in Salt Lake.

And when a suspicious package was discovered in a downtown parking garage Thursday, the Black Hawk military helicopters suddenly hovering overhead were evidence that officials plan to take no threat lightly. (The package, a bag packed with wires and flares, was determined to be a hoax and was exploded by officials.)

Officials say they’ve made Salt Lake City as safe as it reasonably can be. “We may not eliminate risk entirely, because there is no such thing as an absolute fail-safe guarantee in Salt Lake City or anywhere else,” U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Thursday.

The larger-than-normal federal role comes along with the Games’ status as a national security event, a designation usually reserved for papal visits and political conventions. The federal government is expected to pick up about $250 million of the security bill.

The Games have been used as a platform for terrorists before – the Israeli athlete murders at Munich in 1972, the Centennial Park bombing at the Atlanta Games in 1996 – and officials are hoping the Utah games won’t fall victim to the same problems.

CIA Director George Tenet told a Senate committee Wednesday that an attack on the Games would fit al-Qaeda’s “interest in striking another blow within the United States that would command worldwide media attention.”

Passengers flying into Salt Lake City are being required to stay in their seats for the last half hour of their flights in order to prevent a Sept. 11-style cockpit assault. At midnight Thursday night, a new 90-mile-wide no-fly zone went into effect around the city.

Flights into and out of the city’s airport are being canceled altogether during Friday night’s opening ceremony. Those who bought $885 tickets to attend the ceremony were asked to arrive at parking lots four hours before Friday night’s celebration.

Burton’s company normally sells its armored vehicles instead of renting them. He sells relatively few within the United States; more common customers are businessmen fearing urban violence in places such as Mexico or Brazil.

But for the Games, he decided to rent out two vehicles: a 1998 Chevy Suburban for $750 a day and a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria for $600. (The Crown Vic has what Burton calls “head-of-state-level” armoring, designed to stop even high-caliber bullets.)

But despite some early interest, he said he was surprised that more people weren’t interested in renting. After several weeks of waiting, he’s found two business executives to rent them, but he’s still not sure if the vehicles will be rented for the entire length of the Games.

The show of security at the Olympics is what has made people feel safer, he said. He’s also a volunteer at the Olympic Village. “I’ve never been patted down so many times in my life,” he said, “and I spend a lot of time in places like Venezuela, Israel, Ecuador. I think it’s fantastic.”

The flurry of frisking and metal detecting could sour the peace-and-goodwill spirit of the Games for some. But most visitors seem to be willing to take the extra scrutiny in stride.

“Sure, there’s a risk,” said Janie Tomasson, a teacher from Sweden. “But you can’t live life being too cautious all the time.”

Getting a choice with few options; Some students may transfer, but not many districts will take them

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 1A

All Barbara Senter wanted was to get her son into a good school. She didn’t think it was too much to ask.

She lived in the boundaries of the Wilmer-Hutchins school district, which meant 13-year-old J.C. was supposed to attend Kennedy-Curry Middle School, which Ms. Senter describes as “a disaster.”

“It’s not a place to get an education,” she said of Kennedy-Curry, which the state has rated low performing in three of the past six years.

Ms. Senter thought she had an out – a state program called the Public Education Grant. PEG, created in 1995, is supposed to let children in bad schools transfer to a better campus in another district.

But when she started calling the school districts around her, she was surprised to find that her son wasn’t welcome.

“They all said they wouldn’t take him,” Ms. Senter said. “I was trapped. There weren’t any options open to me.”

Ms. Senter isn’t alone. The vast majority of Texas school districts have chosen to shut their doors to students trying to escape bad schools through the PEG program – even if they have empty seats in their classrooms.

Last year, more than 141,000 Texas students were eligible to transfer to a better school. But fewer than 200 did, often because no nearby school districts would take them. Forty-six of more than 1,000 school districts enrolled PEG transfers.

Of 34 area districts surveyed by The Dallas Morning News, nine said they accept students who apply through the program on a space-available basis. Only five of those accepted PEG students last year.

When it was created in 1995, PEG was touted as a significant step toward school choice in Texas. Although parents now have other options, including charter schools, the effect of the PEG program has been negligible at best.

