By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
Voters in two traditionally dry Western North Carolina towns — Valdese in Burke County and Burnsville in Yancey — will decide soon whether to allow alcohol sales. Proponents in both areas say beer, wine, an ABC store and liquor-by-the-drink would serve as a welcome mat to new businesses, but opponents know the sales would bring a host of less favorable influences that they hope voters will reject.
Burnsville Mayor Danny Mcintosh voted against putting the issue on a referendum and told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “I don’t think the financial picture is going to be as rosy as some believe.”
Jim Deaton, one of roughly 100 area residents who met this week to begin coordinating efforts to keep alcohol at bay, would agree. He said counties’ getting just 17 percent of the profits from alcohol sales for discretionary spending doesn’t make for a strong revenue stream, especially when societal costs are considered. He hopes voters will keep in mind the future of the area’s youth and the need to limit their access to alcohol as they make up their mind about the referendum.
“Our approach for this issue is to focus on the registered voters, to be supportive of the ones opposed to alcohol and make sure they get to the polls and then to use intentional discipleship to visit the people who are undecided,” Deaton said of the group’s strategy. He hopes they can network with Mountain Heritage High School’s Huddle Club — a large student group that reads Scripture and prays during school lunch times — to emphasize the effect alcohol sales would have on youth.
He said the alcohol opponents, led by the Rev. Scott Garland and the Rev. Harvey Sharpe, will meet each Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Victory Baptist Church. Anyone interested in helping with the effort may attend.
The vote, scheduled for 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 6 at the Burnsville Town Hall, was approved by the Town Council, 3-2. The ballot will include four issues: on- and off-premise sales of malt beverages, on and off-premise sales of wine, sale of mixed drinks and an ABC store in the town.
Burnsville has roughly 1,400 voters. March 12 is the last day to register to vote. The Board of Elections is at 225 W. Main St.
The issue is more pressing in Valdese, where the same four questions will be on the ballot March 2. The referendum there is the result of a petition drive by Citizens for New Business and has the support of Valdese Mayor Jim Hatley who recently told the News Herald in Morganton that he believes revenue from an ABC store could help the town council avoid raising taxes.
Alcohol opponents defeated a 2002 referendum in Valdese. Leaders in the fight this round include the Rev. Brett Howell, senior pastor at East Valdese Baptist Church, and Sen. Jim Jacumin (R-Burke).
“Valdese now is really a special town, a family town where folks tend to look after one another,” Jacumin said this week, adding that alcohol sales would be detrimental to families and that any revenue generated would be negligible because of the high societal cost of increased alcohol use.
He said anyone who wants to help keep alcohol sales out of Valdese is welcome to gather at an organizational meeting Tuesday (Jan. 26) at 11 a.m. at East Valdese Baptist Church.
Valdese voters can take advantage of one-stop, early voting at the Town Hall on weekdays between Feb. 11 and Feb. 27. They can also register during that time. Those planning to vote on March 2 should make sure they are registered by Feb. 5.