By Garland Honeycutt
Christian Action League
September 18, 2015
NEWLAND – “Churches, Christians, People, Avery County … Let’s Stand Together. Vote ‘No’ on Beer and Wine in Newland – November 3rd.”
So read the front page of last week’s The Avery Post, a local newspaper serving Avery County.
Residents of Newland, North Carolina will have the opportunity to end the sale of beer and wine in November, thanks to a decision passed by the town council on August 11. Board members approved the referendum for the ballot 3-0, with 2 council members abstaining.
Steve Nelson, an Avery County citizen responsible for the ad taken out on the front page of The Avery Post, approached the board at its August meeting, urging Board members to place the issue on the ballot during the November election. Nelson has taken the lead in support for ending the sale of beer and wine in Newland and contends the larger faith community supports the objective. He claims more than 40 pastors are in favor.
“The Lord just put it in my ear for about a year to do something about it. It’s just religious reasons,” Nelson said in an interview with High Country Press.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 688 people reside in Newland. Beer and wine sales were narrowly approved by voters in 2009. Information from the Avery County Board of Elections reveals that 121 people (53.78 percent) voted for the sale of malt beverages and 104 folks voted against the sale. As for unfortified wine, 121 people (54.26) voted for the sale of wine and 102 voted against in 2009.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said, “What’s happening in Newland is promising. Residents are obviously seeing that the promises made by proponents for alcohol sales typically go unfulfilled. I think the community is probably asking: Where is the economic growth they said would happen? Where is the new industry, the new jobs, and opportunity? And, when everything is considered and weighed in the balance, residents start to see there is more mess than money, more problems than prosperity.”
Dr. Creech added that if the residents of Newland did decide to vote out beer and wine sales via an upcoming referendum, it would set a precedent unlike anything we’ve seen for an alcohol referendum in more than 20 years.
“I can’t tell you how much I would like to see this happen. Furthermore, I think the numbers show it’s doable,” he said. “It could even set a benchmark for smaller towns and municipalities to determine the same. They, too, just might realize we’ve had enough of the headache this causes. There simply aren’t enough good reasons to continue putting our communities at risk while having so little to show for it.”
Alcohol policy is a signature issue for the Christian Action League. The organization has helped communities across the state to limit or eliminate unwanted alcohol sales.