“My expectations were very, very high,” said former state Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, who sponsored the legislation in 1995. “I expected parents to say, ‘Hey, now I have this opportunity to take my child somewhere else.’ But it became clear it wasn’t happening.”

Simple concept

The concept behind the program is simple: Students in bad schools shouldn’t have to stay there. Each year, the state releases a list of schools that students are eligible to leave. Schools are listed if they have been rated “low-performing” by the state’s accountability system any time in the past three years. Students at those schools are free to switch to another district.

Districts that accept such children get the state education funding that would have gone to their home district, plus a 10 percent incentive bonus. Parents are responsible for getting their child to and from school every day.

The problem is that, while students are free to leave bad schools, districts aren’t required to take them in, and very few do.

“As long as you give school districts the choice of whether or not to serve children in need, you’re not going to make much progress,” said Allan Parker, founder of the Texas Justice Foundation, a San Antonio group that advocates school choice and has been involved in a handful of PEG-related lawsuits against school districts.

Omar Garcia, director of state funding for the Texas Education Agency, agreed that the program isn’t making much difference.

“Kids can’t find a district that’s willing to accept them,” Mr. Garcia said.

Many districts say their main reason for turning PEG transfers away is simple – they don’t have room. Most Dallas-area school districts are in the midst of a major growth spurt, and new schools can only be built so quickly.

“Over half of our schools are at 95 percent capacity,” said Sherry Easterling, manager of student administrative services for Plano schools, who said she “gets calls every day” from students wanting to transfer in.

Limited seats

“You’re trying to build schools to accommodate a growing population,” said Julie Thannum, spokeswoman for the Carroll district, where all schools are rated exemplary. “If you have a limited number of seats, do you give one to someone not from your district? I think that’s the reluctance.”

The three largest districts in North Texas – Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington – all take PEG transfers. But urban districts like those are often the districts PEG students are trying to leave. Dallas, for example, accounts for 39 of 55 area schools on the PEG list for next school year. With few exceptions, the area’s most desirable schools are closed off.

Mr. Parker, the San Antonio critic of the PEG program, said the overcrowding argument isn’t the only reason suburban districts turn away students from low-performing schools. After all, crowding is no less a problem for districts such as Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington, he said.

And, he adds, state law allows districts to admit PEG transfers on a case-by-case basis if there’s room in a school or grade. Irving ISD, for example, accepts such students in its high schools because there is room but turns down students for elementary or middle schools.

“The crowding issue is often just a pretext,” Mr. Parker said. “I think there’s some fear of inner-city children by the suburbs. … It’s an irrational fear: ‘If we let one or two in, we’d be flooded with them.'”

Dr. Cuellar said he believes some districts fear PEG students could drag down their test scores and hurt accountability ratings.

“They probably won’t say it in public,” he said.

In addition to saying they’re too crowded to accept PEG students, suburban districts argue that grants aren’t enough to cover a student’s education. Although accepting a PEG transfer brings a district more state funding, state funding makes up less than half what a district spends on a student. Most per-pupil spending comes from local property taxes, which a PEG doesn’t do anything to increase.

“In our case, the state pays about 40 percent of what it costs us to educate a child,” said Tom Davenport, superintendent of Lake Dallas ISD. “Local taxpayers make up the difference, and it’s not fair to them to pick up the bill for someone from out of district.”

Mr. Davenport said his district participates in the program because he believes it’s the right thing to do, but he considers PEG a “political ploy by the Legislature to make it appear students have a real choice when they don’t.”

He said he would support the program more if the state fully funded the cost of a transferring student’s education.

Mr. Garcia, of the state agency, said the best way to encourage more districts to accept transfers would be to raise funding. Dr. Cuellar tried to address that in 1997, when he proposed the 10 percent bonus.

“We tried to make it work, but it has still struggled,” Dr. Cuellar said.

Small cost

Mac Bernd, superintendent of Arlington schools, said the actual cost of a PEG transfer to a district is usually quite small.

“Financially, we aren’t harmed in any way by a PEG grant,” he said. “We only accept them if we already have room for them. We think it’s the right thing to do.”

“These kids need a place to go, and if we have room we’ll take them,” said James Rose, who directs Arlington’s transfer program.

