Dry County will vote on beer and wine sales, ABC store, and liquor-by-the-drink
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
HENDERSONVILLE — Just 10 days after county leaders agreed to an alcohol referendum for Henderson County, residents there got a tragic reminder of the dangers of substance abuse — a 17-year-old killed in a DWI-related wreck.
“Sometimes it seems providence speaks in ways that should cause us to sit up and take notice,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Obviously, the underage driver in this accident had access to alcohol even without sales being allowed across the county. However, increasing the density of beer, wine or liquor outlets will only mean an increase in alcohol related problems and lead to more tragedies like this one.”
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously July 20 to have the Board of Elections put the alcohol referendum on the ballot for May 2012, when voters will decide on three issues: beer and wine sales, ABC store, and liquor by the drink (mixed beverages).
According to the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, mixed beverages, off-premise liquor sales, and sales of beer and wine are allowed in Fletcher, Hendersonville and Laurel Park. Mills River allows beer and wine sales and Flat Rock has liquor by the drink, but the remainder of Henderson County, population about 107,000, is dry. In fact, it’s been more than 50 years since the issue of alcohol sales showed up on a countywide ballot.
“No doubt the population of the area has changed greatly since the last vote in 1955, but we hope the majority of voters will understand that increasing alcohol availability always results in more alcohol related crime, social problems and tragedies like the one that ended the life of this teen-ager whose friend was drinking and driving,” said the Rev. Creech.
More than a third of the state’s traffic fatalities each year are alcohol-related — 500 of 1,433 in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Further, the U.S. Department of Justice Report on Alcohol and Crime found that alcohol abuse was a factor in 40 percent of violent crimes committed in the United States.
According to the Henderson County Board of Elections, as of November 2010, the county had 76,518 registered voters, some 48 percent of whom turned out for the last election.
“No doubt proponents of countywide alcohol sales will try to convince voters that this is needed to generate more tax revenue, enhance economic growth or lure restaurants and industry, but the truth is that the dangers and social costs of alcohol abuse always outweigh any anticipated advantages,” he said, noting that whatever local citizens spend on alcohol means fewer dollars for groceries, appliances, clothes, etc.
He also pointed out the mixed message that is sent to youth, who are being encouraged to remain “drug free,” when voters embrace more alcohol sales.
“Between now and next May, I’m sure voters will hear quite a bit about why they should approve the alcohol referendum. We just hope they consider the health and welfare of their community and make the wiser decision to keep at least the rural areas of Henderson County dry.”