By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
April 8, 2016
SMITHFIELD – After hearing from the Christian Action League at their meeting on Monday, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners tabled talk of a countywide alcohol referendum until its May meeting.
Currently, only the Cleveland and Wilders townships have approved beer and wine sales, and business owners in other parts of the county say they are losing revenue and want the commission to put the issue to voters in November.
But the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League and a resident of Johnston County, implored the board to move slowly and to consider more than just prospective profits.
“I understand the frustration some private businesses owners feel about the way North Carolina’s alcohol laws seem to make it harder to obtain the necessary permits,” he said. “But, believe it or not, these fences were established years ago to make certain that as the prospect of alcohol sales grew, communities were given ample time to prepare emotionally, morally, and financially to deal with the unavoidable additional cost.”
Creech said even beyond its human toll in crash victims and broken families, the destructive and irresponsible use of alcohol costs North Carolina $6.8 billion dollars a year.
“There is a huge financial burden generated in increased welfare cost, higher insurance premiums, law enforcement and court costs and costs of incarceration, that we must all pay because of alcohol related problems, whether we drink or not,” he said.
He further reminded the board of studies that show greater alcohol outlet density increases consumption levels.
Finally, Dr. Creech suggested that commissioners shouldn’t presume their constituents want countywide sales on the ballot, but instead should wait to see if 35 percent of registered voters sign a petition to request such a referendum from the Board of Elections.
“I seriously doubt, at this point, most in the county know anything about this weighty matter,” he said, urging that at the very least, the board should hold a public hearing before deciding whether to put this issue to a countywide vote.
Officials in Johnston County say such a decision will need to be made by July to give the board of elections time to place the issue on the November ballot.