Districts that don’t accept PEG transfers, Mr. Rose said, “are just pushing kids to private schools. They don’t want the kids. If you take the philosophy that you’re going to try to help people and make the playing field as level as possible, you take the kids.”

The few other districts that do take PEG transfers expressed a similar belief.

“We never considered denying PEGs,” said Judy Thomas, Dallas’ student transfer coordinator. “We see it as our job. We’re in the business of educating students.”

The Dallas school district has 14 Wilmer-Hutchins students who transferred through the PEG program. Ms. Senter said she didn’t consider sending her son to Dallas schools.

Instead, J.C., now 14, was sent to live during the week with his grandparents in Canton. He returns home, 65 miles away, on weekends.

“It was either that or lie about where I live to get him in somewhere else,” she said. “You have to think about his needs and forget about my broken heart.”

Although less than ideal, the change has been an improvement for J.C.’s education, she said. “He seems a lot happier,” she said. “He’s been a hundred percent better.”

The sort of solution Ms. Senter chose indicates that programs like PEG have been less than effective, critics say.

“It shows we do have school choice in Texas,” Mr. Parker said. “That choice is called moving.”

Staff Writer Matt Stiles contributed to this report.

2 cities to ease alcohol rules; Voters in Frisco, Corinth OK measures; Fairview doesn’t

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 33A

Voters in two fast-growing cities north of Dallas decided to loosen restrictions on alcohol sales Saturday, while a town slightly farther from the area’s suburban growth rejected a similar proposition.

Such measures have become increasingly common in area suburbs as newcomers push to change alcohol restrictions, which can vary from town to town or block to block.

In 1990, the three communities – Frisco and Corinth, which approved their ballot measures, and Fairview, which did not – were home to only 11,639 people among them. Since then, the influx of new residents has driven that total to more than 58,000. The North Central Texas Council of Governments projects the population will increase to 158,950 by 2025.

Frisco, the second-fastest-growing city of its size in the United States, approved two ballot issues. The first, which would allow the purchase of beer and wine to go, passed easily. The second, which would allow restaurants to sell liquor by the drink without requiring private club memberships, also passed.

“We knew the majority of people in Frisco wanted this,” said Janet McBride, treasurer of the Frisco Association of Concerned Taxpayers. “As we grow, more and more people have been asking about it.”

“People have been led to believe that there will be a lot of money coming into Frisco if this passes” because of increased business activity, said Andy Modawell, president of the Frisco Ministerial Alliance. “They’re not looking at the crime and increased costs that come with alcohol.”

Until the Legislature changed the law last session, Frisco had been unable to vote to loosen alcohol restrictions because its boundaries extend into two counties.

In Corinth, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that will allow beer and wine sales in stores.

“We expected to win,” said Ben Pinnell, a developer who organized the campaign for the ballot measure. “We didn’t expect a total landslide.”

Proponents such as Mr. Pinnell had argued that making the city “damp” would help attract businesses, such as a Tom Thumb grocery, and help businesses remain competitive.

For example, a Corinth Albertson’s is not allowed to sell beer or wine, while a Wal-Mart across the street from it is, because it lies within the boundaries of Hickory Creek.

Fairview, the smallest of the three communities, has grown along with the boom in Collin County, transforming from a farm town (population 175 in 1960) to a bedroom community for commuters to Plano or McKinney. But its growth has been slower than Frisco’s or Corinth’s, and town council member Scott Evans said residents aren’t interested in making the dry-to-wet shift that many growing
suburban communities have.

The proposition on Saturday’s ballot would have allowed packaged beer, wine and liquor sales. It was defeated 3-to-1.

“There’s a sentiment of the town that the commercial district shouldn’t have this sort of activity,” he said. “We have a vision for that area, and it’s not liquor stores.”

Greg Smith, the Fairview resident who backed the proposition, said voters overreacted to opposition from the town’s elected officials, most of whom opposed the measure.

“If people sit back and realize that there isn’t much to this issue, it would have turned out better,” he said.

The high voter interest shows the level of opposition to the issue, Mr. Evans said. The town has only about 2,900 residents, but more than 1,200 voted.

“That’s an amazing turnout for a town our size,” he said.