But the churches are united for righteousness as never before…
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
BURNSVILLE — Voters in this mountain town approved wine and beer sales, an ABC store, and liquor by the drink by a roughly 10 percent margin Tuesday. But members of Yancey Citizens United for Cause who canvassed neighborhoods, held rallies, handed out pamphlets, researched data, put up signs and did their best to keep alcohol at bay, say their efforts were not wasted.
“Even though the vote didn’t go our way, the unity and strength of the Christian community really showed itself. We had 1,500 show up for the rally on Sunday,” said Jim Deaton. “What I saw come out of this is churches in the county from all denominations break down barriers that have been up for years and work together on this issue … I felt like it was one of the most uniting experiences that I’ve ever been involved in.”
Unofficial results from the Yancey County Board of Elections show the beer and wine sales passing about 55 percent to 45 percent; mixed drinks, 54 to 46 percent; and an ABC store, 53 to 47 percent. Fewer than 75 votes made the difference as just over half of the town’s 1,433 voters cast ballots. Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Yancey was one of only two counties in North Carolina where no alcohol sales were allowed. Graham now stands alone.
The referendum, approved by the Burnsville Town Council in a 3-2 vote, was promoted as an absolute necessity to recover business, jobs and tax revenue supposedly being lost to neighboring towns with alcohol sales. On their Web site, proponents promised tax revenue for “critical improvements,” asking voters to imagine “an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, sidewalks, street lights, the library, the Clock Tower of Town Hall, the Elevator in the Town Hall, and more.”
Apparently their persuasion reached more voters than the facts supplied by Yancey Citizens United for Cause. The group’s Keep Burnsville Dry Web site reminded voters that rather than guaranteeing more jobs, alcohol use causes more absences in the workforce, more workplace injuries and decreased productivity. The site’s business quiz showed that, despite alcohol promoters’ expectations, no new chain restaurants or major retailers have moved into Spruce Pine or Mars Hill since those neighboring towns embraced alcohol sales.
“Unfortunately, it’s the same song we hear played over and over — the booze will bring the business — but it is never the economic boon that people expect,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Even if restaurants pour in, alcohol sales never raise enough in taxes to offset what is spent on law enforcement, social services, addiction treatment and other societal ills that are part of the package.”
Deaton, who worked in public health for 30 years prior to his retirement and also has market research experience, said he is disappointed that so many voters overlooked the information on alcohol’s costs focusing only on promised revenues, but he is too excited about the good fruits of the group’s labors to be discouraged.
“I keep thinking about one guy who runs a local rental shop. He showed up at every meeting we had and brought his 7-year-old son. So his son got to witness his Daddy being the type of Christian he needs to grow up to be,” Deaton said. “We had men and women standing up for their Christian beliefs. God was glorified for sure.”
He is also glad that the group saw a broader purpose in its formation than just the alcohol vote.
“Yancey Citizens United for Cause will go on,” he said. “This will serve as a basis for the churches to work together on some other common issues.”