By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
October 31, 2014
KINGS MOUNTAIN – An unexpected turn of events occurred at the Kings Mountain City Council meeting on Tuesday night. Council member Tommy Hawkins (70) announced he was changing his original position of support for a proposed Catawba Indian Casino to that of the opposition.
Hawkins read a letter to the Mayor and other city council members, with many anti-casino protesters present for the council meeting. The letter, which was addressed to Kevin K. Washburn, Secretary of Indian Affairs in Washington, said:
“After reevaluating the situation, I Councilman Tommy Hawkins realize that I should not have signed the letter of support for the Catawba Indians to acquire land in Cleveland County near Kings Mountain, North Carolina.
“I hereby retract any previous support of that letter.
“I am now stating my opposition to this issue. I do not want the land to enter Catawba trust status. This community does not welcome casinos.”
In a move heralded as a potential economic boon for Cleveland County and the surrounding area, the Catawba Indian Nation applied to put 16 acres near Kings Mountain into federal trust. The act was the first step in building a proposed huge casino complex. While county officials and city councilmen in Kings Mountain have pushed for the project, more than 100 state lawmakers in addition to the state’s Insurance Commissioner and the Governor have signed letters in opposition.
The Christian Action League has also supported and assisted opposition forces in Cleveland County such as the Kings Mountain Awareness Group – an organization committed to educating the community about the negative impact a casino would bring.
Hawkins tells the Christian Action League that he has served on the City Council for five years and thirty-eight months remain in his term.
First approached by Mayor Rick Murphy and City Manager Marilyn Sellers, Hawkins said he was excited about the promises of the way a casino would bring prosperity to the community. He said he was urged to sign an affidavit that other council members had signed, as well as the County Commissioners, stating support for the proposal. But he added that he started to have reservations about what he had done almost from the time he signed.
Hawkins said he spent ten months struggling with the issue. “I wrestled with God over the matter,” he told the Christian Action League. He decided that he had made the wrong decision and believed it was necessary for him to rescind his support, which he did Tuesday evening.
Hawkins told the Christian Action League what helped him change his mind on the matter was a trip he made to Las Vegas three weeks ago. Hawkins said he witnessed first-hand the devastation created by the gambling industry – the way the casinos had cannibalized the area. “I talked with many people who were from the area,” he said. “And they told me if you don’t have it, you don’t want it!”
A limousine driver in Las Vegas told Hawkins the casinos drew the worst kind of clientele. “I learned that there are four jobs the casinos provide, prostitution, gambling dealers, waitresses, and hotel operators,” he said. After his trip, he no longer saw the proposed casino as a great boon for Kings Mountain he had been led to believe it would be.
People were “down in the face,” he said with some emotion. “I had to see it. I had to feel it for myself.”
According to the Shelby Star, also on the docket of the council that evening was the way the city mayor, its manager and attorney had disallowed churches to use city property to hold their worship services. The action was taken by the three without any consultation with the council.
Part of Councilman Hawkins remarks that evening was, “Let me get this straight, you want to welcome a casino and kick out all of the churches?”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said, “What we see happening in Kings Mountain, I believe, are two things. First, we see a culture of resistance to the proposed casino growing. All the efforts of the opposition forces to help the community understand the down-side of casinos is incrementally having its positive effects. Second, we have seen the emergence of a statesman in Councilman Hawkins. Someone once said that a statesman forgets himself and thinks about the way his actions will affect a generation while a politician only thinks about the way his actions will affect his chances at the next election. Councilman Hawkins has done the hard thing – the right thing. He deserves his town’s ardent support. He has considered the long-term negative impact on the culture of his community and he sees, just as the rest should see that it’s not pretty. If the other council members won’t be blinded by a spirit of covetousness – if they won’t lose sight of something Jesus said – a man’s life – a community’s life – doesn’t consist in the things that people possess – then the people they represent can be saved untold heartbreak.”
The revocation of support by only one additional Council member would end backing by the Kings Mountain City Council to build a casino.